Thanks to an extraordinarily generous seven-figure gift from the Mandell-Braunstein family, the Gastroenterology Division at Connecticut Children’s has established the Mandell-Braunstein Family Endowed Chair for Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease. The chair will initially be held by Jeffrey Hyams, MD, the Division Head of Gastroenterology and Director of the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease. Dr. Hyams is a world-renowned clinician and researcher who has authored over 400 peer-reviewed scientific papers and has led multiple pivotal studies investigating the causes of inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
New Endowment Supports Search for IBD Cure, Improved Care
The gift will allow the Center for Inflammatory Bowel Disease to expand both its research and clinical treatment efforts, which have already earned the Gastroenterology Division a designation as one of the best in the nation from U.S. News and World Report. “Connecticut Children’s has long been a leader in IBD research and in providing high-level patient care, particularly to this most vulnerable population,” said Jim Shmerling, President and CEO of Connecticut Children’s. “This gift from the Mandell-Braunstein family will help us capitalize on our strengths, advance our research, and, most important, make an impact on the lives of children and families here in Connecticut and the region, now and far into the future. We are deeply grateful for their support.”
“We have admired Dr. Hyams’ work for many years,” said family spokesperson Mark Mandell. “Dr. Hyams and the team at Connecticut Children’s is nothing short of extraordinary. We are very pleased to be able to support Dr. Hyams and his team at Connecticut Children’s in this major expansion of efforts to advance the search for a cure for inflammatory bowel disease.”
Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis, the two main inflammatory bowel diseases, are debilitating conditions that cause intense pain and chronic digestive distress—conditions that can cause children to feel stigmatized. One of the more serious consequences of these diseases is growth failure, which can happen in children who are not treated (see “Miriam’s Story” – coming soon). There is no cure and ongoing care is required for a lifetime, usually involving oral and intravenous medications, special diets, and at times hospitalization and intestinal surgery. Psychosocial support is critical for affected children who are often first affected in early adolescence.
Doctors do not know for certain what causes IBDs, though genes, environment, and the patient’s assemblage of intestinal bacteria all appear to play a role.
According to Dr. Hyams, a key element in finding a cure and improving care is a better understanding of how the disease progresses and how it responds to therapy. That understanding can be achieved only by intensively studying each affected patient. The Center for Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease been conducting collaborative research with other leading institutions in North America directed at precisely characterizing clinical, genetic, and microbiologic manifestations of IBD, and this large-scale work has produced important evidence in the quest to end these diseases.
With more than 800 current patients and 80 or 90 added each year, the Center for Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease generates an immense amount of complex, interactive data in itself. Each child, after all, represents a unique combination of genes, intestinal microbiome, disease progression, environment and reactions to medication, all of which, until now, have gone underanalyzed. But, with the Mandell-Braunstein gift, that situation will change. The funds generated by the endowment will be used to support a robust medical informatics program that will be able to analyze extremely large amounts of clinical and scientific data.
“The Mandell-Braunstein gift is a game-changer in this regard,” says Dr. Hyams. “Big data is an essential first step toward research goals and would make a big difference in patient care. We will be able to generate dynamic, relevant and directive reports on every child as we follow them through their childhood, adolescence, and young adulthood.”