William DeBassio completed his PhD in neurophysiology and later went to medical school expecting to become a neurologist. When he walked onto a pediatric ward for the first time, he immediately realized where his career was headed - pediatric neurology was the perfect blending of his interests - he had found a home away from home.
Dr. DeBassio went on to complete training in general pediatrics and then in pediatric neurology at the former Boston City Hospital (now Boston Medical Center).
“We all love to care for children, and that is our primary focus,” says Dr. DeBassio. “But we are also excited about research.” In addition to his interest in the neurophysiology of epilepsy, learning disabilities and behavioral neurology, Dr. DeBassio has had a long-standing interest in the adverse effects of malnutrition on brain development. This interest is supported by a large NIH program project grant for which he performs cutting edge neuroanatomical studies. “We have determined that prenatal malnutrition has unequivocal detrimental effects on the developing brain, and these effects persist throughout life, even if the animals are nutritionally rehabilitated at birth,” he says. “In addition, when these animals are later subjected to stress, the brain responds in an abnormal way, even when nutritional rehabilitation is provided.” This is of great clinical interest because many neurobehavioral disorders, including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), appear to be far more common in children who were malnourished than in those who were not nutritionally deprived.
Dr. DeBassio has been an integral part of developing a fellowship training program in sleep. Interest in sleep started with trying to understand why so many pediatric epilepsy patients have seizures preferentially in sleep. The program expanded from this initial interest to the corollary, why poor sleep makes seizure control more difficult. This exciting field is a rich area for future research and teaching.
Dr. DeBassio feels the Division of Pediatric Neurology at Boston Medical Center is an ideal setting to learn, practice and push the frontiers of child neurology. “We are a personable group that possesses a wide range of expertise,” he says. “In our hospital, you see the entire spectrum of child neurology, which is ideal for someone in training. We follow the tradition of an honored city hospital, housed in a beautiful new facility, with the busiest emergency department in Massachusetts. We see patients from all socioeconomic backgrounds and we live the motto of the hospital ‘Exceptional care without exception.’”
Sharing a campus with Boston University School of Medicine is another very attractive feature. “Our medical school community is especially vibrant, with recent expansion of our neuroscience facilities and the continuing developments of a multidisciplinary bioresearch center.”
The opportunity to train new physicians is also part of the appeal of working at BMC. “Our residents work closely with each of us,” Dr. DeBassio says. “They learn from our experiences and strengths, and we are fortunate to learn from their inquiring enthusiasm. This is a most exciting combination that we look forward to continuing with generations of future trainees.”