Pediatric Rheumatology; Pediatrics
I have a broad interest in rheumatic diseases in children. I am particularly interested in juvenile idiopathic arthritis (JIA) and improving the time frame over which we can achieve remission in this family of illnesses. With newer medications, we are making significant progress, but we still have much to learn. I also have a keen interest in children with systemic lupus and inflammatory muscle disease. Over time, because of my own Native American ancestry (Mohawk), I have particularly enjoyed the opportunity to work with indigenous American children, whose expression of rheumatic disease and treatment response are slightly different from the broader population. We hope that tribal health systems will see our pediatric rheumatology service as the “go-to” place for children with arthritis and related illnesses. I spend most of my time doing research, and my laboratory focuses on mechanisms through which genes and so called “DNA dark matter” are turned off and on through the course of successful therapy in JIA. We study these processes using state-of-the-art ChIP-sequencing, DNA methylation sequencing, and RNA sequencing techniques. These projects consist of collaborating with colleagues at the New York State Center of Excellence in Bioinformatics (COE). I also spend considerable time working with indigenous American communities on a broad range of child health issues. I currently chair the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Native American Child Health, which has a strong interest in why rheumatic diseases are so common and severe in indigenous American children. We are particularly focused on so-called epigenetic factors, stemming from historical traumas and cultural dislocation that may play a role in how rheumatic diseases are expressed in indigenous children. One of the most rewarding parts of my career has been the opportunity to mentor talented Native American students and assist them in developing their interests in science and medicine. Previous students include a veritable “Who’s Who” among young Native American physicians, and I am working to establish and foster partnerships for UB with local colleges and tribes to develop a rich resource of Native American physician scientists in New York State.