Advancing Pediatric CV Research Focus of McNamara Lecture

Gail D. Pearson, MD, ScD, FACC, a pediatric cardiologist at Children’s National Medical Center in Washington, DC, associate director of the Division of Cardiovascular Sciences and director of the Adult and Pediatric Cardiac Research Program at the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) will give today’s Dan G. McNamara Lecture. Katlyn Nemani, MD, talked with Pearson about her career, as well as NHLBI’s investments in pediatric cardiovascular research, which will be the topic of her lecture.

What inspired your interest in pediatric cardiology?

After spending several years in regional health planning and regulation, a change in political winds away from regulation made it clear that I needed to think about career options. Among my friends were two women neonatologists, who encouraged me to think about a career in medicine. When it came time to think about residency training, pediatrics was a foregone conclusion. Once in pediatrics, I was interested in a sub-specialty that had a critical care component and, of those available, only pediatric cardiology provided an opportunity to follow patients throughout their lives, which appealed to me greatly.

Expo"Recent studies have uncovered new groups of genes not previously associated with congenital heart disease and have identified a genetic link between congenital heart disease and impaired neurodevelopmental outcomes.” Gail D. Pearson, MD, ScD, FACC

Tell us about the first program you developed at NHLBI.

The Pediatric Heart Network (PHN) was established in 2001 to improve evidence-based treatment options and standards of care for patients of all ages with congenital heart disease and children with acquired heart disease, such as Kawasaki Disease. It is a multi-center clinical research consortium that currently consists of nine main clinical research sites in the U.S. and Canada, a data coordinating center, and a variable number of auxiliary sites. Over the past 15 years, the PHN has changed the landscape of pediatric cardiovascular research by providing a vibrant, sustainable, nimble infrastructure for multi-center research.

Tell us about the two research efforts that make up the Bench to Bassinet Program.

The vision for the program is to provide a framework for scientists spanning the domains of basic science, functional genomics, translational biology and clinical research to collaborate in accelerating progress toward discovery and translation. The Cardiovascular Development Consortium is a group of four academic institutions conducting basic science research to characterize the molecular networks and pathways that control normal and abnormal heart development. Recent work has enabled the creation of spatiotemporal maps of gene expression at single-cell resolution during heart development, which has revealed cell-line specific gene programs that underlie normal heart development and congenital heart disease. The Pediatric Cardiac Genomics Consortium is a group of five centers using state-of-the-art genomics tools to identify the genetic causes of congenital heart disease and to determine how genes affect treatment outcomes. Recent studies have uncovered new groups of genes not previously associated with congenital heart disease, and have identified a genetic link between congenital heart disease and impaired neurodevelopmental outcomes.

What goals do you have for the NHLBI in the coming decade?

The comments here reflect my thoughts, and don’t necessarily reflect official NHLBI position. In the broad clinical research arena, I anticipate that NHLBI will continue to be a leader in the efficient stewardship of the clinical trials process, and hope that we can take significant steps to help streamline clinical trials and to increase patient engagement in the process from start to finish. For the Adult and Pediatric Cardiac Research Program, I think heart failure is an area that requires some re-thinking. For pediatric cardiovascular research, it would be great to see progress in a number of areas, including developing an integrated data network for congenital heart disease; capturing newborns who screen positive for critical congenital heart disease through screening; and identifying social, environmental, genetic and genomic contributions to the etiology and outcomes of congenital heart disease across the life span.


The 2017 Dan G. McNamara Lecture will take place today from 12:30 – 1:45 p.m. in Room 146 C.

Clinical Topics: Congenital Heart Disease and Pediatric Cardiology, Congenital Heart Disease

Keywords: ACC Publications, ACC Scientific Session Newspaper, ACC Annual Scientific Session, Child, Heart Diseases, Infant, Newborn, Mucocutaneous Lymph Node Syndrome, National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (U.S.), Pediatrics, Regional Health Planning, Research


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