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Pioneering new institute will provide leading-edge care, research and advocacy in childhood development
- June 24, 2021
- By Staff Writer
A new clinic and research center focused on childhood brain and behavioral development will be the first of its kind in Minnesota when it opens for patients on Nov. 1, 2021.
The Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain (MIDB) will provide families with one-stop access to breakthrough research and comprehensive care – all in a single convenient facility at 2025 East River Parkway in Minneapolis, just south of the University of Minnesota.
The institute arrives at a critical time for families. Autism spectrum disorder (ASD) diagnoses, are increasing nationwide. The number of teens reporting suicidal thoughts has risen substantially over the past decade, and the COVID-19 pandemic has brought an additional increase in reported pediatric mental health concerns. Early recognition and treatment of these conditions is important to help children live their best lives.
University of Minnesota Medical School researchers will work to advance our understanding of conditions like autism and Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorders (FASD) side-by-side with M Health Fairview care teams who will apply those new discoveries to the care that children and families receive.
In addition to developmental and behavioral specialists, child and adolescent psychiatrists will be down the hall to help families manage childhood depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses.
‘A pipeline from discovery to new therapies’
Development of the 116,000-square-foot Masonic Institute for the Developing Brain was announced in May 2020, when Minnesota Masonic Charities committed $35 million to the University of Minnesota for the purchase of the former Shriner’s Hospital. The institute is backed by an additional $21 million gift from the Lynne and Andrew Redleaf Foundation, and will be led by co-directors Damien Fair, PhD, and M Health Fairview Neonatologist Michael Georgieff, MD.
M Health Fairview’s unique partnership with the University of Minnesota Medical School and University of Minnesota’s College of Education and Human Development is core to the MIDB mission. M Health Fairview aims to quickly translate leading-edge research into innovative patient care.
In addition to studying, developing and implementing new therapies at the institute, MIDB will also house advocates from the college’s Institute on Community Integration. ICI works with policymakers, educators, employers and others to improve quality of life for all people with disabilities or educational support needs. Members of ICI will work side-by-side with clinicians and researchers, using new discoveries to inform their advocacy work. In this way, MIDB aims to positively impact all Minnesotans living with developmental, behavioral and emotional needs.
“People turn to healthcare providers for answers,” said Georgieff, who serves as co-director of MIDB and is the Martin Lenz Harrison Land Grant Chair in Pediatrics at University of Minnesota Medical School. “We may not always have the complete answer, but our knowledge is always evolving through research. Our mission is to move information along a pipeline from discovery to new therapies.”
World-class neuroimaging technology will help MIDB teams determine how a brain’s form is impacting its function. Meanwhile, leading-edge behavioral tools will allow researchers to effectively evaluate even newborns and infants. Although this is the most critical time for brain development, it is also a difficult time for evaluation.
Patients at the M Health Fairview clinic will have easy access to these studies, if they choose. Clinicians will also be able to shape research by communicating what they’re seeing in their work with families.
“What we see in clinic will drive our research,” said Psychiatrist Allison Holt, MD, physician-in-chief of M Health Fairview’s mental health and addiction service line. “We’re answering important questions about how we can better treat anxiety in children, what causes depression at a young age, how we can better support children and adolescents to live their best lives while dealing with emotional and behavioral struggles.”
“We also want the information that’s learned from research to be quickly brought over into the clinic,” Holt added.
Creating a ‘one-stop shop’ with multidisciplinary care
Collaboration within the clinic itself is another important feature of the institute. For patients with overlapping developmental, behavioral and mental health conditions, this can greatly improve care.
“We’re bringing together therapists, psychiatrists, social workers, pediatricians, neuropsychologists and more. All of these different people are going to be involved in clinical work, seeing patients together as a team,” said Holt. “This integration is going to be so helpful for our patients and those who care for them.”
The clinic will be open to patients from birth through early adulthood, and this interdisciplinary approach will also help providers better care for children as they age. For example, psychiatrists don’t typically work with patients younger than 4-years-old, but they can collaborate with the behavioral pediatricians and therapists who do.
“We’ve heard from our patients and families that it’s a complex process, figuring out where to get appropriate developmental and mental healthcare,” said Allison Hudson, current clinic manager at M Health Fairview Pediatric Specialty Clinic - Voyager and future manager at MIDB. “We’re trying to own that complexity for families, by offering all these services in one place.”