Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better


Letter from the CNS President – Fall 2011

By Donna Ferriero, MD | CNS President

Donna Ferriero, MD | CNS President
Donna Ferriero, MD
CNS President

WE ARE ALL EXCITED ABOUT CELEBRATING OUR 40th Anniversary Meeting in beautiful Savannah. There is a rich and varied scientific program and enough extracurricular activities to keep everyone busy and tired. I am also celebrating my exit as your president and I wanted to review the goals I published and the progress made.

My goals were:

  1. Establish our strategic priorities so that we most effectively
    use our resources

    With the assistance of our Long Range Planning committee we have been able to identify these priorities and have accomplished some of our short term goals, most notably incorporating our junior members into the activities of our society and our annual meeting. We have also made stronger ties with our adult colleagues through meetings and discussions with the ANA, AAN and our pediatric colleagues through the PAS (APS and SPR). Our outgoing and outstanding Scientific Program chair, Steven Miller, will soon be President of the Society for Pediatric Research, the first child neurologist in that position.
  2. Engage our entire membership through a more effective
    communications strategy

    We have worked hard to get the word out through the newsletter, website and e-mail communications. Obviously it is difficult since we are all constantly barraged with materials, but we seem to have made progress.
  3. Entice our trainees to become junior members and participate
    in our activities

    We now have junior members on our committees and a greater presence than ever before from this part of our membership at the annual meeting (more than 155 child neurology residents, 17 medical students, and 23 newly boarded child neurologists)
  4. Cultivating a closer, clearer, more effective relationship with the Child Neurology Foundation so that we have a single voice to advocate for the needs of our patients and their families. We still have a way to go on this initiative, but with Larry Brown, CNF President, we have strived to involve each other in dialogue. We still need to consolidate our fundraising and advocacy initiatives so that we are not competing against ourselves.

Since this is my last time on the soapbox, and the 40th time the CNS has gathered for its annual meeting, it seems fitting to reflect a bit on my career – my expectations and experiences as they have evolved since I was a junior member in 1982. I remember being in a fancy resort in Arizona surrounded by senior colleagues at a symposium. Up the center aisle to the podium marched a woman with her toddler in a stroller. She talked about newbrain injury……and I was hooked. Her name is Laura Ment, this year’s Sachs awardee, and a longtime colleague and friend in the field of neonatal neurology.

That early meeting gave me hope that I could be a mom and have a career (I was in a department of ALL men at the time; the wonderful Bruce Berg was my chief). At that time, I had a two-year-old daughter and would soon have a son a few years later. Through networking at the CNS meeting I also met two critical advocates from NINDS: Giovanna Spinella and Deborah Hirtz. Both provided guidance and support through many grant applications and advocated for my research. Deborah is this year’s Hower Awardee. My initial research was predominantly basic and translational, but through clinical exposure, I rapidly became involved in clinical research. With a generous joint grant from the CNS and CNF, we established the nidus of our stroke interest group, now led ably by Gabrielle deVeber and named IPSS ( international Pediatric Stroke Study). This group first gathered at the CNS meeting in Victoria in 2001 with just enough members to fit around a big conference table. A decade later, it boasts 248 investigators at 148 centers in 40 countries worldwide! Again through a multicenter CNS-CNF grant, we have formed the NESTT–Neonatal Seizure Treatment Trial Group that, hopefully, will be as successful as the IPSS.

I had a wonderful 13 year tenure as the Division Chief of Child Neurology at UCSF and now have stepped up to lead our Department of Pediatrics into the new Benioff Children’s Hospital, slated to open in 2014. With the vision of folks like Heather Fullerton, there will be a Pediatric Brain Center, front and center, as part of this new building and we promise to continue to move the frontier of disease recognition-to-cure rapidly for our children.

When Joe Volpe, a wonderful colleague and mentor from afar, was President of CNS, I boldly asked him if I could serve on the Scientific Selection Committee. He consented and my involvement in our society has continued to the present, culminating with the honor of serving as your President. It has been an interesting two years, trying to encourage our liaisons with our adult colleagues, developing new training initiatives, and struggling to figure out what is best for the Society and our future. In turning over the helm to Steve Roach, I would like to thank another Steve, former CNS President Steve Ashwal, for the generous wisdom and coaching he provided during these two years.

If you’ll indulge me one last time in a bit of soap box pedantry, I would like to strongly advise our young colleagues to “think big and think collaboratively” in all that you do. You have no idea how critically important it will prove to be to you, to your patients, to your chosen field of study and to the Society that needs your individual and collective energy and creativity to continue breaking new ground. Here’s hoping that when you come to the 70th or 80th CNS Annual Meeting you will.

Thank you.