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E-News for Referring Offices

E-News for Referring Offices

Cancer Predisposition Clinic Aims to Change the Trajectory of Genetically Based Cancer

At least 10% of children with cancer harbor a disease-associated pathogenic variant in a known cancer predisposition gene. While few can be prevented, regular surveillance can, at the very least, find malignancies early when treatment is most effective.

That’s the idea behind Children’s of Alabama’s Cancer Predisposition Clinic, now in its third year.

“We provide comprehensive care and screening for these patients with the goal of detecting cancers at an early stage in order to provide the best care and outcomes for the patients,” said Elizabeth Alva, M.D., assistant professor in the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) Division of Pediatric Hematology and Oncology. “It used to be there was nothing we could do about this terrible diagnosis,” she said. “Now we know there are definitely ways to look for cancers early and help patients.”

In addition, the clinic provides psychological support for families and determines if the genetic condition affects other family members.

Typically, primary care physicians follow children with cancer predispositions. But Alva provides another level of evidence-based surveillance that the pediatric offices may not be able to offer.

That’s why these clinics are a growing area in the pediatric hematology/oncology world, particularly at the larger children’s hospitals. “We felt that we definitely needed to provide that same level of care here in Alabama,” Alva said.

Alva and neuropsychologist Avi Madan-Swain, Ph.D., are currently following about 25 patients. Patients come to them through the Pediatric Cancer Genetics Clinic, where families are tested and counseled. Alva provides the screening, which ranges from regular ultrasounds to CT scans and MRIs, while Madan-Swain addresses the family’s psychological needs.

One benefit to the clinic is that if there is a cancer diagnosis, the child and family are already comfortable with the hospital and the clinical team.

Alva is building a database of patients to gain a better understanding of disease development and progression, while Madan-Swain plans research around the psychological impact on families that have a child with a predisposition syndrome.

E-News for Referring Offices, Summer 2019

PATHS Program to Improve Access to Behavioral Health Care in Alabama

The Alabama Department of Mental Health (ADMH) has contracted with Children’s of Alabama to implement a new program known as PATHS – Pediatric Access to Telemental Health Services through a HRSA grant aimed to improve access to behavioral health care in primary care settings. The goals of the PATHS program are to increase access to behavioral health care, make early diagnosis possible and improve outcomes for pediatric behavioral health patients in rural areas of Alabama.

The PATHS program will:

  • Provide education to pediatricians regarding how to better diagnose and treat behavioral health conditions.
  • Facilitate specialty consultation services for pediatricians in rural communities who have patients with behavioral health needs.
  • Provide limited direct care services via telemedicine to patients in primary care settings who need a higher level of behavioral health care.

PATHS will begin with a small group of pediatricians in July/August 2019. The program will expand statewide over the next five years.

For more information about PATHS, please contact Susan Griffin, Project Director, at or call 205-638-5673.

E-News for Referring Offices, Summer 2019

New Faculty Join the Department of Pediatrics

Erica Christen Bjornstad, M.D., MPH, Assistant Professor in Pediatric Nephrology, earned her medical degree at the University of Maryland School of Medicine and her masters of public health at the John Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health. Dr. Bjornstad completed her pediatric residency and pediatric nephrology fellowship at the University of North Carolina Children’s Hospital. Dr. Bjornstad also completed a mini-fellowship in renal ultrasonography at Emory University. Prior to joining UAB, she has worked extensively in Latin America and Africa, publishing a resource guide for healthcare providers in Africa – North Carolina Children’s Global Health Handbook. Her research/clinical interests include epidemiology of acute kidney injury, novel diagnostic tests, and global health, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa.

Matthew Clark, M.D., Assistant Professor in Pediatric Cardiac Critical Care, earned his medical degree at the University of Missouri. Dr. Clark completed his internal medicine and pediatric residency at the University of Missouri, his pediatric critical care fellowship at Saint Louis University and his pediatric cardiac critical care fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His major/clinical research interests include clinical trials and quality improvement.

