Research Pediatric Urology
The UCLA Department of Urology is committed to ongoing Pediatric Urology research in a quest to develop new treatments and cures for all urologic conditions, along with a commitment to educate and train the next generation of leading physicians and scientists.
Kathy Huen, MD, MPH
During urological training, Dr. Huen came to realize the complex interplay of social determinants, healthcare organization, and health inequities in surgical care that directly impacted a child’s long-term outcome after surgery, at times decades after. Dr. Huen is specifically interested in addressing the gaps in care delivery of adolescents and young adults with congenital conditions of the genitourinary tract. Collaborating with the Surgical Health Disparities Workgroup at Children’s Hospital of Orange County/ UC Irvine, Dr. Huen is examining the impact of age on the rate of emergency department visits and the rate of inpatient admissions in individuals with spina bifida, using Cerner Real World Data, a national, de-identified, person-centric, longitudinal electronic medical record data of 120 contributing institutions. In the future, she is interested in exploring how clinicians may improve sexual and reproductive health counseling in women with spina bifida.
Dr. Huen is also drawn to opportunities to identify, address and achieve positive outcomes that will have a lasting impact on children with urological conditions. With the belief that sound clinical research in pediatric urology will involve collaboration across institutions for exchanges of ideas and pooling of data on rarer diseases, Dr. Huen is studying the impact of pre-operative tamsulosin administration on successful navigation of the ureter on first-pass ureteroscopy within a consortium of pediatric urological institutions across the country (Western Pediatric Urology Consortium). Children have ureters of smaller diameter than adults. In the uncommon scenario that a child develops a kidney stone, frequently a ureteral stent is pre-placed in the first operation, and the pediatric urologist awaits four to six weeks prior to performing a second operation for stone removal. Pre-operative tamsulosin has the potential to help children and families avoid an operation and associated anesthesia, as well as the stent discomfort that typically follows a stent placement.
Since being recruited to join UCLA Urology, Dr. Renea Sturm, Assistant Professor of Urology, has divided her time between seeing pediatric urology patients and building a collaborative translational research program. Dr. Sturm’s work as a basic and translational scientist is primarily focused on improving monitoring and treatment options for children with lower urinary tract conditions. As a surgeon-scientist with an interest in minimally invasive surgery, she is particularly motivated to apply basic science and technological advancements to improve equity, quality and consistency in surgical care for children across diverse healthcare settings.Among the ways Dr. Sturm hopes to improve outcomes is through tissue engineering. In collaboration with researchers in bioengineering and chemical engineering at UCLA (Drs. Song Li and Nasim Annabi), Dr. Sturm is developing “bio-inspired” tissue within the lab, based on the mechanical, structural and biologic characteristics of the healthy urethra. As an inventor, Dr. Sturm is working with a research team at the Terasaki Institute (Dr. Khademhosseini) to also develop a biodegradable surgical repair device to minimize postoperative risks following complex lower urinary tract reconstructive procedures. This novel device distributes the wound tension across an incision to provide external support for tissue repairs, whether open or robotic. Such devices aim to allow children to improve consistent improvement in surgical outcomes, decrease the risk of technical complications and resume their normal activities faster after a surgery is performed.
Dr. Bernard Churchill, Professor Emeritus and founding director of Clark Morrison Children's Urological Center at UCLA, focused his research efforts in the area of pediatric urology. In particular, he collaborated with UCLA Human Genetics on a multi-institutional grant awarded by The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development for the establishment of a registry for Disorders of Sex Development (DSD). In addition to UCLA, this award involved multiple sites (University of Michigan, with Dr. David Sandberg, co-PI, UCSF and University of Washington, Seattle), and was the first to tackle the standardization of genetic, endocrine and imaging diagnosis of DSD, the investigation of psychosocial outcomes, and the delivery of best practices for the care of children and adults with DSD.