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Inside the NICHD with Dr. Valerie Maholmes

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Dr. Maholmes oversees the Pediatric Trauma and Critical Illness Branch (PTCIB) at the NICHD. In this Inside the NICHD feature, she speaks about her work. Listen to Dr. Maholmes talk about the factors that can affect children’s performance in school.


Audio recording (MP3 - 1.2 MB)


Dr. Maholmes: I served two terms on the school board in New Haven, and that was quite an education, and I think that that also helped me to really see the big picture of family life. So, school outcomes was a proxy for me for other kinds of factors that needed to be taken into consideration. So, a child who doesn’t do well in school―and this kind of takes me back to my early life as an admissions director―a child who doesn’t do well in school is not because the child can’t read, doesn’t have the physical capacity to read, to compute, to understand, to comprehend, but there are so many other factors that might impinge on the child’s ability to do well in school.

So when I see a poor outcome, it raises a red flag for me that there is something else operating here. And to the extent that we’re willing as a society to acknowledge that there are other things that are operating that might get in the way of a child’s ability to be successful, then we can perhaps find creative ways to help. But as long as we want to just say that these kids from these families from these communities don’t do well in school, don’t get jobs, wind up being involved with the juvenile justice system, and not drill down a little deeper to try to understand what else is operating, I think we do a disservice to, not only to those children and families, but to ourselves as a society.


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