Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Autism Investigator Elected to the Prestigious Institute of Medicine

Pat Levitt, PhD, noted neuroscientist elected to national advisory board

Children’s Hospital Los Angeles Autism Investigator Elected to the Prestigious

Children's Hospital Los AngelesEllin Kavanagh, (323) 361-8505

Internationally recognized autism expert, , of The Saban Research Institute of Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, was recently elected as a member into the prestigious Institute of Medicine (IOM), part of the National Academy of Sciences. The IOM is an independent non-governmental organization that provides unbiased, expert advice to policy makers and the public. By election to the IOM, Levitt is recognized for his outstanding professional achievement and commitment to advancing the nation’s health.

“This election is a great and very rare honor. It recognizes my career in research that, in some way, is viewed by my peers as impacting medicine and those who depend on scientific discovery to improve the lives of their children and families,” says Levitt, who was recently named as the inaugural director of the Developmental Neurogenetics Program of the within The Saban Research Institute.

The IOM works to provide peer-reviewed, evidence-based information to help inform health and science policy. Each year, the membership nominates and elects up to 70 distinguished professionals to join the Institute. Election is based on career accomplishments, as well as the willingness to remain actively involved with issues such as healthcare, disease prevention, medical education and research.

“We are so pleased that the Institute of Medicine has recognized Pat Levitt’s contributions to our understanding of the fundamentals of neurocognitive development and the environmental influences on outcome,” says Brent Polk, MD, director of and physician-in-chief at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. “His dedication and expertise in the field of neuroscience, as well as his role in the Institute for the Developing Mind will provide valuable insights to the Institute of Medicine and the national health agenda.”

Levitt’s work concentrates on the developing brain, specifically the components associated with learning, and emotional and social behavior. He examines the genetic and environmental interactions that increase the risk for neurodevelopmental and neuropsychiatric disorders, such as autism and schizophrenia. Levitt recently published a paper on the impact of oxidative stress on the severity of autism symptoms and hopes to use his research to develop better diagnostic criteria and personalized treatments for children.

“I hope that our research on the role of genetic and environmental factors that impact brain development will contribute to a better understanding of the causes, and possible preventions, of disorders impacting children, such as autism,” says Levitt. “As director of the Developmental Neurogenetics Program, I expect to help the incoming director of the IDM to recruit the very best and brightest researchers in our field to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.”

Levitt is provost professor of Pediatrics, Neuroscience, Psychiatry, Psychology and Pharmacy at the University of Southern California’s Keck School of Medicine, as well as director of the Neuroscience Graduate Program at USC. He is an elected Fellow of the American Association for the Advancement of Science and chairman of the Association’s Neuroscience Division. Levitt also serves as the scientific director of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, a consortium that brings together leading researchers in developmental neuroscience to advise industry leaders on program investments. He has published over 260 academic papers on autism and other neurodevelopmental disorders, and currently is on the research advisory board for the Autism Speaks Autism Treatment Network.

Children's Hospital Los Angeles has been named the best children’s hospital in California and among the top five in the nation for clinical excellence with its selection to the prestigious US News & World Report Honor Roll. Children’s Hospital is home to The Saban Research Institute, one of the largest and most productive pediatric research facilities in the United States, is one of America's premier teaching hospitals and has been affiliated with the Keck School of Medicine of the University of Southern California since 1932.

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