Leslie Collins, M.D., Assistant Professor in Pediatric Cardiology, earned her medical degree at the East Carolina University – Brody School of Medicine. Dr. Collins completed her pediatric residency and pediatric cardiology fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Her research/clinical interests include imaging, fetal ECHO, and heart failure and transplant.

Courtney Crayne, M.D., MSPH, Instructor in Pediatric Rheumatology, earned her medical degree and master of science in public health at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Crayne completed her pediatric residency at Tulane-Ochsner Pediatrics and her pediatric rheumatology fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Crayne is also on the Government Affairs Committee for the American College Rheumatology. Her major research/clinical interests include vaccination outcomes in children with autoimmune disease. She is also active in advocacy efforts with a special interest in legislative affairs and healthcare policy reform.

Christy Foster, M.D., Assistant Professor in Pediatric Endocrinology, grew up in Birmingham, Alabama and earned her medical degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Foster completed her pediatric residency at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences and her pediatric endocrinology fellowship at the University of Tennessee Health Science Center this year. Her research/clinical interests include investigating novel biomarkers in adolescent females with Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS), developing an endocrinology curriculum for the general pediatrics resident trainees. She is working to develop a PCOS-specific clinic to better address the needs of this population.

Thanh Summerlin, M.D., Assistant Professor in Neonatology, earned her medical degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Summerlin completed her pediatric residency and neonatal-perinatal fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. She will join the community neonatology group.

Colm Travers, M.D., MSPH, Assistant Professor in Neonatology, earned his medical degree at the University College in Dublin, Ireland and completed his pediatric residency and membership examinations in Medicine of Childhood through the Royal College of Physicians of Ireland. Dr. Travers completed his neonatal-perinatal fellowship and pediatric residency at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His major research/clinical interests include reducing major morbidities and mortality among preterm infants, long term outcomes in survivors of prematurity, implementation of evidence based practice, disparities in neonatal-perinatal care and global neonatal health.

Aman Wadhwa, M.D., MSPH, Instructor in Pediatric Hematology and Oncology, earned his medical degree from M.S. Ramaiah Medical College in India and master of science in public health degree at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. Dr. Wadhwa completed his pediatric residency at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and recently completed his pediatric hematology and oncology fellowship at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. His major research interests include investigating factors that increase the risk of treatment-related toxicity in children undergoing treatment for cancer, with the eventual goal of reducing the morbidity experienced by these children. His clinical interests are in caring for patients with hematologic malignancies.

Elizabeth Worthey, Ph.D., Associate Professor in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology, earned her doctorate degree in genetics from the Imperial College London in London, England. Dr. Worthey completed her postdoctoral training at the Seattle Biomedical Research Institute and the University of Washington in Seattle, Washington. Prior to joining UAB, Dr. Worthey was a faculty investigator and director of Software Development and Informatics at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology in Huntsville, Alabama. Her research interests include the development and application of omic, informatic, and data science based methods and technologies in order to identify and understand causal molecular variation in rare, undiagnosed or misdiagnosed disease. Her lab also focuses on the identification and study of variation that alters an individual’s response to therapeutics or modifies clinical presentation, progression, and/or outcome.

E-News for Referring Offices

New Division Directors of Hematology and Oncology, Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, and Endocrinology

Girish Dhall, M.D. has been named the division director of Hematology-Oncology and Blood and Marrow Transplantation.

Dr. Dhall is currently associate professor of pediatrics and director of the Neuro-oncology Program at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles (CHLA) and will join Children’s of Alabama at the end of May. He has been at CHLA and on faculty at the Keck School of Medicine at the University of Southern California since 2007, when he completed his fellowship in Pediatric Neuro-oncology. Prior to that, he completed his fellowship in Pediatric Hematology-Oncology at New York University Medical Center and his residency in pediatrics at New York Medical College in Valhalla, New York. Dhall attended medical school at Grant Medical College in Mumbai, India.

His clinical interests include caring for children and young adults with primary brain and spinal cord injuries. He is dedicated to improving the survival rate of young children with brain tumors without the use of high levels of radiation therapy.

