Developmental-Behavioral Specialists

Bond DeLoache, Dr. William DeLoache, Frances Ellison, and
Dr. Amanda Merchant

July 19, 2006

GREENVILLE, S.C. – Greenville Health System (GHS) Children’s Hospital announced the launch of a landmark $2 million endowed fellowship program that will help address the state’s critical shortage of pediatric developmental-behavioral specialists. The endowment’s seed money comes from a $1 million challenge grant made in February by the Joe C. Davis Foundation. Principal funding to complete the endowment was given by the Fullerton Foundation in Gaffney, S.C., and by associates with the region’s Wal-Mart and SAM’S CLUB stores.

The endowed program -– the first fully endowed fellowship program in GHS’ history – was unveiled Wednesday as the “William R. DeLoache, M.D., Fellowship in Developmental-Behavioral Pediatrics,” named for the Greenville pediatrician and child advocate. The fellows in the program will be identified as DeLoache Fellows.

“Dr. Bill DeLoache is a giant in pediatrics in our community and a role model for us all,” said the GHS Children Hospital’s medical director William Schmidt, M.D. and Ph.D. “It is only appropriate that the first fellowship in pediatrics at Greenville Health System carries his name.”

The match funding included $340,000 raised by area Wal-Mart and SAM’s CLUB associates through the Children’s Miracle Network alliance, a $300,000 grant from the Fullerton Foundation, which supports health and higher education, and $360,000 from GHS.

“Greenville Health System and the Children’s Hospital are deeply grateful to the trustees of the Joe C. Davis Foundation for their foresight and generosity in creating the possibility for this historic endowment and to the incredible employees at Wal-Mart and SAM’S CLUB stores and the Fullerton Foundation for allowing us to fulfill this dream,” said Frank D. Pinckney, CEO and president of Greenville Hospital System. “The invaluable support of our community helps us to provide the heightened level of care and services expected of the area’s only university medical center.”

The fellowship, which may be the only permanently funded developmental-behavioral training programs in the nation, is accredited by the national Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education.

The foundation is named for Joe Davis, a Nashville entrepreneur who began the philanthropic foundation before his death in 1989. Its trustees include William R. DeLoache, for whom the fellowship is named. Other trustees include DeLoache’s wife, Bond Davis DeLoache, the sister of the late Joe C. Davis, and the DeLoache children, William R. DeLoache Jr. and Frances DeLoache Ellison, a member of the GHS board of trustees.

The GHS Children’s Hospital program, widely regarded as one of the most respected behavioral and developmental pediatric programs in the country, will become a national model for the integration and coordination of advanced medical care, research and physician training and education, predicted Schmidt.  

“Very few fellowships across the country enjoy the strong community support we have in Greenville that permits our developmental-behavioral fellowship to integrate its academic programs seamlessly with community-based therapies.  This allows us to more precisely meet the needs of our community,” said Schmidt.

More than one in five children has developmental or related behavioral disorders. This “silent epidemic” ranges from common difficulties such as sleep disorders, bedwetting and stuttering to more complex challenges such as autism, cerebral palsy, learning disabilities and attention deficit disorders. Pediatricians describe it as a “silent epidemic” for which they don’t always have the necessary support and training. “When I visit pediatric practices all over the Upstate and ask what specialty they most want, the answer is always developmental-behavioral pediatrics,” said Schmidt.

“We have both a great opportunity and a responsibility to address the shortage of professionals in this subspecialty,” said Desmond P. Kelly, M.D., medical director for the Children’s Hospital developmental-behavioral pediatrics program and himself a nationally renowned expert in the field. “We feel honored to have this opportunity and are excited to get the fellowship program started.”

“Children's Hospital and our fantastic community partners devoted to nurturing developing minds will provide an environment for training unequaled in the nation,” said Kelly.

The first fellow, Amanda M. Merchant, M.D., is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics with strong ties to South Carolina.

“I am thrilled to have the opportunity to gain expertise in these areas that have interested me throughout my years of general pediatric practice,” said Merchant. “It is a privilege to be able to do this in my hometown and with such a wonderful team of medical staff. As a mother of three, I am well aware of every parent's desire that each child reach his or her full potential of self-fulfillment and happiness. I look forward during my training to working with each family and with each referring physician to help support them in this goal.”

Once she completes the three-year program, a fully trained and American Board eligible developmental-behavioral physician will graduate from the program annually. The endowment would provide for as many as three fellows in training at one time.

The program will be based in the two principal parts of Greenville’s nationally recognized model for community cooperation – the GHS Children’s Hospital Donald A. Gardner Family Center for Developing Minds and in the Dr. William R. DeLoache Center for Developmental Services. The fellows would also rotate through subspecialties – such as neurology, orthopaedics and psychiatry – as well as GHS specialty hospitals, the Greenville Shriners Hospital, Greenwood Genetics and community agencies such as schools.

What sets the GHS Children’s Hospital model apart is its collaborative, integrated approach that functions as a family’s safety net from early diagnosis through treatment. Unparalleled in the cooperation and cohesiveness shown between the community and healthcare practitioners, this unique model is being watched closely by Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, The Commonwealth Fund, and federal Maternal and Child Health Bureau for its potential application at the national level. (See sidebar.)

Only in the last four years has the subspecialty been recognized by the American Board of Pediatrics with board certification. Developmental-behavioral pediatricians complete three years of training beyond their pediatric residency, acquiring knowledge and skills in development of the brain and multiple factors that can affect its functioning such as genetic, medical, and biological influences as well as the impact of family, social, and educational environments. These subspecialists are experts in evaluating the developmental profile of children and steering them to successful interventions.

At present, the nation has only 300 board-certified developmental-behavioral pediatricians, and demand for their services continues to grow. Between 1970 and 2004, for example, an almost 600% increase was seen in the number of U.S. children identified with some degree of autism.