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2014 Excellence Fellowship Recipients Announced

March 1, 2014

The National Hemophilia Foundation (NHF) is pleased to announce the recipients of its 2014 Nursing, Social Work and Physical Therapy Excellence Fellowships.


Nursing Excellence Fellowship

The Nursing Excellence Fellowship was awarded to Michelle Witkop, DNP, FNP-BC, Munson Medical Center, Traverse City, MI. Witkop was awarded $13,500 for her project, “Bleeding Disorders Pediatric Pain Initiative.” Pain in the pediatric hemophilia population is often under reported and under treated. Further, some lack of innovation and standardization among hemophilia treatment centers in approaches to pain contributes to a perpetuation of anxiety among children, parents and family members who deal with frequent needle sticks and blood draws. A significant portion of this anxiety is anticipatory, as both patients and their loved ones experience additional stress as the time for an infusion or blood draw comes closer.

Witkop will work with nurse and social worker colleagues to develop and distribute a so-called “distraction box” to all US hemophilia treatment centers (HTC). A helpful tool for providers, the box will include several methods of distraction effective in children, plus videos on techniques to distract and decrease the anxiety associated with needle-based procedures. Witkop also plans to distribute Poke Plans, simple wallet-size cards customized to include tips for a provider on proven distraction techniques for each child. She and her team plan to attend HTC regional meetings to offer education on these and other facets of pediatric pain management.


Social Work Excellence Fellowship

The Social Work Excellence Fellowship was awarded to Shannon Brown, LMSW, Children’s Blood and Cancer Center of Central Texas, Austin. Brown was awarded $10,000 for her project, “A Standardized Approach to Empowering Families with Hemophilia.” Brown’s project will focus on the emotional stress, trauma and heightened anxiety experienced by parents of children with hemophilia. Within her HTC, she will coordinate with a team of psychosocial professionals, including a psychologist and psychiatrist, evaluating families to discern stress and anxiety levels and to follow up with appropriate interventions. Brown’s design includes three levels of intervention: 1) Her team provides psycho-education relevant to the child’s condition and medical care, in addition to creating an individualized treatment plan that parents can follow at the HTC or at home. 2) If anxiety levels are high, the team will offer greater support for patients and family members, which will include focused coaching for parents to enhance confidence when approaching stressful scenarios, such as home infusion. 3) If stress and anxiety continue unabated, the team will offer appointments with the psychologist and/or social worker to focus on techniques that may be employed to overcome obstacles. Home visits and 21st century technologies such as Skype, will be used.        


Physical Therapy Excellence Fellowship

The Physical Therapy Excellence Fellowship was awarded to Grace Hernandez, PT, Children’s Hospital Orange County Hemophilia Program, Orange, CA. Hernandez was awarded $10,000 for her project, “Prevalence of Gross Motor Delays in Children with Hemophilia.” The project will use standardized gross motor tests specific to pediatric hemophilia patients at the HTC to identify those who have gross motor delays, which can increase the risk for injuries. The specific gross motor skills to be measured will include bilateral coordination, balance, running speed and agility, upper limb coordination and strength. The evaluations will be conducted during the patient’s annual comprehensive clinic visit. Scores will determine whether a referral for therapy services is necessary. The physical therapist may also prescribe a home exercise regimen. Hernandez plans to implement the project by including all hemophilia patients ages 4-12 for evaluation.     

All grant and fellowship applications are subjected to a rigorous peer review process. Applications are critiqued on scientific merit and relevance to NHF research priorities. They are reviewed and scored in terms of significance, approach, innovation, investigator and environment. NHF congratulates all of the awardees.