September 2020: Student/Trainee Profile

Author: [AUTHOR] Published on 9/1/2020 12:00:00 AM

Student Trainee M McLaughlin
Matthew McLaughlin, MD, Fellow, Children’s Mercy Hospital, Kansas City, Missouri

Dr. McLaughlin trained at Children’s Mercy—Kansas City in the Division of Clinical Pharmacology, Toxicology, and Therapeutic Innovation. He was a T32 Trainee sponsored by the National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD).

One simple question guided Dr. McLaughlin to Clinical Pharmacology: “Why are my patients not responding to the medications I am prescribing?” In medical school, he learned that doctors prescribe certain medications for certain treatments, but the training did not go further than that. He explains that there was no “troubleshooting” if a dose did not provide a response he expected. He had an initial discussion with Steve Leeder, PharmD, PhD, who indicated that Clinical Pharmacology would provide him with the tools to answer these questions. From there, he delved into the world of Clinical Pharmacology as a pediatric physiatrist (a specialized physician in the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation). He uses his knowledge in clinical pharmacology to impact pediatric patients with disabilities, from spasticity in cerebral palsy to cognitive states in traumatic brain injury, from neurogenic bladder in spina bifida to neuropathic pain in spinal cord injury, and from acute pain in patients who had orthopedic trauma to chronic pain in children with disabilities.

Based on some of the work Dr. McLaughlin did during his T32 program, he was able to submit and receive a K12 award from the National Center for Medical Rehabilitation Research under the NICHD. This award is solely related to bringing precision medicine to the field of physical medicine and rehabilitation by evaluating spasticity treatments in children with cerebral palsy.

Both of Dr. McLaughlin’s mentors during his T21 program remain significant mentors both professionally and personally. Dr. McLaughlin greatly respects how Dr. Leeder approaches problems, as all of their discussions follow a logical and progressive thought process. Dr. McLaughlin also worked with Sue Rahman, PharmD, who has been an advocate of his since he started his Clinical Pharmacology fellowship. Whether it has been a research problem or a personal problem, Dr. Rahman always has the right answer.

When he began working with Drs. Leeder and Rahman, Dr. McLaughlin did not realize the national and international impact of his mentors. He had been working with these giants in the field on a daily basis and finally realized their importance in the field through his ASCPT membership. Dr. Leeder received the Rawls Palmer Award from ASCPT in 2019 and when Dr. Rahman became the President of ASCPT he recognized just how fortunate he was to work with these great people at his own institution.

The most interesting part of the field of clinical pharmacology is that it has allowed him the opportunity to look at problems through a different lens to improve the care of his patients. By finding out the “why”—instead of just troubleshooting—he can approach problems differently than his peers.

Dr. McLaughlin is particularly interested in medications to treat spasticity and neurologic disorders. This fits well with his clinical field of physical medicine and rehabilitation. This specialty primarily focuses on improving the quality of life by increasing the functional ability of patients in need of care. He has a huge goal of being an extramurally funded independent investigator. He took the initial steps to do this by completing a T32 fellowship and then was awarded a K12 award by the NICHD/NCMRR. From this point he thinks he is ideally positioned to submit his first R series application within the next year. The type of tools he has gained in clinical pharmacology has made him a reference for other physicians within his practice. It is not uncommon for them to come to him with a question on a patient of theirs that he has not seen before in his practice. Being able to provide them with information that is “next level” about the medications they use helps improve their outcomes.

In 2016, Dr. McLaughlin attended his first ASCPT meeting, which was the first time he was exposed to the Society. He had previously attended numerous other conferences and presented research, but at no other conference did he have the same level of interaction with other attendees while presenting as he did at ASCPT. Working at Children’s Mercy in Kansas City, he has been fortunate to work with one of the best pediatric clinical pharmacology groups in the country. It is almost an expectation to join and be involved with ASCPT. He explains that “when you go to a conference and see Tina Shakhnovich, MD, as an editor of Clinical and Translational Science, Tamorah Lewis, MD, PhD, leading a presentation, or Jen Goldman, MD, receiving the Leon Goldberg Early Investigator Award, it just becomes part of the cultural expectation to attend the ASCPT Annual Meeting and be involved.”

Overall, the amount of networking and ideas that Dr. McLaughlin has gained from reading the Family of Journals and from attending the Annual Meeting gives him at least 10 new research ideas a year. He just needs the resources to do all the studies now. He has seen immense benefits from being able to participate in ASCPT member events. He especially appreciates that some of the more senior members of ASCPT take the time to interact with younger members of ASCPT.

Most of Dr. McLaughlin’s current work revolves around optimizing the use of oral baclofen, which is used to treat spasticity in patients with neurologic injury. He is also very involved in acute traumatic brain injury research.

Dr. McLaughlin has been a member of ASCPT since 2016.

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