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New CHoR research institute is improving care for kids

CHoR's new research institute is improving care for children today and in the years to come.

Scientist in a lab Photo: Getty Images

By Alissa Poole

This summer, Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR) launched the Children’s Health Research Institute (CHRI) to encourage research and collaboration between specialists.

“Research is where new ideas come from,” said Dr. Henry Rozycki, professor of pediatrics and vice chair for research at CHoR. “It’s a critical part of our mission.”

Research, he said, is essential to improving care for children today and for future generations, “not just in Central Virginia but worldwide.”

The goals of the CHRI include bringing investigators together to create research projects that are attractive to funders like the National Institutes of Health. The projects will provide patients with opportunities to access the latest advances in care.

The CHRI builds on the success of the Children’s Hospital Foundation Research Fund, which was established in 2014 to improve research among CHoR faculty. Since its inception, the CHF Research Fund has provided nearly $240,000 through more than 30 grants of $10,000 or less. The grants allowed faculty to apply for additional research support, in turn receiving $4.5 million in funding from the NIH, the Department of Defense and other organizations. The research has focused on infectious diseases, dental heath, prematurity, and neurologic and pulmonary function in children in Virginia, the nation and the world.

New institute four years in the making

Development of the CHRI began four years ago. Five-year goals include increasing external funding from $11 million to $31 million, NIH funding from $1.4 million to more than $6 million, clinical trials and participants by 50%, and publication of academic papers by 50%.

CHRI research will focus primarily on:

  • Neurosciences
    Includes human development, education, linguistics, neurological disorders, psychiatric disorders, rehabilitation sciences

  • EPIC (emergency, pulmonary, intensive care and cardiology)
    Includes prehospital care, pulmonary, cardiology, emergency medicine, NICU, PICU

  • Health and health care equity
    Includes health disparities, social determinant of health, community-engaged research, community provider-engaged research, patient-centered outcomes, health services research

  • Translational and personalized medicine
    Includes diabetes, cystic fibrosis, sickle cell disease, oncology, transitions in chronic care, mental health, community engagement

Perspectives from focus area leaders

“There are many researchers at VCU that are focusing on neurosciences research in children, but these are dispersed across multiple departments. We want to identify collaborative opportunities between the Monroe Park and health system campuses.”

— Dr. Nicholas Johnson, neurosciences leader

“We will propose projects that develop and evaluate evidence-based solutions to health differences that are driven largely by social, economic and environmental factors.”

— Dr. Tegwyn Brickhouse, director,  oral health in childhood and adolescence, health and health care equity leader

“We’ve always talked about the ‘triple threat,’ which is taking a question generated from the bedside, taking it back to the research bench and then going back to the bedside. The idea of having one single person do that has shifted over time. We are evolving into a team of collaborative specialists. It’s exciting to think about innovations we can bring back to children to improve their lives in multiple ways.”

— Dr. Bryce Nelson, translational and personalized medicine leader

“We can work with engineering and pulmonary for a better device to administer aerosols. We can work with music and the NICU to improve brain development in extreme preterm infants. There are multiple ways we can build bridges across divisions within CHoR but also across the School of Medicine and many different schools including nursing, engineering and arts.”

— Dr. Oliver Karam, EPIC leader

Learn more about pediatric research efforts at CHoR.