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News Releases

For Immediate Release

Children’s Hospital Selected As Lead Center for Pennsylvania By Group Aimed at Improving Care for Kids With Traumatic Brain Injury

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has been named the State Lead Center for Pennsylvania as part of a national network of healthcare institutions collaborating to improve the diagnosis, treatment and research of the number one cause of death and disability in children in the United States – brain injury.

In January 2009, more than 60 of the top pediatric experts in the country – including Rachel Berger, MD, of Children’s Hospital – collaborated to draft the first-ever National Pediatric Acquired Brain Injury (PABI) plan, which calls for the development of a national system of collaboration to address the issue.

This effort is being led by the Sarah Jane Brain Project (SJBP), which was started in October 2007 by Patrick Donohue after his daughter Sarah Jane was shaken by her baby nurse when she was just 5 days old, breaking three ribs, both collarbones and causing a severe brain injury. Sarah Jane, now age 4, still cannot walk, talk, crawl or sit up on her own. Like so many other millions of children in the United States, Sarah Jane has a traumatic brain injury, a form of pediatric acquired brain injury.

"There truly is an epidemic of acquired brain injury occurring in the United States and for far too long it is a problem that has been ignored,” Dr. Berger said. “The issue needs a strong, vocal advocate, which Mr. Donohue clearly is and we were proud to become involved with the Sarah Jane Brain Project.”

Dr. Berger, a pediatrician in the Child Advocacy Center (CAC) at Children's Hospital, is one of the leading child abuse experts in the nation. Her clinical research involves the development of the nation's first blood test to help physicians screen infants who may be victims of shaken baby syndrome. In 2003, Dr. Berger received a prestigious, five-year Career Development Award from the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development to conduct this research. Collaborating with colleagues at Children's and the University of Pittsburgh, Dr. Berger has discovered that certain biomarkers which can be detected through a blood test may indicate that an infant has suffered a traumatic brain injury (TBI). TBI from abuse is the leading cause of severe brain injury in infants under the age of 1.

The Sarah Jane Brain Project held an open application period in March for children’s hospitals, research universities and other healthcare organizations to apply to be the State Lead Centers in their respective states to implement the National PABI Plan. A selection committee of seven well-known brain scientists and rehabilitation experts across the country reviewed the applications and selected one institution in every state, plus one each in the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, as the institution most capable of being the State Lead Center for their state.

Children’s Hospital was selected as the State Lead Center for Pennsylvania, which the Sarah Jane Brain Project’s National Advisory Board will announce along with the other 51 State Lead Centers in Washington, D.C. on June 5.

As the State Lead Center, Children’s Hospital will be responsible for developing the master plan of care for children/young adults with brain injuries in the entire state of Pennsylvania. Children’s Hospital is collaborating with other Pennsylvania organizations in this effort including: the Brain Injury Association of Pennsylvania, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, the Children’s Institute, and St. Christopher’s Hospital for Children.

“We are so honored to have Children’s Hospital as the State Lead Center for Pennsylvania and as part of this national network of the best healthcare institutions in the country,” Mr. Donohue said. “It is shocking to realize that despite brain injury being the leading killer and disabler of our children, there is very limited public awareness of pediatric brain injury and that nothing has ever before been done to develop a nationally standardized medical or educational plan to address it.

The National PABI Plan is estimated to cost $125 million annually to implement across the country and will address each of the seven categories of care for each aspect of brain injury treatment – prevention, acute care, rehabilitation, adult transition, rural/telehealth and mild traumatic brain injury.

The national announcement will be made at a press conference on Capital Hill at 11 a.m. in the Rayburn House Office Building, 4th Floor, Room 2345.

For more information about Dr. Berger’s research, please visit

About Children’s Hospital
Renowned for its outstanding clinical services, research programs and medical education, Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC has helped establish the standards of excellence in pediatric care. From Ambulatory Care to Transplantation and Cardiac Care, talented and committed pediatric experts care for infants, children and adolescents who make more than 500,000 visits to Children’s and its many neighborhood locations each year.

Children’s also has been named consistently to several elite lists of pediatric health care facilities, including ranking eighth among children’s hospitals (FY 2006) in funding provided by the National Institutes of Health, and is named one of the top 10 best pediatric hospitals in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.

Marc Lukasiak, 412-692-7919 or 412-877-1656,

Last Update
January 20, 2014
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Last Update
January 20, 2014