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Bridging the Research Gap

Pediatric Liver News
February 14, 2013

Alyssa Parian, MD

At Inova Fairfax, from left to right, pediatric gastroenterologists Peter Lee, Kathy Schwarz and Ian Liebowitz. 

Like many subspecialists, pediatric gastroenterologist Ian Liebowitz sees too big a gulf between academic research and clinical practice.

“In general, there’s too long a lag between research discoveries and pediatricians incorporating those findings into community practice,” says Liebowitz, director of pediatric gastroenterology at Inova Fairfax Hospital. “Many questions that occur in clinical settings do not get answered.”

Kathy Schwarz, director of the Pediatric Liver Center at Johns Hopkins, couldn’t agree more. That’s why both she and Liebowitz, long-time colleagues in pediatric gastroenterology and hepatology, recently developed a collaborative research model designed to accelerate translational research for children with liver disease who don’t have easy access to a pediatric liver center and clinical trials.

How does it work? Schwarz periodically sees patients at Inova Fairfax’s pediatric liver clinic in Rockville, Md., and consults with Liebowitz and his staff regarding treatment and clinical trials that may enhance the patients’ care. Under the agreement, in which Inova Fairfax is now a member of the Johns Hopkins Clinical Research Network, Liebowitz and Inova Fairfax pediatric gastroenterologist Peter Lee may enroll patients in Hopkins Children’s Center natural history studies. Also, Schwarz may enroll any patients in clinical trials within these studies.

“There’s a mutual benefit because we fulfill their desire to have their group of busy private practitioners more involved in clinical research, and they help us expand the number of patients we can serve with these studies,” Schwarz says.

“We’ve referred patients to Dr. Schwarz for years because of her special abilities and knowledge, so we’ve simply expanded that relationship to do things jointly so that more of our patients can be engaged in research,” says Liebowitz. “We’re joining the best that academics has to offer—the brains and capacity of research support—with a more clinical endeavor, which is our strength, to enhance care for our patients.”

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