WUSTL experts available for comment on issues children and parents face each fall

Your kid just got beat up by the fifth-grade bully. Or perhaps you aren’t sure the lunches are healthy enough for your child to be eating. Maybe you’ve even noticed a change in your child’s behavior after returning to school. Washington University has several experts that can comment on any one of these concerns, as well as many others that arise when children are going … back to school, whether it’s kindergarten, high school or college.

Editor’s Note: These experts are available for phone, e-mail and broadcast interviews. Washington University has VYVX and ISDN lines available free for news interviews.

Karen Coburn – topics of expertise include: transitions to and from college, parenting of college-age children, author of “Letting Go – A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years”

Karen Coburn discusses what parents and students need to keep in mind when thinking about the beginning of college.

Coburn is an expert on the college experience. She is co-author of the acclaimed book, “Letting Go: A Parent’s Guide to Understanding the College Years,” which, in its fourth printing, has sold nearly 300,000 copies.

Coburn is often quoted in the national and international media for her tips on helping students and parents make a smooth transition from high school to college – from what to bring, to what to expect, to how to stay in touch.

She can also address issues related to students’ physical and mental health and well-being on campus.

Susan M. Culican, M.D. – topics of expertise include: pediatric opthamology, eye protection, vision and learning

Dr. Culican is assistant professor of ophthalmology and visual sciences at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a pediatric ophthalmologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

You can help your pediatrician monitor your child’s eye health by pointing out any crossing or drifting of the eyes you may see, says Culican.

“Many parents notice eye misalignment or different-colored pupils in photos of their children,” she says. “If you have any question, be sure to take the photos with you to your appointment with your pediatrician or eye-care professional.”

Culican says parents and their child’s pediatrician should work together to make sure the child’s eyes are working the way they should, but parents also need to protect their child’s eyes.

“Racquet sports such as handball, racquetball and squash should never be played without protective eyewear,” she said. “Older children who are allowed to use fireworks should wear something to shield their eyes and should always be supervised by an adult.”

Keith Sawyer – topics of expertise include: collaboration, creativity, group dynamics


R. Keith Sawyer is one of the country’s leading experts on the science of creativity. He studies creativity, everyday conversation, children’s play and everyday social life.

He is particularly interested in group dynamics and collaboration. He is the author of numerous books including “Pretend Play as Improvisation (1997),” “Creating Conversations” (2001) and “Explaining Creativity: The Science of Human Innovation (2006)”.

His topics of research include business innovation, organizational dynamics in work teams, children’s play and preschool, artistic and scientific creativity and language and conversation research.

Neil Harris White, M.D. – topics of expertise include: pediatric diabetes, childhood obesity

Dr. White is professor of pediatrics and of medicine at the School of Medicine in St. Louis and a pediatric endocrinologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

An increasing number of children and teenagers are now obese and are at risk for developing high blood pressure, heart disease and stroke and diabetes, even as children and teenagers. This could be considered an emerging epidemic with significant impact upon the health of our nation and the world, says White.

“There is an emerging epidemic upon us,” says White. “Over the past decade, it has become apparent that type 2 diabetes, previously a disorder primarily of adults, is developing at an alarming rate in teenagers and preteens.”

Connie Diekman – topics of expertise include: nutrition, school lunches, “freshman 15”

Connie Diekman

Connie Diekman works to promote good nutrition and healthy eating through individual consultation. She has been a member of the University staff since 1994.

Diekman earned a BA in foods and nutrition-dietetics from Fontbonne College and a masters in education from the University of Missouri – St. Louis.

She is associated with many organizations devoted to the promotion of healthy lifestyles, such as the American Heart Association, U.S. Public Health Service and the Missouri Dietetic Association. In addition to teaching nutrition courses at area colleges, she has been a nutrition reporter for the local NBC television affiliate and currently appears on FOX-TV locally.

She writes and broadcasts the “Eating Right” minute for WBBM in Chicago. Diekman has had guest appearances on the Oprah Winfrey Show, Good Morning America, and The Today Show.

Susan Sylvia, Ph.D. – topics of expertise include: bullying, childhood relationships

Sylvia is an instructor in clinical pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and a pediatric psychologist at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Schools are paying more attention to bullying than in years past. But there is no substitute for parental involvement. If you have concerns, talk with your child, but keep it open-ended, says Sylvia.

“For instance: rather than asking them, ‘Are you worried about X, Y or Z?,’ ask them to tell you how you feel about going back to school and what are their concerns and worries?,” Sylvia says. “So the child can spontaneously present what’s on his or her mind — rather than copping out by asking ‘yes-no’ questions. Kids are more likely to open up and talk when they’ve been given a little less structure in the conversation.”

Sylvia is available for comment on bullying by contacting Beth Miller in the Office of Medical Public Affairs.

Leonard Bacharier, M.D. – topics of expertise include: food allergies, managing food allergies

Dr. Bachrier is assistant professor of pediatrics at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and an attending physician in pediatric allergy and pulmonary medicine at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

Every year, thousands of parents learn of their children’s food allergies following a reaction that can affect many body systems, including the respiratory system, the gastrointestinal tract, skin or cardiovascular system. About 2 million school age children have a food allergy, and one child in 20 under age 3 has a food allergy.

Food allergies develop when the immune system misinterprets a food as harmful and develops an immune response against the food. Before experiencing an allergic reaction to a food, a child must have been exposed to the food at least once before, which can occur through breast milk. If a child develops allergy antibodies (called IgE) to a food protein, reexposure to that food may be accompanied by a release of histamine and other chemicals. These chemicals produce the allergic symptoms.

Dr. Bachrier is available to comment on food allergies and managing the challenges these allergies present.

H. James Wedner, M.D. – topics of expertise include: managing childhood asthma, sports and asthma, exercising with asthma

Dr. Wedner is a Professor of medicine at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis and chief of the Division of Allergy and Immunology.

Asthma is the No. 1 cause of hospitalizations among children, but with proper management, children can have full participation in school and sporting events. Experts estimate nearly 20 million Americans have asthma, ranging from 7 percent to 12 percent of children. Among African-Americans the rate of asthma is even higher.

Wedner is available for commentary on pediatric asthma and the management of the disease.