Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, has been home to Allen Root, MD, for almost 50 years. Watching it grow from a small community hospital to a major pediatric medical center in the Southeast is a source of pride and happiness for Root — and part of the inspiration behind two awards he established to celebrate and support young researchers and clinicians.
The awards, which are presented annually to a medical resident and a research fellow, include a stipend and an opportunity for the recipients to present at pediatric grand rounds — a forum to exchange medical education featuring presentations from clinicians and researchers.
“The gifts are intended to recognize outstanding residents in pediatrics and research fellows and are consistent with my longtime career in academic pediatrics,” says Root, adding that he wants the awards to “encourage excellence in both the clinical and investigative realms of medicine.”
One of the gifts, the Allen W. Root Award for Continuous Excellence in Residency, also pays tribute to Root’s own experiences as a young resident and research fellow. After graduating from Harvard Medical School, Root completed his internship at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, and his medical residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, followed by a clinical and research fellowship in pediatric endocrinology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia.
In the early 1970s, he continued his passions for clinical work and investigative research at what was then a small lab in the basement of the original All Children’s Hospital. In the decades following, he served as director of All Children’s pediatric program and of a fellowship program in pediatric endocrinology, his medical specialty.
“Dr. Root is a treasure to pediatrics. He is the perfect blend of having a commitment to medicine evolving and being tuned into families and their children,” says Jenine Rabin, executive vice president of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation. “He has a love for the pursuit of knowledge and turned it into gifts to the place he has devoted his career to, which is really inspiring.”
Ory Newman, the 2021 recipient of Root’s other gift, the Janet G. Root Award for Outstanding Research, agrees. The award honors Root’s wife, who died five years ago and was a beloved member of the St. Petersburg community. Janet Root was chairperson of the Arts and Humanities Department at Shorecrest Preparatory School and the Education Committee of the Salvador Dali Museum, where she also served as vice president of the museum’s board of trustees.
Newman, who received his doctor of osteopathic medicine degree from Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicine in Erie, Pennsylvania, spent two years at All Children’s as a research fellow with David Kays, MD, pediatric surgeon and medical director of the Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia (CDH) Program. He was honored to receive the award for outstanding research.
“I was extremely surprised mostly because I didn’t realize it was an award that I had to be nominated for,” he says. “When Dr. Kays nominated me, he didn’t tell me anything about it. It was a genuine surprise.”
Kays nominated Newman for his research into the complications babies experience following surgery for a CDH, a life-threatening condition. The surgery requires babies to receive extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, or ECMO, an advanced life support technique that provides long-term breathing and heart support. Newman and the CDH research team discovered that following this highly specialized treatment, there is a narrowing of the superior vena cava (a large vein that carries blood to the heart from other areas of the body) — and that it happens at a significant rate. This initial side effect helps to explain other side effects that previously confounded clinicians and will be monitored in babies more carefully going forward.
“People need to understand that these kids with CDH can survive,” Newman emphasizes. “They can do great. They can live and thrive.”
As part of receiving the outstanding research award, Newman presented the CDH team’s research at pediatric grand rounds, a wonderful culmination of his two years with Kays and the team. “It was this profound experience to kind of showcase all of the great things that we’ve been able to do over the last two years, and to be able to present that information to the world and to the physicians at the hospital was exhilarating for me. I enjoyed it,” he says.
This summer, Newman moved on to his general surgery residency at Garden City Hospital in Michigan, where, in the spirit of Root’s gift, he’s certain to continue on the path of excellence in medicine.
Topics: Faculty and Staff, Friends of Johns Hopkins Medicine, Johns Hopkins Medicine, Support Scholars