Each year the Indiana Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (INAAP) accepts nominations for various awards. This year, two assistant professors in the Department of Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine were recognized as award recipients during the 2023 INAAP Pediatric CME Conference. Levi Funches, MD, BA was awarded the Dr. Chaniece Wallace Award for Advocacy and Equity, and Patrick Clements, MD was awarded the Edwin L. Gresham Award.
The Dr. Chaniece Wallace Award aims to recognize a physician who has demonstrated an outstanding commitment to advocacy or policy change on behalf of traditionally underserved or at-risk pediatric populations. This includes championing initiatives to change the practice of pediatrics to more equitably serve these populations.
Funches, a neonatologist at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, shared, “The work I do is not possible without the other members of the Fathers’ Infant Safe Sleep Workgroup.” The D.A.D.D., Dedicated, Active, and Devoted Dads, work under the umbrella of Marion County’s Public Health Department’s Fetal Infant Mortality Review-Community Action Team (FIMR-CAT). The D.A.D.D. hosts quarterly events in Indianapolis for fathers and male caregivers to discuss how they can help decrease Indiana’s Infant Mortality rate and help decrease infant sleep-related deaths. Funches continued, “Our events are in March, June, and October of each year, with the culmination of our work being the End of the Year Fatherhood Celebration Event in December.”
Funches stated, “We celebrate all fathers who attend, honor one Father of the Year recipient, and due to generous donations, we can provide some early Christmas shopping for those in attendance, as well.” This would not be possible without willing partners on the team and in the community who genuinely want to make a difference.
Funches encourages everyone to follow their work by connecting with the Fathers and Families Center, LLC, and WIC Fatherhood Engagement Team.
Bobbi Byrne, a Professor of Clinical Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine and a neonatologist at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, nominated Dr. Funches, for this award and shared, “It is not enough for him to serve critically ill infants in his practice. He also aims to improve the way health care is delivered through his work as the Associate Medical Director at the Sidney and Lois Eskenazi Hospital NICU. In this role, he can be a major influencer in providing not only safe care, but he contributes to thoughtful and equitable care to the vulnerable patient populations he serves at Eskenazi.”
Edwin L. Gresham, MD, was the chairman of the Indiana State Board of Health and a leading figure in pediatric medicine. He was a Professor of Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine and director of the Newborn Special Care Center at Riley Hospital for Children. He was a diplomate of the American Board of Pediatrics and received the highest grade in the nation on the Perinatal Boards. Gresham was a constant contributor to the field of pediatrics and left a fantastic impact.
Clements shared, “One of the biggest areas of focus I have had is the care of babies born to parents with opiate use disorder.” Clements started working in this area because it was something he saw often, “When the opioid epidemic hit Indiana we saw a lot of babies being born at risk for withdrawal. I worked with my fellow hospitalists and neonatologists to look at best practices and ways to improve the care of babies and as well as address some of the biases that have sometimes taken the dignity away from parents who have substance use challenges.” Riley Hospital for Children also got to share its work with other hospitals around the state and continue to learn from each other.
Emily Scott, an Associate Professor of Clinical Pediatrics and Interim Division Chief of General Pediatrics at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health, nominated Dr. Clements for this award. Scott shared, “Although Dr. Clements’ impact can be most directly measured within the Riley/IU Health system, he has worked tirelessly, often on his own time, to spread best practices in newborn care throughout the state. He has served as an expert panel member in 3 separate ECHOs related to neonatal opioid exposure and has given an impressive 26 presentations at the local, state, and national level on family-centered care for infants with neonatal abstinence syndrome. He has trained countless medical students and residents on compassionate care for families impacted by substance abuse.”
When asked to share words of wisdom that have helped these amazing professors achieve these awards, Funches shared, “A life is not important except in the impact it has on other lives.” Funches tries his best to see the humanity in everyone he interacts with and remains humble and appreciative of every opportunity to do his part to make the world better.
Clements shared, “In caring for new babies (and new parents) there are so many ways to help make a difference. Advocacy can come in several ways - from making sure folks from marginalized communities have their voices heard, to helping create the policies and practices to ensure all babies are cared for in the best way possible.”
Congratulations to Dr. Levi Funches and Dr. Patrick Clements on their incredible achievements!
At IU School of Medicine, professors and clinicians have the opportunity to pass along that spark to the next generation through working with students and residents.