The Centers of Excellence Project

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Children born today are increasingly more likely to develop a disorder that will be diagnosed as autism. The incidence has increased by as much as 20,000 percent in some populations since I began studying autism thirty years ago with Sir Michael Rutter. Countless parents are frustrated by the inability of medical centers to keep pace with demand. The latest scientific findings point to ways we can more effectively treat and manage their medical symptoms and behavior. The best way to meet this expanding need for medical and educational services is to adopt evidence-based treatment sooner, rather than later. The Centers of Excellence Project is a visionary solution in which both parents and doctors play a part.

Pioneering parents, like Marcia Hinds, were among the first wave trying to patch together solutions. They’ve learned how to teach their children to function in a world completely alien to them. Her book, “I Know You’re in There: Winning Our War Against Autism,” tells her son’s journey. From being told he’d end up in an institution, Ryan became a successful aerospace engineer with few remaining symptoms or signs of autism. Click here for a link to their book.

Marcia has been working diligently on behalf of children like her son towards the creation of Centers of Excellence throughout the states. Besides myself, she has recruited a team of scientific experts and doctors from USC KECK, UCSF, and other academic institutions. We are acting as advisors and leaders to create a network of Centers of Excellence. Some already exist at major teaching hospitals, but we need far more.

The Advisory/LeadershipTeam

This is a growing list, and not meant to be all-inclusive. We are especially proud to announce the following colleagues as being part of this project:

Dr. Richard Frye is an Associate Professor in Pediatrics at the University of Arkansas for Medical Sciences. He is a Child Neurologist, Director of Autism Research, and Director of the Autism Multispecialty Clinic at Arkansas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Frye earned his MD/PhD from Georgetown University, and completed a residency in Pediatrics at the University of Miami. He then did a residency in Child Neurology, and a fellowship in Behavioral Neurology and Learning Disabilities at Harvard University/Children’s Hospital Boston.

Dr. Boas Gonen is President and CEO of Iliad Neurosciences. Dr. Gonen is board certified in Internal Medicine and Endocrinology/Metabolism. His most recent academic position was as Associate Professor of Medicine, and Acting Head of the Endocrine Division, at Thomas Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia. He was involved in seminal studies that established HbA1C as a test to diagnose diabetes and monitor diabetic control. Dr. Gonen has more than 20 years of experience in the Pharmaceutical Industry, including senior R&D positions at Wyeth for 10 years and Teva Pharmaceuticals for 2 years.

Dr. Melinda Borrello Sharma is an immunologist, nutrition consultant, published author, and recipient of numerous honors and awards from the National Institutes of Health. She is also a mother whose child suffered from an immune dysfunction that was labeled “autism.” She considers her most important achievement to be “scouring the earth to find practitioners who look beyond the autism label to treat physical illness.” Dr. Sharma established Autism Spectrum GPS, LLC in 2012, to assist other parents in healing their children’s neuro-immune illnesses.

Dr. Susan Swedo is currently Chief of Pediatrics & Developmental Neuroscience Branch at the NIMH. Dr. Swedo received her M.D. from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, and completed her pediatrics residency at Children’s Memorial Hospital (Northwestern University) in Chicago. In 1986 she became a staff member at the Child Psychiatry Branch at the National Institute of Mental Health, where she conducted research on childhood obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD). Her team identified the subtype of pediatric OCD triggered in response to infections with Group A beta-hemolytic streptococci: Pediatric Autoimmune Neuropsychiatric Disorders Associated with Streptococcal infections (PANDAS).

In 2002, Dr. Swedo moved to the extramural side of NIMH to serve as Associate Director for Pediatric Research and Director of the Division of Pediatric Translational Research. She returned to the Pediatrics & Developmental Neuroscience Branch in May 2006 to establish a multi-disciplinary clinical research team dedicated to studies of autism spectrum disorders and related neurodevelopmental disorders.

Watch this inspirational video about a little girl’s “miracle” recovery as a result of Dr Swedo’s research.

You can help make the “Centers of Excellence” reality by sharing this page on social media. Tell your clinicians and representatives that you don’t want to wait years for children and families to benefit from what we have already learned. This plan can both reduce suffering, and be more cost-effective than our current system.