Research at Helen Hayes Hospital
Dr. Newton Shaffer, the hospital’s founder and a prominent New York City orthopedic surgeon, first conceived of a unique hospital for children with disabilities in 1896. His vision of a facility that would treat the “whole person” provided the cornerstone for a research program focused on the sequelae of a broad range of catastrophic injuries and chronic debilitating illnesses. The hospital’s formal affiliation agreement with the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1967 led to the initiation of research programs into the very problems that the clinicians faced on a daily basis. Over the next decades, the research programs at Helen Hayes Hospital were gradually expanded, and today encompass a broad based approach, with scientists and clinicians addressing such diverse problems as spinal cord injury, osteoporosis and stroke.
Central to our hospital’s mission is a profound appreciation for the role of research in identifying new approaches to the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of injury and illness. The hospital’s mission and research initiatives share a common goal: the ability to shape the future of rehabilitation medicine.
Through the Clinical Research Center and the Regional Bone Center, skeletal research has been a feature of the Hospital for more than 30 years. Current interests include loss of bone mass and architecture that leads to an increase in the risk of osteoporosis and broken bones, as well as the treatments that may be used to heal the abnormalities and reduce the risk of bone fractures. These studies, originally designed to investigate the bone loss that occurs in women as they age, are also important for those who have impaired neurological systems (such as in Spinal Cord Injury) when bone loss is rapid and universal. Recent studies have begun to investigate whether treatment used for osteoporosis can also improve fracture healing. The research is funded primarily by the Hospital and the National Institutes of Health.
Current neurological research at the Hospital’s Center for Rehabilitation Technology is focused on enabling individuals who cannot communicate via speech to utilize state-of-the-art technology to communicate. In collaboration with investigators from the New York State Department of Health’s Wadsworth Center (New York State’s Public Health Laboratory), research teams are examining ways to utilize brain computer interface devices to translate thought into words on a computer screen. This technology is also being investigated for use in evaluating patients during coma recovery. For more information on neurological research, click here.
The newest area of research in the Hospital involves clinicians from the Medical Staff, Nursing, Physical Therapy, Occupational Therapy and Speech and Hearing departments, among others, who are collaborating to develop and implement research that can be directly applied to the care of patients in a rehabilitation facility such as Helen Hayes Hospital.
Protecting Study Participants: the IRB and Informed Consent
The Helen hayes Hospital Institutional Review Board for the Protection of Human Subjects (IRB) meets monthly to review and discuss research studies conducted by the hospital’s investigative teams. The Board’s membership includes physicians, nurses, scientists and people from the community. All studies conducted by HHH investigators that involve human subjects research must receive approval from the IRB before the research begins. The Board is responsible for continuously monitoring studies on an annual basis, at minimum, to ensure that participants are adequately protected at all times.
Each study’s Informed Consent Process must also be approved and reviewed at least annually by the IRB. The Informed Consent Process includes providing each potential subject with a clear description of the study and with the information needed so that the individual can choose whether or not to participate in the study. It also includes making sure that the potential subject has been given the opportunity to ask the research team questions, understands that participation in voluntary, and knows that he or she can stop participation without penalty at any time. The research team may use an Informed Consent Form to help explain the study’s key elements, such as how long the study will last, qualifications for study participation, and possible risks and benefits. The form is also used to obtain the individual’s voluntary consent for participation in the study.
While everyone has their own personal reasons for deciding to participate in a research study, many do so because they wish to contribute to finding a new treatment for a certain disorder. If you would potentially be interested in participating in a research study at Helen Hayes Hospital, please complete and submit the form below.
Helen Hayes Hospital is committed to minimizing bias in research related to Conflicts of Interest (COI). The HHH Objectivity in Research Committee (OIRC) is comprised of HHH administrators responsible for ascertaining any conflict of interest involving researchers and assuring that a management plan is in place to minimize bias related to COI.