The “Reaching for the Stars” Medical and Community Advisory Board is comprised of leading North American and International medical professionals, scientists and community leaders from the U.S., Canada, Australia and India.
Advancing Cerebral Palsy research and treatments are primary components of our mission. The RFTS Medical Advisory board – as individuals and in tandem in several cases – are conducting some of the most important pediatric CP research currently in progress.
Henry G. Chambers, MD
Rady Children’s Hospital – San Diego, University of San Diego
Specializing in pediatric orthopedic and sports medicine, Dr. Chambers is considered to be one of the leading experts in the field of clinical gait and motion analysis. He is a proven clinical and basic science researcher and, consequently, has significantly contributed to the improvement of various diagnostic and treatment methods, particularly in cerebral palsy and pediatric orthopaedic surgery.
Dr. Chambers is the Medical Director for the Motion Analysis Laboratory with Children’s Hospital San Diego and board certified in orthopaedic surgery. He is extensively published and an international lecturer in his field. He is also the President of the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine.
A graduate of Tulane University School of Medicine, Dr. Hank Chambers completed a residency in orthopedic surgery at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in Texas and a fellowship at Children’s Hospital San Diego under Dr. David H. Sutherland, a pioneer in his own right in clinical gait analysis.
Dr. Chambers also serves in the following roles: Staff Orthopedic Surgeon, Sharp Memorial Hospital, San Diego; Senior Staff Orthopedic Surgeon, San Diego Children’s Hospital; Director, Children’s Health, Athletic Medicine, and Performance in Sports (CHAMPS); Assistant Clinical Professor, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, UC San Diego; Clinical Associate Professor, Department of Orthopedic Surgery, UC San Diego.
Diane Damiano, PhD, PT
Diane Damiano is the NIH Clinical Center’s Director of Biomechanics. A physical therapist by training, Dr. Damiano holds a PhD in research methods/biomechanics from the University of Virginia, a Master of Science in physical therapy from Duke University, and an undergraduate degree in biological sciences from Catholic University. She joined the NIH Clinical Center from the Department of Neurology at Washington University in St. Louis.
Dr. Damiano’s area of expertise is in the investigation of both existing and novel rehabilitation approaches in children with cerebral palsy. Several years ago, she was one of the first researchers to recognize that spastic muscles were, in fact, weak and needed strengthening. Her work in this area has helped to revolutionize the treatment of these patients. Her most recent interest is in the role of physical activity in enhancing motor coordination and promoting neural recovery in those with brain injuries.
Her previous academic positions include an appointment at the University of Virginia Health Systems, where she she became an associate professor on the tenure track in the Department of Orthopaedics and also served as research director of the Motion Analysis and Motor Performance Laboratory.
Dr. Damiano is the recipient of numerous NIH grants, and has published more than 50 papers in peer-reviewed journals. She is a permanent member of the Musculoskeletal and Rehabilitation Sciences (MRS) NIH Study Section. She currently sits on the editorial board of Clinical Rehabilitation, was the previous editor for review articles for Gait & Posture, and is a reviewer for major journals in the fields of biomechanics and rehabilitation. Dr. Damiano is a past president of the Clinical Gait and Movement Analysis Society and the current president—the first physical therapist to serve in the role in the organization’s 61-year history—of the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine. She is also a member of the scientific advisory board of the United Cerebral Palsy Research and Education Foundation.
Deborah Gaebler-Spira, MD, FAAP, FAACPDM
Dr. Gaebler-Spira is one of the leading pediatric physiatrists in the country focusing on children with Cerebral Palsy. She completed her Pediatric residency at the University of Chicago and then pursued a residency in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation residency at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago. Dr. Gaebler-Spira is board certified in Pediatrics, Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Pediatric Rehabilitation Medicine. She has been affiliated with Northwestern Memorial Hospital, Children’s Memorial Hospital as a Professor of Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and Pediatrics at the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago for 25 years.
Dr. Gaebler-Spira’s primary clinical work is with children with cerebral palsy and spasticity management. She is past president of the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine (AACPDM). Her research interests have been in management of spasticity and received United Cerebral Palsy grants to evaluate the impact of Botulinum Toxins on children, as well as the benefits of dance for motor learning in children with cerebral palsy. Dr. Gaebler-Spira has collaborated with the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Bioengineers on measurement of Hypertonia, and is currently working with the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research, Rehabilitation Engineering Research Centers grant “Technologies for Children with Orthopedic Disabilities.” The major goal of this project is to conduct research and development of advanced technologies for children with orthopaedic disabilities.
