The University of Delaware (UD) organized and hosted a Cerebral Palsy Research Symposium on May 24, allowing investigators from different disciplines to explain their research, network, and seek new collaborative projects to fight the neurological disorder that currently has no cure.
The event gathered researchers and clinicians from Nemours/Alfred I. DuPont Hospital for Children; Christiana Care Health System; Philadelphia’s HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy; and the Medical University of South Carolina (MUSC).
“CP is a major health problem, but options for helping patients are pretty limited,” said Rob Akins, the director of Nemours’ Center for Pediatric Clinical Research and Development, in a press release. “Symposia like the one hosted at UD are hugely beneficial because they bring together clinicians, scientists, and engineers to help overcome the challenges faced by people with CP and their families.”
A common symptom of cerebral palsy is poor muscle coordination. To fight the poor coordination between research and health institutions, the National Institutes of Health (NIH) hosted meetings to identify focus areas and priority fields of action, hoping to discover ways to accelerate the research process.
Similarly, Chris Modlesky – a UD associate professor of kinesiology and applied physiology who organized the symposium – believed the time was right to invite scholars from different health fields to the university’s STAR Health Sciences Complex to brainstorm and come up with new ideas.
“When we come together, we can do a lot more for the cerebral palsy community,” Modlesky said. “Battling CP, like other disorders, can’t be done by one person or group. We need as many investigators as possible to work together.”
Other symposium presenters included Cole Galloway, a UD professor of physical therapy; researchers Diane Chugani, Heidi Kecskemethy, and Nancy Lennon from Nemours; and Patty Coker-Bolt and Cynthia Dodds from MUSC.
“We wanted to come meet other people who share a common interest,” said Dodds, who works as an assistant professor in MUSC’s Division of Physical Therapy. “We want to translate research into clinical practice, help community therapists, and better inform students.”
Overall, the symposium participants thought the initiative was fruitful. An immediate result from the gathering was a decision by MUSC and HMS School for Children with Cerebral Palsy to partner on a joint application for a community participatory grant.
“Chris Modlesky had the topics well-planned,” said researcher Coker-Bolt. “We need more discussions like this on translational research. It’s exciting to hear about all of the wonderful research discoveries that could potentially impact CP patients and their families.”
Now, a month after the symposium, conference organizers are close to meeting again to check on the progress that resulted from the event, such as collaborations, joint grant opportunities, and a discussion about shared databases. Nemours offered to host a follow-up conference this fall to promote a multidisciplinary discussion in the field.
“So many different disciplines are involved in this area. CP is primarily a brain disorder, but there are obviously large consequences on the whole body,” said Dr. Freeman Miller, an orthopedic surgeon at Nemours’ Department of Orthopedics. “More opportunities to talk to each other will help with our ultimate goal — improve the quality of life for people with CP.”