Down Syndrome Symposium Attracts UAMS, National Experts

Kent McKelvey, M.D., (center), stands with conference speakers James Hunt, M.D., (left), Elizabeth S. Pilcher, D.M.D., Brian Skotko, M.D., and Abby R. Nolder, M.D.

Arkansas Down Syndrome Conference attendees talk before the conference outside the Fred W. Smith Conference Center in the Jackson T. Stephens Spine Institute at UAMS on April 12.

April 19, 2013 | Ninety-nine percent of people with Down syndrome say that they are happy with their lives and 97 percent say they like who they are. These are just two of many positive statistics medical geneticist Brian Skotko, M.D., shared during the Arkansas Down Syndrome Conference on April 12 at UAMS.

More than 100 caregivers, families, special education professionals and nurses attended the event held in the Fred W. Smith Conference Center of the Jackson T. Stephens Spine & Neurosciences Institute. Others attended online in Jonesboro and Fayetteville.

Kent McKelvey, M.D., associate professor of family medicine and genetics, played a major role in organizing the event. McKelvey is the inaugural Rockefeller Chair of Clinical Genetics and director of the UAMS Adult Genetics/Down Syndrome Clinic. Under his leadership this past decade, UAMS has developed one of the leading centers in the United States for clinical care and research for people with Down syndrome. McKelvey updated the audience on original research conducted at UAMS and the status of multiple research projects for Down syndrome nationally.

The conference provided health care professionals and caregivers education on the latest cognitive research, the novel UAMS anesthesia service for people with special needs, ENT issues, dental care and general medical tips for those with Down syndrome. Each session contained interactive portions that included time for questions and answers with six hours of continuing education credit for the whole symposium.

Skotko, co-director of the Down Syndrome Program at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, opened the conference recounting his experience of growing up with a sister with Down syndrome and other stories that showed how those with Down syndrome can lead regular lives and profoundly enhance the lives of others. 

The attendees also heard from James Hunt, M.D., assistant professor of anesthesiology in the Division of Pediatric Anesthesiology and Pain Medicine at UAMS. Hunt, also the co-director of burn anesthesiology at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital Burn Center and coordinator for Special Needs Anesthesia Services at UAMS, focused on the unique one-day surgery program developed at UAMS.

Abby R. Nolder, M.D., assistant professor in the Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery at UAMS, discussed ENT issues, such as sleep apnea and airway obstruction, and also presented original research conducted at UAMS regarding swallowing problems associated with Down syndrome. Nolder specializes in pediatric airway and swallowing disorders, pediatric sinonasal disease, pediatric head and neck masses, and general pediatric ENT disorders.

Elizabeth S. Pilcher, D.M.D., associate dean for Institutional Effectiveness, Division of Restorative Dentistry in the Department of Oral Rehabilitation at the University of South Carolina Medical School, focused on dental care for patients with Down syndrome.

During the conference, Briggs Equipment of Texas donated $2,500 to the Arkansas Down Syndrome Association (ASDA) to provide care packets for parents expecting a child with Down syndrome.

The conference was sponsored by the UAMS College of Medicine Division of Genetics, the UAMS Department of Family and Preventive Medicine, the Arkansas Down Syndrome Association and the Arkansas Governor’s Council for Developmental Disabilities.

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