Michael Johnston, MD
Dr. Johnston is a pediatric neurologist and Professor of Neurology, Pediatrics and Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and the Chief Medical Officer/Senior Vice President of Kennedy Kreiger Institute in Baltimore, Maryland. He practices clinical child neurology and is one of the leading researchers in the U.S. on mechanisms of brain injury and plasticity. Dr. Johnston’s group has been especially interested in developing neuroprotective strategies against glutamate-mediated brain injury in the perinatal period. His work has been supported by the NIH and has won several awards including the Javits Neuroscience Investigator Award. Recent work in collaboration with Dr. Alec Hoon at Kennedy Kreiger is examining the patterns of white matter injury in children with cerebral palsy using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI). Click here to view an abstract of Dr. Johnston and Dr. Hoon’s research.
Dr. Johnston graduated from Franklin and Marshall College and the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine and did residency training at Johns Hopkins Hospital. During residency he also spent two years as a post-doctoral fellow with Joseph Coyle in the Department of Pharmacology at Hopkins. After completion of training he moved to the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor where he became a Professor of Pediatrics and Neurology prior to returning to Johns Hopkins in his current post.
Sue Murr, DPT, PCS
Sue has been a pediatric Physical Therapist for thirty years. After graduation from the University of Delaware, Sue worked at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh doing acute care pediatrics. She then moved to Charlottesville, VA and worked in pediatric rehabilitation at the Kluge Children’s Rehabilitation Center; there she did both inpatient rehab, outpatient therapy and helped develop a center for gait and motion analysis. In 1991 she moved to Minnesota and began working at Gillette Children’s Specialty Healthcare where she has had multiple opportunities including participation in the multi-center FDA study for the use of intrathecal baclofen with patients with spasticity secondary to cerebral palsy.
She currently works in the Strategic Planning Department, as Manager of Pediatric Neuroscience Programs. She focuses on children and adults with cerebral palsy and participates in program development, implementation, and evaluation for patients undergoing spasticity reduction including rhizotomy and intrathecal baclofen pump, and single event, multi-level orthopaedic procedures. In addition she works with colleagues on outreach efforts, helping with the needs of families of children with cerebral palsy in Minnesota, and throughout the United States.
She is a Pediatric Certified Specialist, a member of the Pediatric Section of the APTA, and active member of AACPDM. She completed her clinical doctorate of physical therapy in December of 2008. She enjoys international travel, teaching and serving people with disabilities in developing nations.
Iona Novak PhD, MSc (Hons), BAppSc OT
Cerebral Palsy Alliance – University of Notre Dame, Australia
Driven by an internal belief that healthcare truly has the potential to change lives, Associate Professor Iona Novak has pursued projects and roles with the greatest possible impact on children and families today and tomorrow’s world. One such example is her leadership of the Australian Cerebral Palsy Register. In 2005 she co-founded the Cerebral Palsy Alliance Research Institute with the Chief Executive Officer for the purpose of: research development and dissemination, leading to prevention, cure and reduction of adverse effects for those living with cerebral palsy.
Iona Novak is the Head of Research of the Cerebral Palsy Alliance, School of Medicine, University of Notre Dame, Australia. Iona is a Fulbright Scholar and winner of the University of Sydney Award for Professional Achievement.
Iona originally trained as an occupational therapy, and has a particular interest in neuroplasticity and neuroregenerative medicine for children with cerebral palsy. Her PhD was completed at the University of Western Sydney, in the area of home program intervention for children with cerebral palsy. Where she conducted a clinical trial that validated the important role parents play in children with cerebral palsy’s outcomes. In her current work, she has a strong research interest in stem cells, evidence-based practice, translating research into parent and policy friendly formats, training-based interventions that induce neuroplasticity, botulinum toxin and population studies for cerebral palsy.
In the last 10 years she has given over 90 international and national keynotes and invited lectures and been award over $11mil in research grants funding.
Dr. Karen Pape (Canada)
Karen Pape, MD, FRCPC, is a dedicated pediatrician, neonatologist and medical innovator with one abiding passion – helping children with early neurological injuries reach their fullest potential.