Laura McGuinn, M.Dis the new division director of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

McGuinn is the inaugural Thomas H. Lowder Endowed Chair in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics and is also the new clinical director of the Civitan-Sparks Clinics. She joins Children’s of Alabama and UAB from University of Oklahoma Health Science Center in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.

McGuinn earned her medical degree from the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, where she completed her pediatric residency training as well as being the Ambulatory Chief Resident. She completed her Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics fellowship at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, Maryland,and is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics as a subspecialty fellow in both Neurodevelopmental Disabilities and Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics.

Her clinical interests include diagnostic evaluation for children with developmental and behavioral concerns such as autism and related neurodevelopmental concerns, ADHD, intellectual disabilities, language and learning disorders, sleep, eating and elimination issues, and parent-child interaction concerns, among others.

Ambika Ashraf, M.D. is the new division director of Endocrinology.

Ashraf joined the faculty at Children’s of Alabama and the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) in 2006 after completing her fellowship in Pediatric Endocrinology at the UAB School of Medicine. After receiving her MBBS and M.D. from the University of Calicut in Kerala, India, Ashraf completed her pediatric residency training from Bronx-Lebanon Hospital, New York, and UAB. Ashraf also serves as director of the Pediatric Lipid Clinic and associate director of the Metabolic Bone Clinic at Children’s of Alabama, as well as a scientist in the UAB Comprehensive Diabetes Center.

Her clinical interests include lipid disorders, bone metabolism and endocrine disorders of children and adolescents. Ashraf has been recognized as an international authority on lipid disorders.

E-News for Referring Offices, Winter 2019

A Letter from Dr. Coyne-Beasley, Division Director of Adolescent Medicine

Dear Providers:

coyneHappy New Year! We are proud to introduce our new Division of Adolescent Medicine, formerly part of the Division of General Pediatrics. We offer primary adolescent and young adult care, and subspecialty services at the William A. Daniel Jr. Adolescent Health Center at Children’s of Alabama. Our team of physicians, nutritionists, nurses, psychologists and social workers are specially trained to handle the unique needs of adolescents and young adults, seeing more than 5,000 of these patients annually. Our program is one of seven premier programs in the United States federally funded as a Leadership Education in Adolescent Health Training Program that allows for our interdisciplinary, comprehensive approach. 

Our vision is to dramatically improve the health and well-being of the adolescents and young adults of Alabama, the region and beyond by delivering the highest quality care, providing an exciting learning environment for our trainees, patients and their families, participating in clinical investigations and effectively advocating for improved adolescent and young adult health. 

This spring, our clinic will be renovated and expanded to improve access, increase health services and include state of the art technology. We have also hired additional faculty. Our clinic programs include: 

Adolescent Clinic
This clinic specializes in both primary care and subspecialty consultation for adolescents ages 11-21. Services include comprehensive health assessments, care of acute illness and minor trauma, immunizations, family planning, acne management, prevention and management of sexually transmitted infections, mental health conditions and consultations for complex and unexplained medical conditions. We have also expanded our services for screening and management of substance use. 

Adolescent Nutrition Clinic
Registered dietitians provide nutrition assessments and counseling to adolescents and families. Adolescents are seen for a variety of nutritional concerns, including sports nutrition, weight management (weight loss or weight gain), healthy eating and anemia or elevated blood lipid levels (cholesterol, triglycerides). 

ADHD Clinic: Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder
ADHD clinic is a dedicated clinic to the evaluation and treatment of attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), attention deficit disorder (ADD) as well as school/learning problems. Our staff includes an adolescent medicine specialist along with graduate level psychology and social work clinicians to assist families and patients in their evaluation and goals.

Eating Disorders Clinic
This clinic specializes in the medical and nutritional care of adolescents and young adults with disordered eating, including anorexia and bulimia nervosa. An adolescent medicine physician and an adolescent dietitian staff the clinic. They work closely with each patient’s psychotherapist to provide a comprehensive team approach for treatment. The clinic also provides diagnostic consultation for patients with unexplained weight loss, vomiting or abdominal pain. 

