Bringing CNS Members Together to Make Children’s Lives Better


Year-End Letter from CNS President, Phillip L. Pearl, MD

Phillip L. Pearl, MD

Dear CNS Members,

In a normal year, I hate shoveling snow. My cousin died doing this circa twenty years ago. But it feels good to be doing something “normal” again, even if it’s braving a Nor’easter to get to the hospital in time. And since when did “blizzard” go out of style? My, how we miss yesteryear, or can’t wait for next year – anything just to be done with this one.

Will life return to “normalcy”? Not soon enough it seems, but vaccines have been approved and are on their way. Where do child neurologists find themselves standing in line? Not in front of primary care doctors, as the joke in my household now has it, with my pediatrician wife regarded as far more important than dad, since she already got the shot and I’m still waiting. Still, the change of year is feeling more hopeful than it has in a long, long time.

Which brings me to this letter with its focus on PPE. No, not the PPE – Personal Protective Equipment – we worried about last spring, but, rather PPE as in “Publications, Planning, and Engagement!”

Publications – This past year, as you know from an earlier letter, the CNS negotiated revisions and renewed its contract with the ANA to co-publish Annals of Neurology as our official societal journal. The front matter has already reflected CNS priorities, including editorials from the CNS Board on institutional racism and from a CNS group aligned with PERC outlining a new standard of care for infantile spasms during the pandemic. I encourage you to leaf through the last several months content with fresh eyes, as the emphasis on pediatric neurology and developmental neuroscience is more than evident. The editorial review process, reflecting a joint commitment by the ANA and CNS, continues with complete independence and adherence to the highest scholastic levels, as well as a search for the new Editor-in-Chief, a process which has incorporated input from CNS representatives on the Annals oversight committee, Ken Mack and Nigel Bamford.

Meanwhile, the Society moves forward with plans to provide additional resources integral to the practice of pediatric neurology that will be user friendly and practical. Beginning with the Spring 2021 issue of CNS Connections, we will include a quarterly series, “Child Neuro Briefs,” prepared by Dan Bonthius, our creative and gifted Connections editor. The Society will be supporting Dan with resources and funding to initiate this series, drawing on regular contributions by Dan and potentially other CNS members that will highlight studies pertinent to the practicing child neurologist, with helpful commentary and perspective prompting continued creative, energizing, useful exchanges among our members.

Planning – Kudos to our Executive Director Roger Larson and his hard working staff, Associate Director Sue Hussman, Kathy Pavel, and Emily McConnell, for pulling off an outstanding joint CNS-ICNA virtual meeting in October. The two-week meeting might plausibly be characterized as a one-week learning curve followed by a one-week blockbuster success, with consistently great content, active online engagement, and durable material throughout, all of which can be accessed On Demand (24/7) by those registered for the live meeting as well as those registering by December 31; content will be posted through March 2021.

There has been no rest period for CNS staff, board, or Scientific Program Committee, as we move forward planning our eagerly awaited 50th Anniversary Meeting for 2021, with simultaneous contingency plans for a live, virtual, or hybrid format. We are hoping to meet live in Boston, September 29-October 2 and will optimistically incorporate Boston-based imagery in forthcoming publicity, but you will also note throughout the coming year an emphasis on the overarching theme of “Child Neurology: Past, Present, and Future.” The meeting will include release of the second edition of the Founders of Child Neurology book, originally published in 1990; the new Founders edition will offer additional focus on the evolution and development of the specialty in the 30 years since. We plan legacy events, signing ceremonies, and presentations that will cover historical progress in various subspecialty areas that will then transition into discussions of current aspects and futuristic predictions, by specialists active in child neurology ranging from older, established, even legendary thought leaders to the remarkable emerging cohort of new investigators and burgeoning leaders in the field.

Engagement – One could describe the Society’s mission as bringing all pediatric neurologists together to collectively help them more fully realize individual career aspirations, advance the profession, and optimally care for the patients and families served by our unique and specially trained knowledge and skills. Several CNS Committees have focused on new and renewed priorities for the coming year, among them:

  • Scientific Program Planning Committee, chaired by Carl Stafstrom, with Associate Chair, Yasmin Khakoo, charged with developing and choreographing a special 50th Anniversary Meeting. CNS Members are encouraged to submit proposals for symposia, seminars and workshops by clicking here.
  • Awards Committee, chaired by Lauren Jansen, charged with reviewing awards nominations. Those recognized this year in Boston include: Jonathan Mink (Hower Award), Jerry Mendel (Sachs Award), Robert Baumann and Sid Gospe (Brumback Lifetime Achievement Awards), and Mary Zupanc (Arnold P. Gold Humanism in Medicine Award). This year’s meeting will include presentation of the first Martha Bridge Denckla Award, supported by the Kennedy Krieger Institute, recognizing outstanding contributions in cognitive neurology. (Click here to submit nomination)
  • Research Committee, chaired by Gabrielle deVeber with active involvement by Josh Bonkowsky, former chair Barry Kosofsky, and others charged with teaming up with the CNF to support awards and a boot camp designed to initiate early career investigators in the rigors of clinical research.
  • Diversity and Leadership Development Task Force, chaired by Rujuta Bhatt Wilson, charged with a) outlining goals and responsibilities for, and identifying and supporting a CNS Diversity Officer, and b) performing needs assessment and designing diversity and leadership programming that will complement and build on pre-existing programming offered by AAN, AES, and ANA. Others working on this Task Force include PCN President Nancy Bass, past CNS and CNF President Ann Tilton, and Audrey Brumback, CNS Councillor from the South; Audrey has initiated a parallel effort designed to engage medical students planning to enter the specialty.

These are just a few examples of child neurologists from varying career stages and areas of interest engaging with other child neurologists on the basis of their shared commitment to the Child Neurology Society, recognizing that we are all stronger when working together – actively engaging with each other – in the best interests of our profession and our patients.

It has been a tumultuous year for everyone. My thanks to the CNS staff, to CNS Board members, to the many CNS and ICNA speakers presenting virtually, and to all the CNS members who worked through significant setbacks and challenges close to home throughout 2020, drawing strength from and giving strength to their colleagues by actively engaging each other through and on behalf of the CNS. Together we met and overcame significant threats to our legal and financial security, pivoted and adapted to unprecedented technical challenges and steep learning curves, and in the end came out stronger than ever, well-positioned to finish out the Society’s first half century and usher in its second half century at the 50th CNS Annual Meeting next fall.

We’ll recognize all those who contributed this past year at next month’s CNS Annual Business Meeting (rescheduled due to COVID-related contingencies and joint meeting related accounting complexities). The brief (1/2 hour) business meeting, traditionally held during the fall annual meeting and attended by a small handful of (mostly older) members, is open to all via Zoom, beginning at 5:00 pm EST, Tuesday, January 19. Invitations with Zoom link and password will be sent in early January.

Best wishes to all of you for a happy year-end holiday season and for a truly banner year ahead.

Phillip L. Pearl, MD
President, Child Neurology Society
Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School
Institute for Music and Health, Berklee College of Music
Boston, MA

Posted December 21, 2020