As an undergraduate, Karen studied Experimental Psychology and Neurophysiology at McGill University followed by Medicine at the University of Toronto. After completing her residency in Pediatrics and Neonatology at The Hospital for Sick Children, she did further training in Neonatal Pathology and Ultrasound Brain Scans in London, England at the Hammersmith Hospital and University College Hospital. She was an attending neonatologist and director of the Neonatal Follow-up program at the Hospital for Sick Children, also serving as President of the Medical Staff, 1982-84. While at HSC, she was an Associate Professor in the Departments of Pediatrics, Biomedical Engineering, Exercise Sciences and the Graduate School at the University of Toronto.
She has co-authored a book on baby brain pathology, published widely in the peer-reviewed literature, developed innovative treatment approaches for children with early neurological damage and has been instrumental in the development of Neonatal Brain Ultrasound Scanning, Threshold Electrical Stimulation (TES) and EMG Triggered Stimulation (ETS). These early-detection methods and treatments have all been born of one single belief – a young injured brain has the potential for recovery, if we look for it. She has retired from clinical medicine and is completing a book titled The Boy Who Could Run, But Not Walk. She now serves as a research consultant to programs testing her theories with a wider audience.
Dr. Pape is a Fellow of the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada – Pediatrics, Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. A member of the American Academy for Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine, International Society for Restorative Neurology, Canadian Pediatric Society, Canadian Medical Association, Ontario Medical Association. Dr. Pape is also on the Editorial Board – Journal of Brachial Plexus and Peripheral Nerve Injury.
Dr. Crystal Ruff (Canada)
Krembil Neuroscience Centre
Toronto Western Hospital
University of Toronto
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
Dr. Crystal Ruff is a keen investigator in the field of regenerative neuroscience and translational research, with a proven track record of academic and performance excellence. After graduating Summa Cum Laude with an Honours BSc in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology from McMaster University, she completed her PhD in Neuroscience at University College London (UCL), with the Director of Perinatal Brain Repair.
Dr. Ruff is currently applying this knowledge gleaned abroad to North American paradigms during her post-doctoral fellowship in the Fehlings lab, spearheading the stem cell therapy for Cerebral Palsy animal initiative in association with the NeuroDevNet NCE. While at UHN, she has earned the Freedman Postdoctoral Fellowship, the Ontario Stem Cell Initiative International Postdoctoral Fellowship, as well as several national and international first place research-based awards. Her work investigates the potential for stem cells to functionally remyelinate the injured or dysmyelinated brain.
Her work in knowledge translation of stem cell and regenerative medicine involves several internationally-distributed documents, as well as information packages produced for the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy working group and CTV news. She has also produced oral presentations on stem cell therapy, including a keynote speech on the reality of stem cell treatments for CP for the Pediatric Division of the Canadian Physiotherapy Association at their annual meeting.
Dr. Ruff is involved in several scientific committees, including the Stem Cell Network Trainee Communications Committee, the Canadian University Health Network Office of Research Trainees Steering Committee and the University Health Network Trainee Affairs Committee.
Sidhartha Tan, MD
Northshore University Healthcare System, A Teaching Affiliate of the University of Chicago, Pritzker School of Medicine
Dr. Tan received his medical education at the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in India, his pediatric training in Chicago, with a final stint at the University of Chicago, and his neonatology fellowship at the University of Miami. Dr. Tan then became Assistant Professor to the University of Alabama at Birmingham where he first started his research into oxidative biochemistry and fetal brain injury. Since 1998, Dr. Tan is Associate Professor at Northwestern University and a practicing neonatologist at three hospitals in the northern suburbs of Chicago. Dr. Tan’s research work has been funded by the March of Dimes and NIH since 1991 to the present time. He is also on the editorial board of the Journal of Neuropathology and Experimental Neurology.
He was promoted to Professor at Northwestern University in 2007. In 2009, his hospital’s affiliation changed and his present position is as Clinical Professor, Department of Pediatrics, NorthShore University HealthSystem and University of Chicago. Dr. Tan has continued his research resulting in the only animal model for cerebral palsy. His research has been continuously funded by the National Institutes of Health since 1992, and is now focused on bringing cures developed in the laboratory to the clinical realm to be used in human mothers and babies.
To this end, he has formed the Cerebral Palsy-Cure and Prevention Research (CP-CPR), a virtual center for rapid development of therapies for CP.
He is member of the National Institutes of Health Study Section, Developmental Brain Disorders. He is also Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, member of the Society of Pediatric Research, Society for Free Radical Biology and Medicine, and Society for Neuroscience. Dr. Tan is presently Associate editor for Developmental Neuroscience and co-editor of two Special Issues.
