Dr. Sherin U. Devaskar (Westwood), a noted pediatrician, neonatologist,scientist and researcher, has been named Mattel Children's Hospital atUCLA's new chief of neonatology and vice chair of pediatric research forUCLA's School of Medicine beginning July 1. Executive Chair of PediatricsEdward R.B. McCabe, M.D., Ph.D., physician-in-chief of the Mattel Children'sHospital at UCLA, stated that Devaskar's selection followed an intensivenational search.
"With Dr. Devaskar heading up two critical areas in pediatrics,UCLA is poised to provide the best possible health care for newborns inmedical need and to help medicine move forward in preventing childhoodillnesses through innovative new research," said McCabe.
Devaskar will oversee UCLA's Division of Neonatology, which offers highlyspecialized care for newborns needing intensive care in a 20-bed, neonatal,intensive-care unit housed at Mattel Children's Hospital at UCLA. Newbornsin the nursery include those requiring open-heart surgery and other lifesavingsurgical procedures, congenital and genetic defects, as well as those withroutine problems associated with infections and premature births.
Devaskar's work focuses on two major areas of pediatric research. Onepart looks at the brain metabolism of newborns to determine if abnormalneurological development can be predicted and prevented. "We are specificallylooking at glucose transporters which are molecules that behave like shuttlebuses at an amusement park," said Devaskar. "These glucose transportersshuttle nutrients into the brain, empty the nutrients and then become readyfor reloading. If we can understand the mechanism by which nutrients aresupplied to the brain, we can decipher abnormalities where nutrients arenot made available as needed."
Devaskar's second major area of research focuses on the concept thatadult diseases such as obesity, eating disorders, diabetes, hypertensionand heart disease originate in the fetal and newborn periods of life.
"We are trying to decode the mechanisms underlying the developmentof adult diseases due to neonatal metabolic changes," said Devaskar."The hope is that if we can find out what causes these diseases laterin life, we can go 'back to the future,' if you will, and intervene inthe newborn stages, thus eliminating the devastating consequences of certaindiseases even before the manifestation of symptoms. This raises the hopeof improving the quality of life."
Prior to her UCLA appointment, Devaskar was chief of neonatology anda pediatrics professor at the University of Pittsburgh. She was also asenior scientist with the Magee Research Institute in Pittsburgh, Pa. Devaskarwas recently appointed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Servicesto serve a four-year term as a member of the Human Embryology and DevelopmentStudy Section, part of the National Institutes of Health's Center for ScientificReview. She previously chaired the Maternal-Child Research Committee ofthe National Institutes of Child Health and Human Development.
Devaskar is also a member of the Society for Pediatric Research, EndocrineSociety, American Diabetes Association, the Society for Neurosciences andthe American Society of Clinical Investigation. She is married with twochildren.