Gary Goldstein, M.D.

"Almost all patients are seen not just by a developmental disability specialist, but someone skilled in their particular disorder. These clinicians are the world's experts."

View full interview to learn more about the history of the expansion of the Institute and some of its future initiatives.


Gary Goldstein is President and Chief Executive Officer of the Kennedy Krieger Institute and professor of pediatrics and neurology at the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine.

Dr. Goldstein assumed the directorship of the Kennedy Krieger Institute in July 1988. Scientifically, the timing was perfect, he says. "We were on the verge of learning so much more about how the child's brain develops, how things can go wrong and what the repair mechanisms might be. We were on the brink, I thought, of making significant advances."

One of his early goals was to recruit basic scientists and research-oriented clinicians working on specific disabilities, from learning disabilities to Down syndrome to autism. As a result, demand for the Institute's clinical services grew rapidly. "When I came in 1988, the Institute had about 400 employees total," he points out. "Today, we have over 2500."

During those years, the Institute shifted from being a primarily inpatient facility to outpatient programs that treat approximately 17,000 children each year. "Almost all are seen not just by a developmental disability specialist but someone skilled in their particular disorder," Dr. Goldstein says. "These clinicians are the world's experts."

Dr. Goldstein had a particular model in mind as he worked to expand the Institute's research program. "Partly because my wife is a cancer researcher, I thought about how effective they have been in developing effective treatments, particularly for children," he says. Once cancer care was mostly supportive, he points out, helping people deal with symptoms and outcomes. But cancer researchers have made great progress in understanding the genetic basis of various forms of the disease, developing targeted treatments and sometimes, cures. "I thought that's what we should be doing in developmental disabilities," he says.

New tools like sophisticated imaging that allow researchers to peer into the brain and sequencing techniques able to identify rare variations in the genome are starting to turn up answers, he says. "We've made a concerted effort to have those tools available here," he says. As a result, the Institute "has moved from being supportive of kids with disabilities to seeing the possibility of understanding the causes and developing treatments for these disorders. We continue to attract incredibly bright people to these problems."

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