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Michelle Monje Awarded ‘Genius Grant’

Neuroscientist and neurooncologist Michelle Monje, MD, PhD, was awarded a 2021 MacArthur Fellowship from the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

“I was very surprised and incredibly honored,” says Monje, associate professor of neurology and neurological sciences, describing her reaction to the phone call during which she was informed she was a recipient of the $625,000 grant.

The prestigious fellowship, unofficially known as a “genius grant,” is given “to talented individuals in a variety of fields who have shown exceptional originality in and dedication to their creative pursuits,” according to a statement from the foundation.

Monje’s research focuses on understanding healthy brain development, especially the role of glial cells, which surround and support neurons and contribute to brain plasticity. Her team also studies how the cells’ development goes awry in a group of pediatric brain tumors known as high-grade gliomas, such as glioblastoma and diffuse intrinsic pontine glioma.

Her work to understand both healthy and cancerous glia is providing new hope for better therapies to treat gliomas.

“Dr. Monje’s research is driven by a combination of deep scientific curiosity about healthy neurological development and compassion for children who are affected by deadly brain tumors,” says Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the Stanford School of Medicine. “Her work is a fantastic example of the type of multidisciplinary creativity that is honored by the MacArthur Fellowship, and we are thrilled that she was selected.”

Wildfire Smoke Exposure Raises Risk for Preterm Birth

Breathing pollution from wildfire smoke increases a pregnant woman’s risk of giving birth three or more weeks early, according to a Stanford study published in Environmental Research.

Each day of smoke exposure raises a pregnant woman’s risk of premature birth, regardless of her race, ethnicity, or income, the study found. A week of smoke exposure raised the risk of early delivery by 3.4%, with the strongest impacts when women were exposed to smoke during their second trimester of pregnancy.

One possible explanation for the link between wildfire smoke exposure and preterm birth, the authors say, is that the pollution may trigger an inflammatory response, which then sets delivery in motion. The increase in risk is relatively small in the context of all the factors that contribute to the birth of a healthy, full-term baby.

“However, against a backdrop where we know so little about why some women deliver too soon, prematurely, and why others do not, finding clues like the one here helps us start piecing the bigger puzzle together,” says co-author Gary Shaw, DrPH, a professor of pediatrics and co-primary investigator of Stanford’s March of Dimes Prematurity Research Center.

Infectious Disease Expert Joins Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health Board of Directors

The Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health announced the appointment of Yvonne “Bonnie” Maldonado, MD, to its board of directors.

Maldonado is the Taube Professor of Global Health and Infectious Diseases and professor of pediatric infectious diseases, epidemiology, and population health at the Stanford University School of Medicine. She also directs Stanford’s Global Child Health Program and serves as the medical director of Infection Prevention and Control at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford. During the COVID-19 pandemic, she has been at the forefront of Stanford’s research and clinical efforts, and an advisor to policymakers on how to stop virus spread.

“We’re honored to welcome one of the world’s leading experts in children’s health to our board,” said Cynthia J. Brandt, president and CEO of the Lucile Packard Foundation for Children’s Health. “Beyond her role in solving public health crises, Dr. Maldonado is a strong advocate for diversity and inclusion, which aligns with the Foundation’s goals to advance health equity. She also has extensive fundraising knowledge that will help to unlock philanthropy to transform health for children and families everywhere.”

Maldonado attended the Stanford School of Medicine and was a resident and fellow in pediatric infectious diseases at The Johns Hopkins Hospital. Her leadership and accomplishments in diversity and inclusion have been widely recognized and led to her appointment as the senior associate dean for faculty development and diversity at Stanford Medicine.

“Dr. Maldonado is a champion for children’s health, and the impact of her work has been felt around the world,” said Elizabeth Dunlevie, board chair for the Foundation. “I am confident that she will bring that same dedication to advancing the Foundation’s mission of equitable access to high-quality care.”

‘U.S. News & World Report’ Once Again Names Packard Children’s Hospital Among Top 10 Children’s Hospitals in the Nation

Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has once again been named among the top 10 children’s hospitals in the nation, according to the U.S. News & World Report 2021-2022 Best Children’s Hospitals survey.

The rankings name Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford as the top children’s hospital in Northern California and include it on the Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll, a designation awarded to pediatric centers that deliver exceptionally high-quality care across multiple specialties. In addition, the 2021-2022 survey introduced state and regional rankings for the first time; Packard Children’s Hospital ranked second among all Pacific region and California children’s hospitals.

This is the 17th consecutive year that Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report surveys. Celebrating its 30th anniversary in 2021, the hospital is the youngest institution among the top hospitals, the rest of which have been in operation for 70 to 165 years.

“Achieving the Best Children’s Hospitals Honor Roll distinction yet again is indicative of the excellence in specialty care that has come to define Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford in its relatively short tenure,” says Paul King, president and CEO of Packard Children’s Hospital. “We are extraordinarily proud of this achievement as a direct result of our providers’ unparalleled innovation and commitment to delivering the highest-quality care for children and expectant mothers.”

The annual Best Children’s Hospitals rankings recognize the top 50 pediatric facilities across the United States in 10 pediatric specialties: cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, gastroenterology and GI surgery, neonatology, nephrology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedics, pulmonology and lung surgery, and urology.

This article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 edition of Packard Children’s News.

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