The Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program


Adam Becker  

Karen Sheehan 

Adam Becker, PhD, MPH and Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH, Interim Program Directors 

The Mary Ann & J. Milburn Smith Child Health Research Program was launched in 2000 with a magnificent gift from Mrs. Mary Ann Smith in memory of her late husband.


The vision of the Smith Child Health Research Program is to inform local, regional, and national practice and policy to foster healthy children today and healthy adults tomorrow.


The scientific mission of the Smith Child Health Research Program is to address important clinical and public health problems of children, using state-of-the-art laboratory, epidemiologic, clinical, social and behavioral science methods with interdisciplinary collaborations to benefit children, their families and their communities. The program engages in clinical, community, and population-based research to advance knowledge about the natural history, biological, psychological, social and environmental causes of common and important child health problems and to identify childhood precursors of adult diseases. The program aims to translate scientific knowledge into effective clinical and public health interventions and policy through partnering with communities, policy makers, and the general public to address child health problems. Additionally, the program trains a new generation of child health professionals and researchers in interdisciplinary, collaborative, and public health approaches to research. The program is striving to become one of the leading national centers for child health research.



 Center on Obesity Management and Prevention (COMP)  and Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC)
Director: Katherine Kaufer Christoffel, MD, MPH
CLOCC Executive Director: Adam Becker, PhD, MPH

COMP was established in 2004 to coordinate and expand research on childhood obesity, and to integrate this research with the clinical and public education/advocacy aspects of obesity-related work at Children’s Memorial. COMP provides educational opportunities and facilitates the development of collaborative research projects. COMP seminars and journal clubs meet on alternating months between September and June.
The Consortium to Lower Obesity in Chicago Children (CLOCC), COMP’s community education and advocacy arm, a nationally recognized model, has the goal of mounting an effective effort to reduce childhood obesity in Chicago by building and mobilizing a coalition of organizations and individuals in the Chicago area. It supports the now eight-agency Chicago Interdepartmental Task Force on Childhood Obesity, which is led by the Department of Public Health.

Link to COMP

Link to CLOCC



Center for Community Partnerships and Health Promotion and Child Health Data Lab (CHDL)
Co-Directors: Jenifer Cartland, PhD; Maryann Mason, PhD; and Karen Sheehan, MD, MPH

Established in 2008, the Center for Community Partnerships and Health Promotion is a hub of interdisciplinary collaboration for research that focuses on improving public health practice for children and adolescents in Chicago and Illinois. The Center has two primary goals: (1) to build a community of scholars that will optimize the commitment of Children’s Memorial, the research center and Northwestern University affiliated researchers working to build excellent community-based public health interventions for children and adolescents; and (2) to improve the health of children and adolescents in Illinois by expanding local and state governments’ capacity to make data-driven decisions in support of child health. The center builds on the important work of the Child Health Data Lab in providing data to policy makers and advocates to improve child health and well-being in Illinois and in evaluating Children’s Memorial-sponsored programs to reduce risk of injury to youth. In its first year of operation, the Center developed three affinity groups to facilitate faculty collaboration, build capacity and support external research funding. The affinity group topics were determined by faculty interest and advisory committee recommendation. The topics are: junior faculty development, school-based health research, and child abuse and neglect research.

Link to CHDL

Link to Center for Community Partnerships and Health Promotion 



Pediatric Practice Research Group (PPRG)
Director: Helen Binns, MD, MPH
Associate Director: Adolfo Ariza, MD

The Pediatric Practice Research Group (PPRG) is a well-established, practice-based research network with over 450 Chicago-area clinicians from more than 75 primary care practices. The PPRG provides the Children’s Memorial research community with the supporting systems and expertise necessary to partner with community clinicians to study topics in primary care settings. Its extensive partnerships with community primary care clinicians allows for research of common conditions in their natural setting and provides for a laboratory to test ideas of relevance to primary care. In the past year, the PPRG has been moving to a partnership model of research, in which community clinicians are fully engaged in research processes. Additionally, we are strengthening ties with the newly-established Northwestern University internal medicine practice-based research network through the Community-Engaged Research Center of NUCATS. Binns and Ariza are leaders of CERC Practice-based Research Program. They also are leaders of practice based research nationally.

Link to PPRG 



Molecular Epidemiology and Bioinformatics

The core currently consists of following investigators: Xiaobin Wang, MD, MPH, ScD; Ruchi Gupta, MD, MPH; Binyan Wang, MD, PhD; Hui-Ju Tsai, MPH, PhD; Xin Liu, MD, PhD; Lester Arguelles, PhD; Xiumei Hong, MD, PhD; Guoying Wang, MD, PhD; Rong Liu, MD, PhD; Nataliya Kuptsova-Clarkson, MD, PhD.

Molecular Epidemiology and Bioinformatics core is designed to bridge epidemiological, clinical and bench research through interdisciplinary collaborations and application of advanced methods in molecular biology, population genetics, bioinformatics and biotechnology. Its research focus is to elucidate the role of environmental/community factors, genetic and epigenetic factors, and gene-environment interactions in the development of complex human diseases, especially those diseases with prenatal and early life origins. Ongoing funded studies focus on adverse reproductive outcomes, food allergy and related conditions, and obesity and metabolic syndrome. These studies are supported by grants from the National Institutes of Health and foundations, including the March of Dimes Birth Defects Foundation and the Food Allergy Initiative. This core has also trained and supported a growing number of K awardees and postdoctoral fellows.

 Link to Molecular Epidemiology