In Their Own Words: A Doctor’s Perspective

Bernard Maria, MD, MBA, Director of the Division of Child Neurology and Developmental Medicine at Goryeb Children’s Hospital in Morristown, NJ, part of the Atlantic Health System, has been recognized with the 2018 Hower Award, the highest recognition from the Child Neurology Society. This prestigious award is given yearly to one member of the Child Neurology Society who is highly regarded by peers as an outstanding teacher and scholar. There is a particular emphasis on contributions to child neurology the national and international level.

Dr. Maria is a Fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, Elected Active Member of The Society for Pediatric Research and the American Pediatric Society.

He sees many patients with Tourette Syndrome and often refers their family to NJCTS for advocacy and education services. Recently, he took a few minutes out of his day to talk to us about the importance of TS awareness among medical professionals and the current state of treatment options.

As part of our Education Outreach program, NJCTS has developed a Grand Rounds presentation to educate medical students and doctors about Tourette, as well as an in-service presentation for educators. How important is it that families receive more informed treatment and that teachers have more awareness of the disorder?

There are many myths and misunderstandings about tics and Tourette syndrome. TS can be disruptive to young students and their classmates, and often to the teachers who have little or no experience with tic disorders.  So I think that presentations to educate medical students and other practitioners, as well as teachers, about the spectrum of Tourette’s syndrome is very important.

Do you feel that patients are receiving an earlier diagnosis of Tourette syndrome now than in the past?

It is not clear to me if patients are being diagnosed with TS at earlier ages. Every child who has Tourette syndrome has at some point in time had tics for less than 1 year with the hope that they will abate on their own, which is sometimes the case with provisional tics.  I think that the focus on tics distracts somewhat from attending to the comorbid conditions which are often much more disruptive including inattention, anxiety, insomnia, and accompanying learning disorders as well as OCD.

Do you recommend that a patient has a TEAM of professionals? Pediatrician, neurologist, psychologist, etc.   

It can certainly take a village and I think that the partnership between the primary care practitioner, the child neurologist or neuropsychologist is critical.

Why did you take an interest in TS as a doctor?  

I have been practicing Pediatric Neurology for 34 years and have had the privilege of serving children and families with a range of tic disorders and Tourette syndrome.  In the early stages of my career development, I completed my neurology training under Dr. Harvey Singer at Johns Hopkins Hospital who sensitized me to the condition and how best to manage it.  Dr. Singer and I have worked on International conferences together, advancing the field and developing young investigators who are addressing key unanswered questions about the disorder.

What do you see for the future of TS diagnosis and treatments?   

As is true with many conditions now, genetics is likely to play a more central role in identifying risk factors for developing tics and Tourette syndrome and helping us understand how targeted therapies, behavioral or pharmacologic, might be more effective in managing the condition.

Thank you Dr. Maria!

Visit Dr. Maria’s practice here: https://findmyamgdoctor.atlantichealth.org/provider/Bernard+Maria/641326

The NJCTS Physicians Referral List contains contact information for doctors treating TS and associated disorders across New Jersey and beyond.  Please call 908.575.7350 for additional information.