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A Pediatrics Centennial Symposium Addresses Endocrine, Obesity, and Diabetes

November 17, 2021
by Isabella Backman

Members of the Yale School of Medicine community tuned in virtually on November 3 for the Department of Pediatrics’ Endocrine/Obesity/Diabetes Symposium. The symposium is part of a series of events in honor of the department’s centennial.

Founded in 1921, the Department of Pediatrics commemorates 100 years of providing top-quality care for children and training the next generation of pediatric leaders. The pediatric endocrinology and diabetes program is one of the top in the country, and the symposium brought together some of the nation’s leaders working to tackle growth problems, gender identity issues, obesity, and diabetes in youth.

“Throughout the history of the Department of Pediatrics, we have met the vision we have established—which is being healers, innovators and collaborators, and leading worldwide in improving the health of children and adolescents,” said Clifford Bogue, MD, chair and Waldemar Von Zedtwitz Professor of Pediatrics, at the Pediatric Centennial Kickoff held on September 15. “That vision is built on the shoulders of all the giants that came before us.”

The symposium opened with a presentation by Myron Genel, MD, professor emeritus of pediatrics (endocrinology) and clinical professor of nursing, on the history of the pediatric endocrinology division at Yale and its evolution. The origins of the division, he said, date back to the late 1950s when Paul Goldstein—a Yale pediatrician who passed away earlier this year at the age of 94—began a pediatric endocrinology clinic predominantly for diabetes. Since its birth, the division has grown to encompass a wider variety of specialty services. In addition to its pediatric diabetes program, the division now also includes gender, metabolic bone disease, and weight solutions programs.

The morning sessions included presentations by Thomas Carpenter, MD, professor of pediatrics (endocrinology) and of orthopaedics and rehabilitation, and clinical professor of nursing, on metabolic bone disorders in children and Catherine Dinauer, MD, associate professor of clinical pediatrics (endocrinology) on thyroid disorders in children. Anisha Patel, DO, assistant professor of pediatrics (endocrinology) and Christy Olezeski, PhD, associate professor of psychiatry, also gave a presentation on the advances of the Yale Gender Clinic and providing interdisciplinary care for transgender youth. Before 2014, young patients who came to Yale seeking gender-affirming care were referred to other clinics in neighboring states. However, when one patient, lacking the funds or transportation to seek care elsewhere, approached Patel about being their doctor, Patel felt inspired to take action. “I took a deep breath and said, ‘Okay, I’ll do this,” she said.

Patel teamed up with Olezeski to build a pediatric gender program, holding the first clinic in September 2015. At the start, their team would hold a four-hour session once a month. The program grew, and now Yale offers 67 clinics a month across multiple satellite locations. These clinics have assisted over 300 patients on their gender journeys—whether they choose to only transition socially, pursue hormonal intervention, or undergo gender-affirming surgery. In addition to patient care, the clinic also has ongoing research in many areas of transgender care including the prevalence of eating disorders, the importance of social support, and bone and vascular health in transgender youth.

Following lunch and a poster session, the afternoon consisted of lectures by Yale researchers involved in the obesity and diabetes programs. Mary Savoye, RD, associate director of pediatric obesity, kicked off the afternoon with her presentation on Yale’s Bright Bodies Healthy Lifestyle Program. Held in 12-week sessions at Celentano High School, the program is designed for youth struggling with obesity and their families. It includes both an exercise component to show young people that exercise is a critical, but fun, part of weight management, as well as a nutrition education program to help them develop healthy eating habits. The program has adopted a non-diet approach to encourage long-term, realistic lifestyle changes. And the benefits of the program have been backed by science—a randomized controlled trial published in 2007 showed Bright Bodies to have the “best outcome in a health care setting.”

“There are only two evidence-based programs in the United States, and we are one of them,” said Savoye.

Savoye was followed by Michelle Van Name, MD, assistant professor of pediatrics (endocrinology), who presented on adolescent bariatric surgery. The symposium then transitioned to highlight the diabetes programs, featuring Stuart Weinzimer, MD, professor of pediatrics (endocrinology); Kerry Stephenson, MSN, advanced practice registered nurse at Yale New Haven Health; and Jennifer Sherr, MD, PhD, associate professor of pediatrics (endocrinology). The speakers discussed topics including recent advances in diabetes technology, supporting diabetes patients in their transition from inpatient and outpatient settings, and early intensive therapies such as anti-CD3 [a monoclonal antibody] treatment to prevent progression of type 1 diabetes.

“1921 wasn’t just the year that the department of pediatrics was founded. It was also the year that insulin was discovered,” said Sherr. “The past 100 years have seen drastic improvements in diabetes care and the direct involvement of Yale in so many amazing discoveries. I truly look forward to what the next century has in store.”

A full list of events in celebration of Yale’s pediatric centennial can be found on the department’s website.

Submitted by Robert Forman on November 17, 2021