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Innovation and Research

Why Gillette Children’s Research is so Critical

The James R. Gage Center for Gait and Motion Analysis at Gillette Children's is the site of research into many areas including spine, cerebral palsy, and orthopedics.

The James R. Gage Center for Gait and Motion Analysis at Gillette Children's is the site of research into many areas including spine, cerebral palsy, and orthopedics.

Gillette Children’s conducts clinical research every day to answer some of the most important questions for patients and families.  We focus on improving treatments and making life better for children with medical conditions or disabilities.  Since our founding in 1897, Gillette has been at the forefront of treating children who have conditions affecting the brain, bones, and movement. Medical research is a key part of Gillette Children’s mission.

Through research, Gillette has developed innovative new treatments to help children diagnosed with cerebral palsy. Gillette clinicians and researchers have improved techniques to help children who have limb deformities and have enhanced bracing options for patients who have scoliosis – to name just a few examples.

Gillette Children’s Clinical Scientist, Liz Boyer, is a member of the research team and says, “Without research, forward progress would stall.”

Joyce Trost is Gillette Children's director of research. 

Joyce Trost is Gillette Children's director of research. 

Tackling complexity and rare diseases

Gillette Research aligns with its clinical care:  it is collaborative and multi-disciplinary.  We focus on childhood-onset medical conditions and rare diseases.  We have teams of experts from multiple fields who work together to better understand these conditions, to evaluate current and potential treatments, and to improve outcomes.  Many institutions focus on common conditions for their clinical care and their research.  Gillette focuses on complexity and on conditions that are relatively uncommon. 

Director of research, Joyce Trost, PhD, says “at Gillette, we care for many children who have rare conditions.  This means we have the opportunity to conduct rigorous scientific research into areas not commonly seen at other hospitals.  In fact, we believe this research is our responsibility to our patients and families. They deserve evidence-based care.”

Strong partnerships lead to robust research

In order to provide the best research, we often collaborate with other medical centers, experts at other institutions, research groups, and with patients and families.  Many of the conditions we treat are rare, so it is beneficial to work with other institutions to be able to gather meaningful numbers of patients and results for more significant answers.

“One of our growing collaborations is through the Cerebral Palsy Research Network. This multi-center network aims to optimize the health and wellbeing of people with cerebral palsy.  This partnership allows centers to pool anonymous patient data in a registry.  Once a large registry database is established, we can ask multiple clinical research questions of the data and get answers relatively quickly.  Having a larger data set and greater numbers makes the research stronger.”

Clinical Scientist, Liz Boyer, says Gillette’s collaboration with the University of Minnesota is strong and multi-faceted. “Many clinicians and scientists at Gillette have dual appointments at the U of M, and frequently work together with clinicians and scientists at the University,” Boyer says. “Additionally, we utilize the University’s Institutional Review Board (IRB), which is the regulatory body overseeing the ethical conduct of research involving people.”

Gillette Research is based on asking clinical questions that are meaningful to our patients and families.  In order to ask the right questions, we rely on input right from the source!  We ask patients and caregivers to tell us what is important to know about their condition.  For instance, while an orthopaedic researcher might lean toward focusing on an x-ray finding, parents might stress the importance of knowing more about the sleep disruption of a condition.  These conversations help inform the direction of our research. 

“Gillette families are key to helping move research forward,” Trost says. “Our families are devoted to helping the next generation. They inform our research and often go out of their way to participate so they can help others.”

Three members of the Gillette Children's spine team.

The Gillette Children's spine team conducts research focused on long-term outcomes in patients who have idiopathic scoliosis and on scoliosis associated with cerebral palsy, muscular dystrophy and other neuromuscular conditions.

Referring providers and donor are crucial

The Gillette team of clinical scientists and providers is just one part of conducting important research.

The Gillette Research team welcomes research participation from referring providers. “If a referring provider has a burning question that overlaps with the care Gillette provides, we would love to partner with them,” Trost says.

Donors help to fuel the research and innovation at Gillette. “Foundation support is very important,” Trost adds. “It’s exciting to see relationships develop between donors and investigators. They can sit down together and share their passion for asking the right questions and finding the answers. Donors know this has potential to help patients directly.”

Through focusing on complex or rare conditions, performing patient-centered clinical trials and collaborating with respected clinicians and researchers around the world, Gillette is driven to improve outcomes.

Research programs at Gillette Children's include:

Orthopedics, Spine, Gait and Motion Analysis, Rehabilitation, Pain and Comfort, Neuroscience, Cerebral Palsy, Craniofacial, Health Services, Neuromuscular Disorders such as Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA), Legg-Calve-Perthes Disease, Limb Deformity, Upper Extremity Disorders, Spina Bifida, Rett Syndrome, and many other rare diseases