Dr. Gary I. Kleiner Named to Florida Genetic and Newborn Screening Advisory Council

Gary I. Kleiner, M.D., Ph.D., associate professor of pediatrics and surgery, has received a four-year appointment as the representative from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine to the Florida Genetic and Newborn Screening Advisory Council.

The role of the council is to advise the Florida Department of Health on methods whereby screening programs and genetics services for children may be more effectively evaluated, coordinated and consolidated, conditions for which testing should be included, and procedures for collection and transferring of specimens and recording of results.

“As a clinical immunologist, I am proud to serve as immunology advisor to the panel and serve as a champion for children with severe combined immune deficiency (SCID) and other primary immune deficiencies,” said Kleiner. “I hope to provide access to novel therapies, such as stem cell transplant and gene therapy, for children with these disorders. The University of Miami serves the Department of Health as the South Florida Referral Diagnostic Center, providing confirmation and definitive treatments for children with SCID. Since 2006, UM has been a Jeffrey Modell Center of Excellence providing clinical care, research and training for primary immune deficiency disorders.”

The intent of the Florida Newborn Screening Program is to screen, identify, diagnose, and manage newborns at risk for selected disorders that, without detection and treatment, can lead to permanent developmental and physical damage or death. The goal of newborn screening is to facilitate prevention of developmental impairments, delayed physical growth, severe illness, and death through early detection and intervention.

Florida screens for 31 disorders recommended by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Recommended Uniform Screening Panel and an additional 22 secondary disorders, unless a parent objects in writing. Before the baby leaves the hospital, a few drops of blood are taken from the baby’s heel, and the ears are also tested for hearing. The hospital sends the blood sample to the Bureau of Public Health Laboratories in Jacksonville, which screens more than 1,000 blood samples per day. All results are sent back to the hospital and then forwarded to the baby’s doctor. Doctors can also get results for their patients from the Florida Newborn Screening Results website.

If the screening results are abnormal, the Newborn Screening Follow-up Program, which is a part of Children’s Medical Services, will contact the parent and/or doctor about additional testing and continue follow-up until the disorder is either ruled out or confirmed.

“The council is critical to our state’s assuring that we screen our children early and carefully for diseases we can detect so that they are treated and thrive, and are able to reach their full potential in terms of health and development,” said Judy Schaechter, M.D., M.B.A., Chair of the Department of Pediatrics, Chief of Service at Holtz Children’s Hospital at Jackson Memorial Hospital, and the George E. Batchelor Endowed Chair in Pediatrics. “Dr. Kleiner’s expertise as a leading immunologist/allergist, with transplant and research experience, is of utmost benefit to the council and the State of Florida.”

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