Passing the Baton: CIRP Leadership Transitions

July 17, 2014

Moderator Note: Founder and Scientific Director of CIRP@CHOP looks back at CIRP’s 20-year history as the Center marks an important transition in leadership: a new role for Dennis Durbin, MD, MSCE at the CHOP Research Institute and a new Co-Scientific Director for CIRP@CHOP -- Kristy Arbogast, PhD.


A career highlight for us in 2009: Kristy, myself, Dennis, and colleagues meeting with Senator Daniel Inouye

Two decades ago, I asked Dennis Durbin to join me for a typical CHOP lunch – sitting on a curb, eating food from one of the University City lunch trucks (this time it was Chinese food). I had wanted to create a child-focused crash surveillance system and needed a strong epidemiologist as a partner. Two years later, Dennis and I were leaders of the new Partners for Child Passenger Safety (PCPS) project and starting down the path of our shared dream. We realized that we needed a strong bioengineer with an interest in crash investigation to help us lead this new effort.

Lucky for us, Kristy Arbogast had just completed her dissertation in head injury biomechanics and shared our passion for child safety. Kristy went on to lead a world-class child crash investigation program, which, along with our survey-based surveillance system, became the essential elements of PCPS. By the end of the PCPS program in 2007, 600,000 families of children in crashes agreed to be part of our study and this work informed products, programs, regulations and laws that resulted in a halving of the number of children in the US killed in motor vehicle crashes.

Because CIRP encourages the growth of its leaders and members to pursue their passions, we quickly became more than the PCPS program. Under the co-leadership of Dennis Durbin, CIRP grew in the number of sponsored research projects for which we recruited extremely talented scientists, clinicians, outreach professionals, engineers and others. They helped CIRP@CHOP emerge from a singular focus on the protection of children during motor vehicle crashes to the care of children after crashes and preventing crashes before they happen. CIRP now includes new areas beyond traffic safety – including pediatric biomechanics, violence, traumatic stress, sports injuries, concussion and, most recently, digital health. We maintain our roots in the role of behavior and technology in protecting children, youth and young adults and helping them to recover from injury.

Because strong leadership is recognized by others, it presents new opportunities and, so, we recently celebrated Dennis’ new position as the Director of Clinical and Translational Research at the CHOP Research Institute. While Dennis will remain an active investigator at CIRP, we realized that we needed to fill his co-leadership role. So, Ayana Bradshaw, CIRP’s administrative director, and I went to our Center’s members and asked their advice – where is CIRP headed and who can best help us get there? The answer was uniform – Kristy Arbogast! (Read this press release for more about Kristy’s new appointment.)

This is a natural transition for CIRP. As Kristy’s career has matured and flourished, so too has CIRP. She has helped to grow our Center’s international reputation as a thought leader in child injury prevention and pediatric biomechanics. Just this year, her accomplishments have been recognized by an honorary doctorate from Chalmers University and participation as a member of the Institute of Medicine’s Committee on Sports Concussion in Youth and membership of the National Council on Youth Sports Safety.

I value my many partnerships with Kristy. For years, we have co-led the Center for Child Injury Prevention Studies, a National Science Foundation (NSF) multi-university, industry/university cooperative research center. It is thriving under Kristy’s leadership – in terms of the breadth and depth of the science, the number of talented investigators and university collaborations, as well as the number and diversity of sponsoring organizations. Ayana and I are so excited to now work with Kristy also in leading CIRP.

Please join me in welcoming Kristy to her new role!