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Department of Pediatrics Newsletter
DeBaun named to key Pediatrics leadership post
By Carole Bartoo
September 16, 2010


Michael DeBaun, M.D., M.P.H.
A globally renowned genetic and hematologic researcher has been named vice chair for Clinical Affairs for the Department of Pediatrics, bringing a long history of research to improve the lives of patients with sickle cell disease (SCD).

Michael DeBaun, M.D., M.P.H., the Ferring Family Chair in Pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine, and director of the Sickle Cell Medical Treatment and Education Center at St. Louis Children's Hospital, will join Vanderbilt in November where he will also be professor of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology.

DeBaun will work closely with Jonathan Gitlin, M.D., James C. Overall Professor and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, to provide leadership and expertise. DeBaun says he hopes to serve as a mentor and advisor to faculty in a very competitive atmosphere for national funding.

"I am thrilled to be coming to Vanderbilt and the Nashville community. The Medical Center and Department of Pediatrics serve as an intellectual incubator for clinical and translational research that crosses multiple disciplines, departments, and into the community. My goal will be to help faculty define their projects from conception through early phases to position them well for funding, and then to facilitate their progress," DeBaun said.

A 2009 inductee to the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine, DeBaun's research has focused on understanding cerebrovascular injury, or stroke, in children with sickle cell disease, and improving management of their care. His research has demonstrated that both size and location of stroke results in specific cognitive loss and poor academic attainment in children with SCD.

"Michael DeBaun is the leading expert in North America in the care of children with sickle cell disease. Through his leadership, a broader, more encompassing plan will be developed for children in Middle and Western Tennessee to provide the kind of superb preventive care, and management from birth throughout life, that will improve the quality of care for all children with this disease," said Gitlin.

DeBaun is the principal investigator of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) Silent Cerebral Infarct Transfusion Trial, an international trial with 25 clinical sites designed to test the hypothesis that blood transfusion therapy will prevent progression of silent strokes when compared to observation. The clinical coordinating center for this trial will be moving to Vanderbilt.

DeBaun's work is also focused on better defining the impact and biological reasons asthma increases sickle cell disease morbidity and mortality. He is principal investigator for a second NIH study and is currently collaborating nationally and internationally to develop the first longitudinal cohort of children with sickle cell anemia who have been evaluated with repeated pulmonary function tests and sleep studies. The statistical and clinical coordinating center for the lung and sleep cohort will be moving to Vanderbilt as well.

DeBaun is also an expert in genetic cancer predisposition syndromes. His work defined the natural history and biological basis of malformation and cancer in Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome (BWS) as an epigenetic syndrome, related to the expression of DNA through cell division, or phenotype, rather than the structure of DNA itself. BWS can dramatically increase a child's risk for certain childhood cancers. In 2004, DeBaun and a colleague at Johns Hopkins found the risk of delivering a child with BWS to be 10 times higher than expected among parents who used in vitro fertilization (IVF). This evidence, combined with other large studies, has opened world-wide investigations into epigenetic syndromes associated with IVF.

DeBaun is a native of St. Louis and attended Howard University in Washington, D.C., where he majored in chemistry and graduated magna cum laude and Phi Beta Kappa. He then attended Stanford University Medical School where he received his M.D. and a Master's degree in Health Services Research.

He completed a pediatric residency at St. Louis Children's Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine where he served as Pediatric Chief Resident and later completed his Pediatric Hematology and Oncology Fellowship. DeBaun earned a Master's in Public Health from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and Hygiene through an Epidemiology Fellowship awarded by the United States Public Health Service. He is an author of more than 130 peer-reviewed publications.

A devoted teacher, DeBaun was recognized twice at Washington University as Pediatrics Clinical Teacher of the Year. His national honors include the Burroughs Wellcome Translational Research Award and the Doris Duke Clinical Scientist Development Award.

DeBaun and his wife, Sandra, have a 22-year-old son, and a 20-year-old daughter, attending college at Stanford Medical School and Washington University in St. Louis, respectively.

"I am thrilled Dr. DeBaun will be joining Vanderbilt and look forward to his contributions as we continue to advance our child health programs to the nation's forefront," said Jeff Balser, M.D., Ph.D. vice chancellor for Health Affairs and dean of the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine. "Michael will play a vital leadership role in our broader translational research efforts while his own research will continue to produce exciting new discoveries."


 
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