Funding from the Festival of Trees Evergreen Endowment has been a crucial source of support for innovative pediatric research projects at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan, providing seed funding that allows physician-scientists to try new ideas to improve the diagnosis and treatment of diseases that affect children. The Festival of Trees Evergreen Endowment for pediatric research has supported over 100 research studies intended to increase physician understanding of acute and chronic diseases and illnesses in children and lead to improved care. The Endowment also helps to support the Children’s Research Center of Michigan to provide crucial mentoring and support to young physicians as they start their research careers.
Funding from The Festival of Trees Evergreen Endowment for pediatric research helped initiate numerous major research programs at the Children’s Hospital of Michigan. For example:
- A computer assisted robot-enhanced pediatric surgery program to improve surgical outcomes (Dr. Klein).
- A pediatric rehabilitation motion analysis program to aid in children’s physical rehabilitation (Dr. Dabrowski).
- A Positron Emission Tomography Center for research to improve treatment of pediatric epilepsy (Dr. Chugani).
- Expansion of the Congenital Cardiac Interventional Study Consortium, a national database established to decrease complications and improve outcomes for infants and children undergoing pediatric heart catheterizations (Dr. Forbes).
- Studies on gene therapy to treat spinal muscular atrophy and other muscular diseases (Dr. Ascadi).
- Studies on the role of nutrition in the treatment of critically ill children (Dr. Meert).
- Studies to evaluate total body cooling to reduce perinatal brain injury (Dr. Shankaran).
Some of these studies are listed by title on the Funded Research page, but this does not always reflect the importance of what the Festival of Trees has accomplished. In these major clinical disciplines, these aren’t isolated projects – they have helped to initiate, build and support many major research programs that have improved outcomes across many disciplines.
Perhaps the largest single project and single most important impact that FOT has had on CHM and the research and care of children was the support of the PET scanner. Children’s Hospital had the opportunity to receive the first dedicated pediatric PET scanner. In addition, with a grant from the government, funds were included to build the addition to the hospital which would be required to house the scanner. Like any machine, it required a high level of expertise to achieve the most benefit, and at that time there were not many people with expertise in this area. Festival of Trees made a 5-year commitment of approximately $100,000 per year to be used to help start a research program for the team that would be successfully recruited to run the PET scanner. This was a major recruiting tool for the hospital to successfully recruit Dr. Harry Chugani and his team from UCLA. This team included Dr. Chugani’s wife, Dr. Diane Chugani, who was a PhD researcher who started the autism treatment center of CHM located in Novi, and received several multi-million dollar NIH grants while in Detroit. Dr. Harry Chugani was nationally recognized as an expert in seizure control, and was installed as chief of Neurology, responsible for establishing a large neurology department with multiple satellite offices in the Detroit area. Festival of Trees was proud to provide funding of Dr. Chugani and his team.
The body cooling project by Dr. Seetha Shankaran is one of the most dramatic cases of Festival of Tree’s impact. Her early work resulted in a large, multi-year, multi-center NIH grant and a major article published in the New England Journal of Medicine highlighting the ways in which it changed medical care for infants born from a traumatic birth. Although Festival of Trees did not directly fund the reported study, the foundation did fund early work which resulted in a game-changing national study. Dr. Shankaran, already a nationally recognized leader in neonatal medicine and research, led this study in coordination with major centers from across the country.
Festival or Trees’ support of research efforts in general at Children’s Hospital has been crucial in attracting highly skilled doctors and researchers to southeast Michigan. Without this funding, many of the projects like those noted above would have struggled to get started, or may not have happened at all. Pilot projects which benefited from this funding resulted in significant positive outcomes for children, and have allowed researchers to apply for and receive additional external funding from organizations like the National Institute of Health. This crucial funding is especially important for young researchers, who could now see their ideas being studied on a larger scale, producing more solid outcomes with excellent statistical support for acceptance and a higher likelihood of receiving the additional funding needed to turn their ideas into real treatments and cures for children across the country.