UC Davis Children’s Hospital seeks to improve the health and well being of youth through accessible health care services for adolescents in the context of their family, culture and community.
Adolescent medicine is a medical subspecialty that focuses on care of patients who are in adolescent development, generally ranging from the last years of elementary school until graduation from high school. It incorporates aspects of gynecology, endocrinology, sports medicine, nutrition, dermatology and psychology. Issues with a high prevalence during adolescence include:
- Sexually transmitted disease (working with specialists in pediatric endocrinology, adolescent obstetrics and gynecology, immunology infectious diseases, and urology and reproductive medicine)
- Substance abuse
- Menstrual disorders, such as amenorrhea, dysmenorrhea and dysfunctional uterine bleeding
- Acne (working with specialists in dermatology)
- Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa and bulimia nervosa (working with nutritionists and dieticians, and also specialists in pediatric mental health counseling, clinical psychology, and pediatric psychiatry)
- Mental illnesses, such as personality disorders, anxiety disorders, major depression and suicide, bipolar disorder, and certain types of schizophrenia (working with mental health counselors, clinical psychologists, and pediatric psychiatrists specializing in adolescent health care)
- Delayed or precocious puberty (working with specialists in adolescent pediatric endocrinology and urology)
Coordinating this matrix of issues and specialists is Pediatric Clinic Medical Director Daniel S. Martineau, a UC Davis associate professor whose clinical interests include adolescent gynecology, sports medicine, and adolescents with chronic diseases.
UC Davis Children’s Hospital researchers are conducting a variety of investigations involving adolescent medicine, including studies on teens with attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). One recent study found that adolescents with ADHD are less likely to finish high school on time. Nearly one third of students with ADHD, twice the proportion as students with no psychiatric disorder, either drop out or delay high school graduation.
Working in conjunction with Shriners Hospitals for Children-Northern California, other researchers are exploring a groundbreaking device that uses magnets to correct sunken chest, the most common congenital chest-wall abnormality. Some patients suffer serious emotional difficulties and low self-esteem because the condition often worsens during adolescence, when young people are especially concerned about their physical appearance.
Sunken chest is a deformity of the cartilage that connects the ribs to the breastbone. The deformed cartilage pulls the breastbone inward, giving the chest a caved in or sunken appearance. The new procedure involves placing a surgically embedded magnet about the size of a quarter just under the skin on the surface of the patient’s breastbone. A second magnet is housed in a brace outside the chest, creating a constant magnetic force field that applies a controlled, consistent pull on the magnet on the sternum, pulling the breastbone outward.
The innovative HealthShack program helps homeless Sacramento-area youth track their health information records, which can otherwise seem like a daunting task to an adolescent who is homeless or in foster care, or who has aged out of foster care and doesn’t have health insurance. For these teens, HealthShack provides a place to put health and other personal records where they’re just a passcode and mouse click away.
Adolescent services are available throughout the UC Davis Health System. For instance, the UC Davis Adolescent & Young Adult Cancer Advisory Board at the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center provides a voice for adolescent and young adult cancer patients and survivors by developing educational programs for adolescent and young adult cancer patients and survivors.