LARC Clinic: Long Acting Reversible Contraception
This clinic specializes in long-acting reversible contraceptive (LARC) options, such as the implantable birth control rod, for adolescent and young adult females. All patients will be scheduled for an evaluation appointment with an Adolescent Medicine physician prior to scheduling a LARC placement appointment. 

LEAH Clinic: Leadership and Education in Adolescent Health
The LEAH Clinic specializes in the evaluation, treatment and education of adolescents and young adults ages 11-21 with complex medical-psychosocial needs. The clinic is staffed by trainees and UAB faculty in the following disciplines: adolescent medicine, nursing, nutrition, psychology and social work. The LEAH clinic offers services to help adolescents and young adults with various concerns, including management of chronic medical conditions, mental health concerns, healthy and active lifestyles, school problems or educational needs, reducing health risks and building resiliency. 

Menstrual Disorder Clinics
This clinic specializes in the medical care of adolescents and young adults with menstrual problems. Adolescents are seen for a variety of menstrual concerns, including painful menstrual cycles or cycles that are too heavy, come too often or are too infrequent. Adolescents are also seen in this clinic for absence of a period and having a period at an early age. In addition, the clinic provides diagnostic consultation for patients with unexplained abdominal pain related to menstrual cycles. Adolescent medicine physicians in this clinic work closely with pediatric gynecology, hematology, endocrinology and nutrition. 

Children’s Center for Weight Management (CCWM)
This clinic specializes in weight management for children and adolescents. The CCWM can assist adolescents who are overweight and help their families establish healthy habits to achieve their overall goals through a variety of services. A pediatric, interdisciplinary team monitors patient progress, including a pediatrician, surgeon, nurse, nurse practitioner, registered dietitian, physical therapist and psychologist. 

Additional services include: HIV prevention and treatment, including pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), sports physical exams and transition from adolescent health care to adult health care.

Our Providers:
Heather Ashley, MD
Heather Austin, PhD
Krista Casazza, PhD, RDN, LD, CSSD
Tamera Coyne-Beasley, MD, MPH, FAAP, FSAHM
Nefertiti Durant, MD, MPH
Samantha Hill, MD
Hannah Hulsey, MD
Jamie McKinney, MD
Rebekah Savage, MD, MPH
Tina Simpson, MD, MPH
Stephenie Wallace, MD, MSPH 

We are committed to providing a comprehensive array of services and programs in an adolescent-friendly environment with specialists to help your adolescent and young adult patients transition into a healthy adulthood. We look forward to partnering with you in this endeavor. We are available for primary care, consultations and referrals. It would be an honor, privilege and pleasure to work with you and provide care for your patients. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at 205-638-9231. 

Tamera Coyne-Beasley, MD, MPH, FAAP, FSAHM
Derrol Dawkins, MD Endowed Chair in Adolescent Medicine Professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine
Division Director, UAB Adolescent Medicine
Vice Chair, Pediatrics for Community Engagement
Immediate Past President, Society for Adolescent Health and Medicine 

E-News for Referring Offices, Winter 2019

New Faculty Join the Department of Pediatrics

grisanti_katie2Katie Grisanti, M.D., Assistant Professor in Pediatric Allergy and Immunology, earned her medical degree from the University of Kentucky College of Medicine in Lexington, Kentucky. Dr. Grisanti completed her combined internal medicine/pediatric residency at the University of Alabama at Birmingham and allergy and immunology fellowship at the Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio.

stringer_kimberlly2Kimberlly Stringer, M.D., M.P.H., Associate Professor in Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics, earned her medical degree from the University of Tennessee in Memphis, Tennessee. Dr. Stringer completed her pediatric residency at Texas Tech Health Science Center in Lubbock, Texas and developmental-behavioral pediatrics fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. In addition, she also completed a Master of Public Health at UAB. Prior to joining the department, Dr. Stringer worked at the University of Mississippi Medical Center.  Her research/clinical interests include improving patient assess to developmental-behavioral pediatric services including telehealth services, implementation of developmental screening in childcare centers, using practice transformation to improve developmental and behavioral screenings in primary care practices and studying developmental outcomes in children with congenital heart disease.