Developmental Medicine

Research Activities

William O. Walker, MD
Professor and Division Chief
Director, Neurodevelopmental/Birth Defects Clinic

Dr. Walker and the University of Washington are one of twenty-six sites now participating in a national Spina Bifida Registry project. Dr. Walker has ongoing research projects underway with the National Center for Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the issues surrounding bowel and bladder continence management in spina bifida including the evaluation over time of surgical and non-surgical intervention effects in this population. He has integrated the International Classification of Function (ICF) concepts of ability, activity and participation and the potential impact of differences in race and ethnicity into research questions concerning children with disabilities and their families. He has participated in research projects evaluating the role of assistive devices in promoting health and reducing the onset, severity and impact of secondary conditions in patients with spina bifida.

Kristie F. Bjornson, PhD, PT, PCS
Associate Professor
Research Affiliate, Center on Human Development and Disability
Dr. Bjornson's research is concerned with evidence-based clinical interventions to improve the activity and community-based mobility participation of persons with cerebral palsy and physical disabilities. A related interest is to develop a methodology to enable rigorous testing of the effectiveness of various current and emerging treatments (e.g., orthotics, physical activity/exercise, and physical therapy timing and frequency) on relevant outcomes (e.g., ambulatory and physical activity, participation in daily life).
Dr. Bjornson's current research focuses on ambulatory children and youth with cerebral palsy. This work is examining short-burst interval treadmill training and home-based toddler treadmill training for pre-ambulatory toddlers. Our research team is also testing an orthotic management algorithm based on lower extremity segment alignment through combing the orthotic with shoe modifications to optimize roll over during stance phase of gait.

Charles Cowan, MD
Emeritas Clinical Professor
Dr. Cowan is now clinically retired but continues in a teaching role as the lead of the Neurodevelopmental Fellows Continuity Clinic which occurs weekly. His interests remain in the broad field of Developmental Medicine and Neurodevelopmental Disabilities. He has a specialty interest in Autism Spectrum Disorders (ASDs) and leads ongoing education of primary care providers in issues related to this increasingly common complex disorder. He has also been involved in research efforts in the past related to quality improvement, standardization of care and early diagnosis of ASDs.

Daniel A. Doherty, MD, PhD
Associate Professor of Pediatrics
Research Affiliate, Center on Human Development and Disability

Dr. Doherty’s research interests focus on hindbrain malformations as a way to understand human brain development and common disorders such as intellectual disability, autism, ataxic cerebral palsy and even mental health disorders such as schizophrenia. The hindbrain regulates basic functions (level of consciousness, heart rate, respiratory rate), coordinates balance, limb and eye movements, as well as having possible roles in cognition and emotional regulation. His group uses a variety of genetic techniques (SNP mapping, array CGH, and high throughput sequencing) to identify the genes responsible for hindbrain malformation disorders such as Joubert syndrome. Identifying the genes responsible for a disorder immediately translates into molecular diagnostic testing, and detailed work on genotype-phenotype correlations improves diagnostic, prognostic and medical management information for patients. In addition, Dr. Doherty’s group and his collaborators use the disease genes to dissect the molecular mechanisms of normal and abnormal brain development in vitro and in animal models. The human hindbrain is a fascinating system in which to study the role of basic developmental processes (spatially restricted gene expression to define positional information, organizing centers, morphogenetic movements, cell-cell and long-range signaling, cell migration and axon guidance) in human disease.

John McLaughlin, MD
Professor Emeritas
Dr. McLaughlin's research program is aimed at developing better treatments for persons with cerebral palsy and other disabilities. This includes studies of the long-term effects of selective dorsal rhizotomy and continuous intrathecal baclofen using an implantable pump. Dr. McLaughlin is involved in studies of the incidence of pain and fatigue in persons with cerebral palsy and in developing outcome measures for quality of life.

Samuel Zinner, MD
Professor of Pediatrics, Fellowship Program Director
Dr. Zinner pursues clinical and research interests with a strong focus on psychosocial and behavioral aspects of neurodevelopment. Within the subspecialty field of Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics (DBP), Dr. Zinner has a particular interest in Tourette syndrome and its associated conditions, including Attention Deficit Disorders, learning disabilities and anxiety disorders among others in the context of family and other social influences. Dr. Zinner provides outpatient care services with the Birth Defects Clinic at Seattle Children's; the Child Development Clinic at the Center on Human Development and Disability (CHDD); and the Autism Center, also at the CHDD. He is the coordinator for the pediatric DBP resident rotation. Current research activities will explore behavioral intervention for youth with Tourette syndrome; and barriers & successful strategies in effective pediatric residency training in DBP. Dr. Zinner is a member of the medical advisory board for the national Tourette Syndrome Association, Inc.

Emily Myers, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, Fellowship Program Assistant Director

Lisa Herzig, MD
Assistant Professor of Pediatrics Dr. Herzig's research interests focus on children with Down syndrome, congenital heart disease or other medically complex/genetic conditions and their access to appropriate developmental surveillance and health supervision. Developmental surveillance and proper adherence to health supervision guidelines can identify problems early, provide earlier treatment and improve quality of live overall for patients and their families. Currently, Dr. Herzig is working on analyzing inpatient data for medically complex children to identify potentially modifiable risk factors for successful outpatient transition. Dr. Herzig is also the clinical director for both the Down Syndrome Specialty Clinic and the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Clinic at the CHDD.

Timothy Brei, MD, FAAP
Professor of Pediatrics

For more information on this specialty, please visit the Developmental Medicine webpage.