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Annual Riley Conference: Driving the Future of Child Health, One Patient at a Time


By: Dorota Szczepaniak, MD, Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics, Division Chief of General & Community Pediatrics, Medical Director of Riley Outpatient Services for the Department of Pediatrics

Every spring, as flu season is coming to an end and children are beginning to play outside once again, pediatricians and specialists all across Indiana meet together to learn about and discuss the hot topics in child health for the coming year. The Annual Riley Conference is a 2 day event hosted in central Indiana by Indiana University School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics and Riley Children’s Health as a continuing education and networking opportunity for the local physicians and healthcare specialists.

Being an active learner in the Indiana medical community can bring with it many benefits. It is crucially important that providers continue to learn throughout their careers and acquaint themselves with new research and innovation that will allowing them to improve outcomes for their patients. Knowledge of innovative techniques and medical advancements are available anywhere, but the group of specialists gathered together each year at the Annual Riley Conference complement each other in answering questions and tackling obstacles in health care in the local community. The conference allows participants to examine how they can meaningfully affect family functioning and environmental health to allow children to grow into healthy adults.

In last few years, the academic health community has begun to realize the importance of adverse childhood experiences, social determinants, and epigenetics on healthy human growth. As mounting evidence is gathered, the high importance of screening for maternal depression, examining environmental exposures that surround us daily, and the prevention of teen pregnancy are just a few of the topics that will be explored in relation to child development.

One focus of this year’s conference will examine the effects of an environmental disaster experienced in our own home state. “After federal officials assessed potential health hazards in East Chicago seven years ago, they declared young children could play safely in neighborhoods built on or near former industrial sites contaminated with brain-damaging lead.”1 Fast forward 7 years and “the same government agency confirms it woefully misled parents and city officials. Kids living in two of the contaminated neighborhoods actually were nearly three times more likely to suffer lead poisoning during the past decade than if they lived in other parts of the heavily industrialized northwest Indiana city, according to a report unveiled last week by an arm of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.”1 At the conclusion of the conference, attendees will be able to list pollutants that have been associated with adverse neurodevelopmental outcomes in the pediatric population and advise families on behaviors that will reduce chemical exposures.

Speakers will also review the challenges associated with the infant mortality rate in Indiana. Speakers will present common forms of long-acting reversible contraception (LARC), and describe how increased LARC use can reduce adolescent unintended pregnancies, along with discussions on the importance of relationships as a key driver for development early in children’s lives and how parents can foster a healthy pregnancy. Additional speakers will address the effects of trauma and toxic stress on the developing brain, and explain how complex trauma and adverse childhood experiences can affect developmental, behavioral, and mental health.

The Annual Riley Conference goal is to attract lifelong learners and generalists taking care of children 0-18 years old, in a community setting, urban, suburban,  or rural. Attendees will have the opportunity to network with their peers in a variety of activities, including wellness initiatives and social events. The medical community is encouraged to join in on this important learning and networking opportunity and to share their learning experiences on social media using the #AnnualRileyConference hashtag. Participants can register here for the Annual Riley Conference until May 11th.


1.  Hawthorne, M. (2018, August 20). 7 years later, new study shows East Chicago kids exposed to more lead because of flawed government report. Chicago Tribune. Retrieved from

The views expressed in this content represent the perspective and opinions of the author and may or may not represent the position of Indiana University School of Medicine.
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Ashley Dummer

Ashley Dummer is a Communications Specialist in the Department of Pediatrics. She has worked in Pediatrics since graduating with her degree from Indiana University.