Neonatology Chair Settling in to New Role

Dr. Lewis Rubin, Muma Endowed Chair in Neonatology

Lewis P. Rubin, MD, neonatologist is settling in to his new life in Florida. A recent transplant from Ohio, Dr. Rubin is approaching the one month mark at the University of South Florida as the Pamela S. and Leslie M. Muma Endowed Chair in Neonatology, Professor and Chief of Neonatology in the Department of Pediatrics, and Medical Director of the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit at Tampa General Hospital. He was recruited this past winter from the Cleveland Clinic’s Fetal Care Center in Cleveland, Ohio, where he served as a co-director. He sat down for an interview on April 24th, after talking to USF faculty and medical residents during the Dept. of Pediatrics’ Grand Rounds.

April 24, 2008 Interview

Audio Clip 1: USF Health and Tampa General Hospital expansion of neonatal care in Tampa Bay area.

Audio Clip 2: Why USF? Why now?

Audio Clip3: The importance of multidisciplinary collaboration in neonatology

In addition to conducting research meant to advance the care and well-being of premature babies, Dr. Rubin will work with Ruben Quintero, MD, director of the USF Health Division of Maternal and Fetal Medicine, and regional hospitals to expand the diagnostic and treatment capacity of the USF Fetal Therapy Center.

“Dr. Rubin and his collaboration with existing USF Health specialists will be a tremendous resource for the region, and I believe will quickly be one of the world’s centers for neonatal treatment that helps prevent lifelong complications in these children,” said Stephen K. Klasko, MD, MBA, senior vice president for USF Health and dean of the USF College of Medicine.

“Dr. Rubin is an internationally respected researcher in newborn medicine as well as an experienced clinician and educator,” said Robert M. Nelson, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at USF Health. “The strengths he brings to USF and the Tampa Bay region will help us attract other top investigators and clinicians and advance our neonatal, pediatric and obstetric services to the next level.”

The $4-million research endowed chair that Dr. Rubin will hold is a vital piece of one the largest gifts given in Florida to support research and care for newborns. The Mumas’ gift — with a total impact of $14-million after eligible state matches — supports an initiative by Tampa General Hospital and USF to build research and medical teams, laboratories at USF Health and expand the NICU at TGH.

“A goal of the Division of Neonatology is to provide innovative, technologically sophisticated, evidence-based, and family-centered care,” Dr. Rubin said. “We want to make the NICU as welcoming a place as possible for families and maximize the comfort and health of these smallest and most vulnerable babies.”

Prior to his arrival at USF, Dr. Rubin also served as chair of the Department of Neonatology and staff scientist in the Department of Cell Biology at the Cleveland Clinic and a professor of pediatrics and molecular medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH, and directed neonatology for the Cleveland Clinic Fetal Care Center, which teams with physicians who direct obstetrics and surgery and a fetal care nurse coordinator.

Dr. Rubin specializes in intensive care of premature babies and infants who have complex congenital, metabolic, cardiorespiratory or neurodevelopmental disorders.

His laboratory studies the interplay between genetics and environment, focusing on the effects of intrauterine stress, nutrition and other factors on fetal and newborn growth and development. He is directing a multisite clinical study, including TGH, evaluating whether antioxidant-enriched formula can improve lung function and decrease the risk of neurodevelopmental abnormalities in low-birth-weight and other at-risk babies.

At the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Rubin helped create a comprehensive fetal evaluation program that gives patients access to a broad range of maternal, pediatric and surgical subspecialists. He wants to help establish a similar program at the USF Fetal Therapy Center.

“Many of the core specialists already are present at TGH and USF Health,” he said. “We will develop a multidisciplinary program where a woman with any suspicion or diagnosis of a fetal problem can, in one day, have diagnostic tests like high resolution ultrasound, fetal echocardiography or fetal MRI and meet with a team of experienced experts. The family will come away with fuller understanding and a plan for continuing prenatal care, delivery, and options for fetal or neonatal treatment. USF Health and Tampa Bay should increasingly become known as an international destination for evaluation and care of the fetus and newborn.”

Dr. Rubin’s team plans to work with faculty in the USF Health Center for Aging and Brain Repair, who conduct cutting-edge research on potential treatments using stem cells derived from human umbilical cord blood and adult bone marrow cells. Such therapies may have applications for replacing or repairing cell populations in the damaged lungs, hearts or brains of premature infants as well as in aging adults, Dr. Rubin said.

“The best perinatal and neonatal research does not occur in isolation. It thrives by close collaboration with clinicians and scientists at the forefront in diseases that, at first glance, may not seem relevant to newborns,” Dr. Rubin said.

“For instance, a major complication for preemies is bleeding into the brain’s white matter. Neurological diseases in adults, including Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis and stroke involve similar processes of nerve inflammation and regeneration,” he said. “Our partnering with colleagues in the USF Signature Interdisciplinary Programs should advance prevention and treatments for persons across the lifespan.”

Dr. Rubin also hopes to work with faculty in the USF Colleges of Nursing and Public Health, which have strong community-based research initiatives in maternal and child health.

Dr. Rubin received his MD degree from Yale School of Medicine and completed a residency in pediatrics at Children’s Hospital in Boston, MA and a joint fellowship program in neonatology at Children’s Hospital, Brigham & Women’s Hospital and Beth Israel Hospital. He also took postdoctoral fellowships in molecular endocrinology and pediatric endocrinology. Before joining the Cleveland Clinic and Lerner College of Medicine, he was a faculty member at Harvard Medical School and an associate professor of pediatrics and co-director of the Fetal Medicine Program at Brown University Medical School in Providence, RI. He is listed in Best Doctors in America, 2007-2008.

Dr. Rubin is a member of the American Pediatric Society and is on the editorial board of several scientific journals. He is the author of more than 50 peer-reviewed journal articles and a dozen book chapters and reviews. He has a strong track record of National Institutes of Health funding and is currently the principal investigator for a $1.1-million NIH grant studying how carotenoids (antioxidant micronutrients) regulate fetal vitamin A production and gene expression.

Coverage by Anne DeLotto Baier & Lissette Campos, USF Health Communications