Dr. Tan has served on two NIH Study Sections. He is passionate about the health of babies, expecially their brain status, and his leading-edge research is devoted to preventing and treating fetal brain injury from hypoxia-ischemia and inflammation, as well as stem cell research. Dr. Tan’s laboratory actively collaborates with other researchers in the fields of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species, mitochondria, oligodendroglial and white matter development, axonal injury, development of MRI markers, and neurobehavioral tests in rabbits.
Jilda Vargus-Adams, MD
Jilda Vargus-Adams is a pediatric physiatrist at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, University of Cincinnati. She graduated from Brown University, the Yale School of Medicine, and the Harvard School of Public Health. Dr. Vargus-Adams completed both a combined residency in pediatrics and physical medicine & rehabilitation and a research fellowship in pediatric rehabilitation at the University of Cincinnati/Cincinnati Children’s. She joined the faculty at Cincinnati in 2000 and contributes to the training and education of residents and fellows.
Presently, she is involved in developing a comprehensive CP program and serves as its Research Director. In addition to her clinical focus in CP, Dr. Vargus-Adams is interested in research regarding clinical effectiveness and outcome measurement in CP. She has received career development awards from the NIH and CPIRF. Her research projects have included studies of therapy and pharmaceutical interventions for CP and work to evaluate and understand outcome measurement tools.
Dr. Vargus-Adams has been a member of the AACPDM since she was in residency and has served on the Advocacy Committee (2004-2010, Chair 2008, 2009) and the Scientific Program Committee (2005, 2009). She is now a member of the AACPDM Board of Directors, the American Academy of Pediatrics and several other medical and research boards, including the editorial board of Physical and Occupational Therapy in Pediatrics, and the board of directors for the local United Cerebral Palsy chapter.
Marshalyn Yeargin-Allsopp, M.D.
Medical Epidemiologist; Chief, Developmental Disabilities Branch; National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
Since coming to CDC in 1981, Dr. Yeargin-Allsopp designed and implemented the first U.S. population-based study of developmental disabilities in school-age children in an urban area. It has served as the basis for an ongoing CDC developmental disabilities surveillance system, which identifies children with cerebral palsy, intellectual disability, hearing loss, vision impairment and autism.
Dr. Yeargin-Allsopp is an Adjunct Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the Emory University School of Medicine; she was one of the original members of the State of Georgia Interagency Coordinating Council for Early Intervention Services (for children from birth- 2 years) and is the medical director of the Clayton Early Intervention Program in metropolitan Atlanta. She is also a member of the Scientific Advisory Committee of the National Alliance for Autism Research/Autism Speaks and a member of the Board of Directors for the Marcus Institute, a program in Atlanta that provides services to individuals with developmental disabilities. She was the CDC liaison to the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Children with Disabilities and is a member of the AAP Autism Expert Panel. She is on the Editorial Board of the new journal, Developmental Epidemiology and has published extensively on the epidemiology of developmental disabilities.
Dr. Yeargin-Allsopp received her B.A. degree in biology from Sweet Briar College in 1968 and M.D. degree from Emory University in 1972. She was on the faculty of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine from 1975-1981 and completed a fellowship in Developmental Pediatrics at the Rose F. Kennedy Center of Yeshiva University, the Albert Einstein College of Medicine. She is board-certified in Pediatrics and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities.
Sarah Winter, MD
Dr. Winter trained at the University of Minnesota School of Medicine in Pediatrics. She did her fellowship in Developmental Pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. While there, she was hired as a consultant to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities participating in the research on autism and cerebral palsy.
She has worked at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital and Medical Center and Ohio State University in the Department of Pediatrics. She worked in Ohio directing the Cerebral Palsy Clinics and serving as a developmental consultant in the Neonatal Follow-up Clinics and directed the Spina Bifida Clinics. In 2006, Dr. Winter moved to the University of Utah and continues as an Associate Professor in the Department of Pediatrics.
Dr.Winter’s research focus is the systems of care for children with disabilities. This is expressed through her role as the principle investigator over the past four years of the Utah Regional Leadership Education in Neurodevelopmental Disabilities (URLEND). Additionally, Dr. Winter has recently taken on the role as the medical director for the Neonatal Follow-up Program at the Bureau for Children with Special Health Care Needs. Her clinical care is focused on the early identification of developmental problems, especially cerebral palsy.
