Pediatric Spine Foundation

Our Mission

To help children with spine problems live longer, better lives

The Pediatric Spine Foundation is a community dedicated to improving the quality of care and the outcome of treatment for patients and families dealing with chest wall and spine deformities.

History

Many children have complex spine and/or chest wall deformities that impact their ability to breathe, sit, and walk. Established in 2005 and 2008 respectively, the Children's Spine Foundation and the Growing Spine Foundation were created with the goal of supporting research and education related to severe spinal deformities in growing children.

Since their inception, these two foundations have worked tirelessly in their missions to improve the quality of life for patients and their families through two study groups. In 2019 the membership and infrastructure of both study groups were merged to form the Pediatric Spine Study Group (PSSG).

The Pediatric Spine Study Group is comprised of a team of researchers and clinicians associated with major medical institutions around the world working together to improve care for these children. Data is gathered prospectively at each institution and is combined to produce powerful research and life changing results, making many children's future brighter than it has ever been before.

In 2020, the two foundations in their entirety were merged to form the Pediatric Spine Foundation. While we celebrate the accomplishments of both PSSG and PSF, we know that there are still many unanswered questions about complex scoliosis which is why we are dedicated to continuing this important work.

Leadership

Steve Schwartz is the Chairman of the Board and a founding member of the Pediatric Spine Foundation. He is the President of GDS Consulting Services, LLC., specializing in the areas of professional medical education, marketing, and medical humanitarian initiatives. He has 32 years of experience in the medical device marketplace where he held many senior management positions, including executive management of sales; executive management of professional education; and liaison with the AO Foundation (a worldwide non-profit medical research and education organization). He has worked closely with many professional societies relating to Orthopaedics, Spine, and Craniomaxillofacial surgery; and he currently serves on the Boards of several non-profit and non-governmental service organizations. Mr. Schwartz holds a degree in Geography from the University of California, Los Angeles.
 
David Skaggs, MD, MMM is the President of the Board of Directors and a founding member of Pediatric Spine Foundation. He is a tenured Professor at the University of Southern California Keck School of Medicine, Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at Children's Hospital Los Angeles, and holds the Children's Endowed Chair of Pediatric Spinal Disorders. He received his undergraduate degree from Amherst College and completed his medical degree and residency at Columbia University. He has a special interest in all aspects of care of growing children with spinal disorders. He has designed many spine implant systems and techniques to maximize patient safety.
 
Ron El-Hawary, MD, MSc. is the past President of the Board of Directors, the Pediatric Spine Study Group chair, and a founding member of the Pediatric Spine Foundation. He is the Chief of Orthopaedics at the IWK Health Centre and is Professor of Surgery at Dalhousie University. He has a background in Mechanical Engineering and Medical Biophysics and completed his orthopaedic training at Dalhousie University and the University of Western Ontario, with fellowship training at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas, Texas. His areas of interest include novel and innovative approaches to the treatment of EOS.
 
Behrooz Akbarnia, MD is a past President of the Board of Directors, the fundraising chair, and a founding member of the Pediatric Spine Foundation. He graduated from Tehran University Medical School in 1966 and continued his Orthopaedic Surgery training in the United States. He is currently a Clinical Professor of Orthopedic Surgery at University of California; San Diego. He was instrumental in the establishment of the International Congress on Early Onset Scoliosis (ICEOS), which provides an annual scientific forum for physicians and spine care professionals. He has published 2 editions of the Growing Spine textbook and pioneered the development and popularization of a new magnetic device for young children. He has a deep commitment to improving patient care in the challenging EOS population.
 
John "Jack" Flynn, MD is the President-Elect of the Board of Directors, the Education chair, and a founding member of Pediatric Spine Foundation. He is the Chief of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. He completed his orthopaedic surgery training at Harvard University and the Children's Hospital of Boston, with fellowship training at Alfred I. duPont Institute in Delaware. He helped found CHOP's Center for Thoracic Insufficiency Syndrome in 2004, the nation's first multidisciplinary program created to treat children with thoracic insufficiency syndrome and early onset scoliosis. He pioneered use of magnetic lengthening growing rods at CHOP, saving many young children planned repetitive surgery. He is well known for his leadership and vision, and is passionate about improving long-term outcomes for children with EOS.
 
Paul Sponseller, MD, MBA is the second President-Elect of the Board of Directors and a founding member of Pediatric Spine Foundation. He serves as Chief of the Division of Pediatric Orthopaedics at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center, as well as a Professor of Urology and Orthopaedic Surgery at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He received his B.S. from the University of Michigan. He earned his M.D. from the University of Michigan Medical School. He completed his residency at the University of Wisconsin Hospital and Clinics and performed a fellowship in pediatric orthopaedic surgery at Boston Children's Hospital of Harvard Medical School. He has held leadership positions in multiple organizations. His research interests include Marfan syndrome, pediatric spinal deformities, pediatric skeletal trauma and bladder exstrophy.
 
