Cindy W. Christian, MD Contributed by Cindy W. Christian, MD Dear CHOP Alumni Family,

We are still working our way through this terrible pandemic, and as we approach the spring, I really hope we will soon see a light at the end of this l…o…n…g tunnel. I wish you all well.

In light the ongoing challenges, it is so important to celebrate our colleagues. This edition, as I think of our CHOP Alumni Motto: Keep … Tradition, Keep … in Mind and Keep … in Touch!

Last year, I sat down with Steve Ludwig, MD, for the first faculty interview with CHOP Giants of Care, and it was such a success I’ve decided make this an annual tradition. This year, I’m delighted that Elaine Zackai, MD, agreed to be interviewed. Dr. Zackai has been a geneticist at CHOP for 49 years and is the definition of a Master Clinician; in fact, she was one of the 5 original Master Clinicians named at CHOP. Dr. Zackai is still greatly enjoying her practice and has no intention of retiring any time soon. We discussed the field of genetics and her career at CHOP. I hope you enjoy these edited comments from our conversation (at right).

Keep … in Mind: Getting involved with the Alumni Organization has never been easier, more rewarding, and impactful! I hope you’ll consider making a gift, as well. Visit today.

On a sad note, we share that Dr. Paul Weinberg passed away on October 15, 2020. Dr. Weinberg was a revered clinician, educator, researcher, and mentor as well as a world-renowned expert on the morphology of congenital heart disease. He completed his pediatric training at CHOP in 1972, left for Boston for a cardiology morphology fellowship, and returned to CHOP as faculty in 1977. He taught generations of CHOP alumni about congenital heart disease. Over his tenure as director of the Cardiology Fellowship Training Program, Dr. Weinberg trained more than 140 cardiology fellows. He was a consummate educator, reflected by the many teaching awards he won. Dr. Weinberg is remembered for his multiple contributions to the care of children, his commitment to trainees, and his expertise on congenital heart disease.

And finally, Keep ... in Touch! The Pediatric Academic Society annual meeting is virtual this year and so is our annual alumni gathering at PAS. Set aside Saturday, May 1, 5 to 6 p.m. for a virtual get together. Email to RSVP and receive the link to our event. If you are attending PAS, be sure to stop by CHOP’s virtual booth in the exhibit hall.

Please, please send me an email with a career update. I would LOVE to highlight the work of our great CHOP alumni here, but can only do so if you reach out! My email is, and I’m constantly checking email, so send your news my way. Also, if you have recently scheduled a virtual get-together, let us know so we can showcase it and share your CHOP memories. Until next time, stay safe, work hard (but not too hard), find time to enjoy life, and know that this too shall pass.

Interview with Elaine Zackai, MD

Elaine H. Zackai, MD Elaine H. Zackai, MD I can’t think of a field in Pediatrics that has changed more over the past 50 years than genetics. So many of the clinical syndromes you have identified for decades have now been characterized by their genetic code. What is most remarkable to you about the advances in genetics over your career?

We’re finally able to find answers. We are able to reassure the mothers that there’s nothing they did or didn’t do to make the problem happen. Things that they’ve carried on in their minds, like the odor in the street, a new soap, the car stopped short. Yes, these things happen, true, true and unrelated.

What is CHOP like now compared to when you first started almost half a century ago?

I started in 1972 in the old hospital. You were able to take care of much of the medical business on the staircase going up and down four floors. Now, of course, this is replaced by email, and it’s better on the shoe leather!

What has been most surprising about your career?

Always able to be challenged and learn new things. No patient and family are exactly alike.

What are you most proud of in your career?

The number of fellows I have been able to train and the positions they ended up in. I won the national mentorship award, which was inaugural from the American Society of Human Genetics in 2016. The fellows had shirts made which read ‘I was trained by Elaine.’ In 2019, I won the research mentorship award at CHOP.

You have been an inspiration to generations of pediatricians and a mentor to generations of geneticists. What are your secrets to being a successful mentor?

Always treat people equally. Have them go as far as they can go. Be hands on and positive. Hopefully your enthusiasm will rub off on them. Never drop a case. If you don’t have an answer, you have a dialing finger—now it’s a texting one—and ask.

What do you look forward to in the upcoming years, and where do you think your field of genetics is headed? What keeps you so enthusiastic about your work?

I look forward to personalized medicine, more therapies, better prenatal monitoring, and better couple screening. I keep young thinking of myself as a PGY53. I find CHOP a very supportive environment.
Everyone has an attitude of ‘How can I help you get ahead?’ rather than stepping on or over you to aggrandize themselves.

Thank you, Dr. Zackai!

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