The Synapse: Your Connection to MIDB News

The Synapse: March 2023

March celebrates the work of child life specialists across the globe as they prioritize the emotional safety of children, youth, and families impacted by health care and other significant life experiences.

Hosted annually by the Association of Child Life Professionals, Child Life Month recognizes and highlights the important work of certified child life specialists, who are trained professionals with expertise in helping children and their families overcome life’s most challenging events. They provide evidence-based, developmentally and psychologically appropriate interventions. Certified child life specialists significantly reduce the financial, developmental, and psychological costs associated with stress, pain, and anxiety that can persist far beyond initial health care encounters.

MIDB's own certified child life specialist, Cala Hefferan, MA, plays a key role in emotionally preparing children and families for medical treatment and supporting them through potentially stressful experiencesSince joining MIDB last fall, Hefferan has:

  • identified child life needs within the clinic and research at MIDB and collaborated with staff to build a solid foundation for providing child life and facility dog services at MIDB
  • attended training to be a handler for the facility dog program, completed trainings related to support integrating CFL into research studies at MIDB, collaborated with staff to update and organize play spaces at MIDB, and gathered needed child life resources
  • assessed specific skills for MIDB's facility dog, Jersey, and worked with Can Do Canines trainers to learn these skills with Jersey at MIDB
  • started collaborating with MIDB staff to begin implementing child life and facility dog interventions to support patients and families in clinics and research, while working to build a formal referral system.

MIDB Welcomes Faculty, Staff and Students to Become Members

Brain Image

Please consider joining the MIDB as a member if you have not already done so! Membership allows individuals to formalize their connections to the Institute, to take advantage of funding and travel opportunities that the Institute supports, and to be listed on our website among the University’s experts in developmental science. We encourage you to become involved in the MIDB by attending MIDB-sponsored events, colloquia, participating in committees if asked, and forming collaborations with researchers across disciplines. As a MIDB member, you are welcome to apply to conduct research within the Institute’s facilities. To date, there are over 120 active members of the institute. Read the Membership FAQ and apply today.

Creating The World’s Largest Genomic Data Set for Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia

Abstract Drawing

MIDB researchers Saonli Basu, PhD, professor of biostatistics, and Logan Spector, PhD, professor of pediatrics, are working together on a five year project to build the world’s largest repository of germline genomic data for acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and other childhood cancers. They recently received NIH funding to pool childhood cancer data to be used globally to maximize risk prediction in children and infants. Spector has been studying childhood cancers for over 20 years, while Basu has a wealth of experience applying statistical methodologies and computational algorithms in genetic data sets to understand the genetic bases of a variety of complex diseases. They and their teams are working to build an enormously diverse genomic database that may help understand the heritability of ALL in different ancestries. Read more about the project.

MIDB Makes A Mark at International Brain Stimulation Conference

Two people at a presentation

Members of MIDB's Novel Interventions/Neuromodulation Hub attended last month's 5th International Brain Stimulation Conference in Lisbon, Portugal. At the conference, Alana Lieske and Mia Kellman presented a poster describing the development of MIDB's pediatric-dedicated non-invasive brain stimulation facility, which is a collaborative effort of MIDB and MnDRIVE Brain Conditions. "We are grateful to have had the privilege of attending the conference and presenting the adaptations for pediatric non-invasive neuromodulation research that were developed in our laboratories at MIDB to like-minded researchers from around the world," said Lieske, manager of the Non-invasive Neuromodulation Laboratories. Read more about the conference.

Clinical Spotlight: Adolescent Dialectical Behavior Therapy Program

Child and doctor taking notes

The Adolescent Dialectical Behavior Therapy (DBT) Program at MIDB offers weekly individual therapy and family therapy held in person or via telehealth, weekly in-person multi-family skills group, and crisis phone coaching for teens and their guardians. The team is led by Daniel Landauer, PhD, LP, a child and adolescent psychologist and assistant professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences. The team also includes a licensed clinical social worker, two University of Minnesota Medical School psychology interns, and graduate student learners. The DBT Program serves adolescents who demonstrate significant difficulty with emotion regulation/mood stability, emotion-driven impulsivity, stress management, interpersonal relationship stability, self-injurious behavior, or suicidal ideation/behavior. Adolescents and their parents or guardians are asked to commit to at least six months of consistent treatment participation. Learn more about the DBT Program.

MIDB Artwork Spotlight: "Hugging the Edge"

Person standing in front of art

The abstract landscape piece "Hugging the Edge" is now part of MIDB's permanent art collection. Created by Minneapolis-based artist Amanda Webster, the vibrant painting represents the bluffs of St. Paul and Minnesota.  "There is something special in knowing that my painting will exist in a public space, where lots of folks can be impacted by it on a regular basis," Webster said on her blog. "What a great way to show employees that you truly care about them by using art to create a space that is inviting, inspiring, and promotes connection." Read more about Webster.



Congratulations to the MIDB members who recently received Department of Pediatrics Faculty Recognition Awards at last month's Julie Ross Faculty Recognition Event:

  • Catherine Burrows, PhD, LP: Behavioral/Community Science Paper of the Year (Assistant Professor) award
  • Cheryl Gale, MD, FAAP: Excellence in Equity, Diversity and Inclusion award
  • Julia Heneghan, MD: Clinical/Translational Paper of the Year (Assistant Professor) award
  • Maria Kroupina, PhD: Innovator in Translational Research award
  • Megan Paulsen, MD: Basic Science Paper of the Year (Assistant Professor) award
  • Anita Randolph, PhD: Excellence in Service award
  • Phu Tran, PhD: Excellence in Faculty Engagement award

The Developing Brain and Early Childhood Mental Health Symposium: From Research to Pediatric Practices

Adult holding a baby

Join us Friday, April 28, 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. to hear about exciting new initiatives on early brain in the work of U of M pediatric practices. Held via Zoom and in person at MIDB, Community Center Multipurpose, room 1-510.Learn more about this event.

Autistic, Not Sorry

Adult helping student with homework

Isabelle Morris is among a growing group of autistic researchers using their lived experience to shape the future of autism research. “I only have one experience of autism, and my adviser and others around me have the good sense to not challenge the person with autism on their experience, but to encourage me to bring in other people who will make my research so much better, versus conducting it in a vacuum,” Morris said. “It’s not only better-quality research, but community building.”Learn more about Morris and her research.

In The News

Person with sensors on their head

MIDB was featured during the Feb. 4 Gophers/Maryland game on the Big 10 Network as part of its B1G Impact Research series. The video showcases MIDB as the home of neurodevelopment experts from across multiple disciplines who collaborate to address brain health to benefit patients and families. Watch the video.
Jennnifer Hall-Lande, PhD, and Amy Esler, PhD, LP, are quoted in the Star Tribune story, Pandemic slowed diagnoses of autism in Minnesota.

MIDB Co-Director Damien Fair, PhD, was featured in the Knowable Magazine story, Zooming in on the brains of babies.

Other News

Damien Fair and Katie Cullen
Learn more about the important implications early brain development has for mental health outcomes.
Picture of two trainees
The students will work with MIDB researcher Casey Burrows.
MIDB MRI room with Seascape imagery
MIDB is the first Minnesota facility to partner with RxART to enhance its physical environment through visual art.