Research earns Facebook honors

By popular vote …

Facebook voters select UF program to receive funds for research

By Michelle Champalanne

With 1,000 more votes than other contestants, UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital has won a grant worth more than $10,000 to fund research on congenital diaphragmatic hernia.

CHERUBS, an international CDH parents group, held the contest on Facebook in December 2013. Voters on the social media website selected the winner, said Dawn Williamson, founder and president of CHERUBS.

Congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or CDH, is a rare birth defect that occurs when one of the diaphragm muscles does not develop fully, allowing a baby’s abdominal organs to move into his or her chest. It is generally diagnosed during pregnancy, but its severity cannot be determined until birth. Infants born with this condition have life-threatening breathing difficulty.

Expectant parents whose children have been diagnosed with CDH prenatally come from across the county to receive care from pediatric surgeon David Kays, M.D., who leads UF’s CDH program, and the UF Health team.

“In October 2013, our program published an 88 percent survival rate in those CDH patients that didn’t have secondary lethal anomalies,” Kays said. “It’s perhaps the highest survival ever reported in a large series.

“We will use the funds to further our clinical research, which is intently focused on survival and quality outcomes,” he said.

Funding for the grant was gathered through raffle ticket sales and donations. CHERUBS raised more than $50,000 for CDH research funding in 2013.

“The unique nature of the competition for this grant, by a Facebook vote pitting ours against other top CDH programs, shows the passion that our families and supporters have for congenital diaphragmatic hernia care at UF Health Shands Hospital for Children,” Kays said. “We are indebted to and energized by the support that our families show for our program.”