Research News

Capes, coloring books welcome littlest ‘research rangers’

Teresa Quattrin helps a child put on a cape during a Summer STEM event at Canalside.

Teresa Quattrin helps a child put on a "Research Ranger" cape during a Summer STEM event at Canalside. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

By ELLEN GOLDBAUM

Published August 5, 2019

“We know it can be a very difficult decision for a parent to consider enrolling their child in a clinical research trial, but there can be such important benefits to enrolling, too. So we decided, why not write a children’s book?”
Teresa Quattrin, UB Distinguished Professor and senior associate dean for research integration
Jacobs School

On a recent sunny morning at Canalside next to the Buffalo River, more than a hundred Western New York children gathered to learn about scientific and medical research. The children, along with their parents, camp counselors and caregivers, were attending Storytime at Canalside, sponsored by Every Person Influences Children (EPIC).

Jamie Rackl, director of family engagement for EPIC, reminds attendees to pick up their free copy of "Sophia Learns About Research." Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

EPIC is a member organization of the community advisory board of the UB’s Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI).

With the theme of “Summer STEM” (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), the event focused on explaining scientific research to the 13-and-under crowd. Children and adults learned how they could be part of medical breakthroughs in Buffalo, courtesy of UB scientists and staff.

The CTSI table featured fun, interactive displays explaining the scientific method. Children received colorful capes identifying them as “research rangers,” as well as informative coloring books called “Sofia Learns About Research,” created by UB’s clinical researchers and designed to educate them and their parents about clinical research and how they can participate.

Available in English, Spanish and Arabic versions, in collaboration with the International Institute of Buffalo, the coloring book tells the story of Sofia, a little girl who has asthma.

"Sofia Learns About Research" coloring books are available in English, Spanish and Arabic from UB's Clinical and Translational Science Institute. Photo: Meredith Kulwicki

Sofia goes to the doctor with her dad and little brother, Michael, and together they learn about how, through clinical research, they might be able to help doctors find better treatments for the disease. The coloring book includes puzzles and other activities, such as crack-the-code and connect-the-dots features.

“Our goal is for children and their parents to learn about clinical research and share in the excitement of the clinical research going on in Buffalo right now,” said Teresa Quattrin, UB Distinguished Professor and senior associate dean for research integration in the Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences at UB.

A key objective for the National Institutes of Health National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, which funds the CTSI in Buffalo and centers like it throughout the U.S., is to improve health and reduce health care disparities in communities.

Mom Ruth Shakkour, Sophie Shakkour (in turquoise-colored "Research Ranger" gear), and Ella Shakkour (in orange). Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

Quattrin, also a physician with UBMD Pediatrics, has spent many decades leading clinical trials aimed at preventing and treating childhood obesity, and on preventing and treating Type 1 and Type 2 diabetes in children. She directs the Special Populations Core of the CTSI, the purpose of which is to increase the numbers of underrepresented patient populations in clinical research — including children and elders — as well as people with social disparities, chronic disorders and cancer survivors.

“We know from our work in pediatric research how difficult it is to recruit children and other underrepresented populations to clinical research,” she said. “We know it can be a very difficult decision for a parent to consider enrolling their child in a clinical research trial, but there can be such important benefits to enrolling, too. So we decided, why not write a children’s book?”

Lilliana Nestark, age 2, prepares to do some serious coloring at the Canalside event. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

Copies of “Sofia Learns About Research” can be obtained by contacting the CTSI Special Populations team at 716-829-6144 or sofiactsi@buffalo.edu.

The book was co-written by Quattrin; Renee Cadzow, an anthropologist at D’Youville College and researcher at UB; and Alexandra Marrone, previously a research assistant, now a UB medical student. Illustrations are by Isabella Bannerman, an award-winning cartoonist currently based out of New York City; graphic design is by Tia Canonico.

Teresa Quattrin helps "Research Ranger" Raven Thomas, age 6, don her cape.

Teresa Quattrin helps "Research Ranger" Raven Thomas, age 6, don her cape. Photo: Nancy J. Parisi

Established in August 2015, the UB Clinical and Translational Science Institute (CTSI) leads the Buffalo Translational Consortium, comprised of UB health sciences schools, leading clinical institutions in the region, research institutes and influential community partners. The CTSI supports advancement of research across the entire translational spectrum — from translating basic science discoveries into health care interventions to clinical trials to bringing these advances into real-world community settings, with an emphasis on engaging our diverse community, inclusive of underrepresented minorities and people with health disparities. The CTSI strives to achieve these ambitious goals through education, innovation, consultation and support.

Visit the Clinical Research website to learn more about participating in clinical trials.

Visit the UB CTSI website to learn about their activities.