Dr. Vipul Shah (India)
Head of Reaching for the Stars (RFTS) Asia Initiative, Lucknow, Uttar Pradesh, India
Specializing in pediatric orthopedic and Cerebral Palsy care, Dr. Vipul Shah is considered to be one of the leading experts in the field of Cerebral Palsy care in Asia. With vast experience, not only in orthopaedic management of Cerebral Palsy, but also care of pediatric dystonia and medical management of children with Cerebral Palsy in the second decade, he has significantly contributed to the improvement of various diagnostic and treatment methods. Dr. Shah places special emphasis on management of problems in low resource settings of Asia in general and South East Asia in particular and was awarded the CART fellowship by the American Academy of Cerebral palsy and Developmental Medicine for his efforts. Dr Shah is the only non North American recepient of this prestigious fellowship.
Dr. Shah is board certified in orthopaedic surgery and has extensively lectured all over the globe. He is also the Treasurer of the Indian Academy of Cerebral Palsy and on the International Affairs Committee of the American Academy of Cerebral Palsy and Developmental Medicine
A graduate of Ganesh Shankar Vidyarthi Medical College , India, Dr. Vipul Shah completed a residency in orthopedic surgery at MLN Medical College at Allahabad in India and a fellowship in pediatric orthopaedics and Cerebral Palsy care at Mumbai. This was followed by stints at Primary Children’s Hospital (Salt Lake City), Boston Children’s Hospital, Texas Scottish Rite Hospital, Alfred Dupont Hospital Delaware, and Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago, allowing him the opportunity to work with leading researchers in the field.
Dr. Shah also serves as the Medical Director for the R.P.Shah Memorial Trust for Children with Disabilities. This position takes him and his team to remote areas with poor resources all over india where he has developed methods to better the lives of thousands of children with the least possible cost. Dr. Shah and his team analyze the role of social stratification, the poverty and disability relationship, as well as the effect of family support and grand parenting, giving him an unique, global perspective into such issues.
President and Chief Executive Officer, Enterprise Community Partners, Inc.
Terri Ludwig is president and chief executive officer of Enterprise Community Partners, Inc., a national nonprofit provider of development capital and expertise creating affordable homes and rebuilding communities investing more than $10.6 billion to create more than 270,000 affordable homes. Previously Terri served as president of the Merrill Lynch Community Development Company, where she led community development, launched a successful social investment platform for Merrill Lynch’s private clients and served as a senior advisor on diversity issues. Prior to Merrill Lynch, Terri was the president and CEO of ACCION New York, the largest nonprofit microlender in the United States, and had a highly successful investment banking career with Credit Suisse First Boston and Merrill Lynch.
Terri is a Presidential appointee to the U.S. Department of the Treasury Advisory Board for Community Development and Financial Institutions and the co-chair of ACCION USA. She serves on numerous executive and advisory boards and was selected for the Social Innovation Fellowship for Nonprofit Leaders at the Stanford Graduate School of Business and the David Rockefeller Fellows Program. Terri holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, and a master’s degree from Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government.
John W. Quinn
Born with cerebral palsy, John was raised to believe that he could accomplish most anything he put his mind to. Wanting to fulfill a life-long dream of joining the military, John enlisted in the United States Navy in 1982 while keeping his condition hidden from government officials. “I just wanted the same opportunity as everyone else. I wanted to be known as a good Sailor, not a good Sailor with cerebral palsy.” Well, John succeeded in his goal, retiring in 2002 after a distinguished twenty-year career as a Senior Chief Petty Officer.
In his book, Someone Like Me, An Unlikely Story of Challenge and Triumph over Cerebral Palsy, John describes what it is like to live with a disability—a life filled with pain, laughter and love. “I wrote this book to give hope to the millions of people struggling with muscular disorders who fight to make it through every day. It is also for the parents who lie awake at night and wonder what the future holds for their children. I say the future is unwritten. There is always hope – you are never alone.”
While traveling the country promoting his book, John quickly realized the lack of fundamental awareness that most people had when it came to cerebral palsy issues. “When I say that cerebral palsy is the most common motor disability in children, folks are stunned. When I tell them that there is currently no federal funding for national CP research into causation or prevention, they get angry – and they should because that fact is unacceptable.” A man who never met a challenge he didn’t like, John started looking for an organization where he could lend his voice and found it in “Reaching for the Stars”. “I am honored to be a part of a fine group of dedicated parents and professionals whose mission it is to raise cerebral palsy awareness and direct vital funding into exciting and critical areas of CP research.”
John currently resides in Tucson, AZ. He is a sought after motivational speaker and is currently collaborating on a series of children’s books. You can learn more about John and his amazing life story by going to his website or following him on Twitter