The program has grown into a powerful campaign that raises awareness about early diagnosis.
(Berlin, Vermont, October 2019) Gwendolyn Shelton, MD, shared first place honors in the Vasculitis Foundation’s (VF’s) 2019 Recognizing Excellence in Diagnostics (V-RED) award program. With her diagnosis, doctors started treatment early enough to prevent a young woman’s vasculitis from progressing and causing more systemic damage.
In March of 2008, during her freshman year in high school, Meaghan Carpenter began exhibiting peripheral neuropathy in her legs, in addition to chronic asthma and allergy issues that didn’t appear to have any common thread. Eventually, Carpenter’s pain grew worse and she was admitted to the pediatric ward at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Doctors controlled her pain with morphine, but they were unable to pinpoint the diagnosis. Fortunately, Dr. Shelton, who was a pediatric hospitalist on her medical team, felt that Carpenter’s case needed more in-depth investigation. When none of the potential diagnoses in the hospital’s computer produced any leads, Dr. Shelton turned to the internet for clues with more success. A website suggested Churg-Strauss syndrome, now called eosinophilic granulomatosis with polyangiitis.
Dr. Shelton contacted one of her former residency supervisors, Wilmer Sibbitt, MD, for advice (he later became Carpenter’s first rheumatologist). Dr. Sibbitt agreed with her conclusions, and with Dr. Shelton’s diagnosis, the doctors at Presbyterian Hospital began treatment. “Dr. Shelton looked outside the box, took my case home with her and saved me years of potential misdiagnosis,” said Carpenter. “Thanks to her investigation, my disease was identified and brought under control. I’ve been able to live an almost normal life. I’ll never forget what she did for me.”
Currently a pediatrician at Central Vermont Medical Center in Berlin, Dr. Shelton earned her medical degree at the University of Vermont Larner College of Medicine and completed her pediatric residency at the University of New Mexico. She served as a pediatric hospitalist at Presbyterian Hospital in Albuquerque and was founder/director, Inpatient Child Advocacy, responsible for consultations, and civil and criminal testimony for hospitalized children suffering abuse or neglect. Dr. Shelton is a member of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
Karen Hirsch, past-president of the VF Board of Directors, is particularly encouraged by the V-RED award program’s success. After her son, Michael, received an early diagnosis of vasculitis, Hirsch created the award to bring special recognition to medical professionals in a broad range of clinical specialties. She believes the award increases awareness among medical peers. The program calls on patients worldwide to nominate a medical professional they want to recognize for making a critical, early diagnosis of vasculitis, thus enabling timely treatment, and potentially sparing permanent and ongoing health complications. With more nominations than ever before, the program, now in its sixth year, has grown into a powerful campaign that raises awareness about early diagnosis.
Building upon the collective strength of the vasculitis community, the Vasculitis Foundation supports, inspires and empowers individuals with vasculitis and their families through a wide range of education, research, clinical, and awareness initiatives.