Randal R. Betz, MD is a founding member of the Pediatric Spine Foundation. He serves as a pediatric spine surgeon at the Institute for Spine and Scoliosis as well as a Clinical Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City. He received his B. S. from Penn State University. He earned his M.D. from the Lewis Katz School of Medicine at Temple University. He completed his residency at Temple University Hospital. He has held leadership positions in multiple organizations. His research interests include non-fusion correction of scoliosis and spinal cord injury in children.
 
John Emans, MD is a founding member of the Pediatric Spine Foundation. He serves as Director Emeritus at the Boston Children's Hospital, Division of Spine Surgery as well as a Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the Harvard Medical School. He received his B.A. from Harvard College. He earned his M.D. from Harvard Medical School. He completed his residency at the Massachusetts General, Brigham and Women's Hospital and Children's Hospital. He has held leadership positions in multiple organizations. His research interests include early onset and congenital spine deformity.
 
Charlie Johnston, MD is a founding member of the Pediatric Spine Foundation. He serves as Assistant Chief of Staff Emeritus at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital as well as a Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at the UT Southwestern Medical School, Dallas. He received his B.A. from Yale University. He earned his M.D. from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed his residency at the University of Virginia Medical Center. He completed a Harrington fellowship at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital and is a member of the Scoliosis Research Society, Pediatric Orthopedic Society of North America, and the European Pediatric Orthopedic Society. His research interests include studying methods of thoracic expansion and functional outcomes at maturity of growth friendly scoliosis treatments.
 
Amer Samdani, MD serves as the Chief of Surgery at the Institution Shriners Hospitals for Children-Philadelphia as well as a Professor of Orthopaedic and Neurosurgery at the Sydney Kimmell Medical College at Thomas Jefferson University. He received his B.S. from Columbia. He earned his M.D. from the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the Johns Hopkins Hospital and performed a fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery at Childrens Hospital of Philadelphia. He has held leadership positions in multiple organizations. His research interests include growth modulation, neurological disorders associated with spine deformity, and management of severe deformities.
 
Jeff Sawyer, MD is a founding member of the Pediatric Spine Foundation and the fundraising co-chair. He serves as Co-Chief of the Pediatric Spine Service at the Campbell Clinic-Lebonheur Children's Hospital as well as a Professor of Orthopaedic Surgery at University of Tennessee Campbell Clinic. He received his B.S. from the Rochester Institute of Technology. He earned his M.D. from the University of Rochester. He completed his residency at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania and performed a fellowship in pediatric orthopaedic surgery at the Campbell Clinic. He has held leadership positions in multiple organizations. His research interests include the long term outcomes for patients with Early Onset Scoliosis as adults.
 
John Smith, MD is a founding member of Pediatric Spine Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Spine Foundation. He completed his orthopedic training at the University of Utah and fellowship at Texas Scottish Rite Hospital in Dallas, Texas. He is currently the Chief of Scoliosis Service at Primary Children's Medical Center in Salt Lake City, while serving as Professor of Orthopaedics at the University of Utah. He is also the recipient of the Mary Scowcroft Peery Presidential Endowed Chair in Orthopaedics. His interests are in research and innovative techniques in the management of Early Onset Scoliosis. He has worked extensively on development of surgical teams and checklists to improve safety and reduce complications in this patient population.
 
Tricia St. Hilaire, MPH is the Executive Director and a founding member of the Pediatric Spine Foundation. She has a background in biomedical engineering, specifically in orthopedic devices. She studied at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, and received her Masters in Public Health at UMASS Amherst.
 
George Thompson, MD serves as the Past Interim Chief Medical Officer at the Shriner's Hospitals for Children as well as a Professor Emeritus of Orthopaedic Surgery at Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital of University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. He received his B.S. from the Oklahoma State University in 1966. He earned his M.D. from the University of Oklahoma School of Medicine in 1970. He completed his residency at the UCLA Medical Center and performed a fellowship in pediatric orthopaedic surgery at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, ON in 1978. He has held numerous leadership positions in multiple organizations. His research interests include pediatric spinal deformities, particularly early onset scoliosis.
 
Michael Vitale, MD, MPH is a founding member of Pediatric Spine Foundation and a member of the Board of Directors for the Pediatric Spine Foundation. He is currently the Director of Pediatric Orthopaedics and Chief of the Pediatric Spine Service at the Morgan Stanley Children's Hospital of New York, while serving as the Ana Lucia Professor of Clinical Orthopaedic Surgery at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed his orthopedic training at Columbia University where he also earned a Master's degree in Public Health, with fellowship training at the Children's Hospital Los Angeles. He leads advocacy efforts with the FDA to improve access to pediatric devices and is specifically interested in innovative treatments which improve the quality and safety of patient outcomes.
 
Muharrem Yazici, MD is a founding member of the Pediatric Spine Foundation. He serves as Professor at the Hacettepe University, Ankara Turkey. He earned his M.D. from the Ankara University Medical School. He completed his residency at the Hacettepe Hospital and performed a research fellowship in spine surgery at Kansas University Medical School. He has held leadership positions in multiple organizations such as Turkish Society of Orthopaedic and Traumatology, Turkish Pediatric Orthopaedic Society, EPOS and SRS. His research interests include EOS, neuromuscular and congenital spine deformities.

Annual Reports