Developmental-behavioral specialist makes exemplary contributions for patients with Down syndrome

Patient Care |

03/27/2024

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Marilyn Bull, MD, developmental-behavioral physician at Riley Children's Health, earns national recognition for Down syndrome work.

Renowned developmental and behavioral pediatrician at Riley Children’s Health, Marilyn J. Bull, MD, exemplifies what it means to be a leader, educator, clinician and researcher in her field. For four decades and counting, she has honed her expertise in the realm of developmental pediatrics, particularly for reshaping and revamping the landscape for children with Down syndrome. Thanks to her work, Dr. Bull is the recent recipient of the William Cohen Distinguished Service Award, an honor established by the Down Syndrome Medical Interest Group (DSMIG) to recognize an individual who has made monumental, multifaceted contributions to the care of people with Down syndrome.

Dr. Bull’s remarkable journey at Riley Children’s, starting in 1976, is characterized by her pivotal role in enhancing the quality of care for children with Down syndrome. As a mentor within the DSMIG, a network of physicians focused on enhancing the care for patients with Down syndrome, Dr. Bull’s most significant achievement lies in her leadership in developing evidence-based guidelines for the condition. This work, in collaboration with the American Academy of Pediatrics, stands as the cornerstone of Down syndrome literature, which has improved the lives significantly for individuals and their families. Ensuring their relevance and efficacy, Dr. Bull has worked to perfect these guidelines, where she’s consistently updated them to further promote the health and wellness of patients with Down syndrome.

“Those who know Marilyn, know she never stops,” Richard Schreiner, MD said, former chairman of the Department of Pediatrics at Indiana University School of Medicine. “She always volunteers her time and expertise to improve the care of people with Down syndrome.”

As well, Dr. Bull’s long-time expertise in developmental medicine extends to much more. Notably, her authoritative review on Down syndrome in the New England Journal of Medicine–the only one ever published in the preeminent journal in medicine–underscores her stature as a leading figure in her field. And despite this profound impact on Down syndrome research, Dr. Bull always remains approachable, compassionate and deeply committed to patients’ overall wellbeing–a testament to her exemplary character and dedication to her craft, according to her colleagues.

“She’s mentored a whole lot of people over the years–medical students, residents, young faculty, the whole range,” Abby Klemsz, MD said, a developmental-behavioral pediatrician at Riley Children’s. “People who’ve grown up become–hopefully–like her.”

Lending expertise in automotive safety for children

Beyond her Down syndrome work, Dr. Bull is a pioneer in automotive safety for children, where she developed the Riley Automotive Safety Program to inform about the imperative automotive safety protocols for kids. Through strategic partnerships and external funding, she catalyzed the establishment of the National Center for Safe Transportation of Children with special needs. To date, Dr. Bull is the person most responsible for getting the first Infant Car Seat Law passed in Indiana, and she has lectured at national and international conferences on traffic safety for kids in all 50 states and 14 countries.

Her efforts combined, Dr. Bull’s notable achievements around developmental pediatrics reaffirm Riley Children’s commitment to excellence as a leader and trailblazer in pediatric medicine. Today, we celebrate her enduring legacy as a developmental-behavioral pediatrician, commemorating her indelible contributions throughout her decades-long career.

About developmental medicine at Riley Children’s

Highly trained developmental specialists at Riley Children’s care for patients with neurodevelopmental conditions, including those who may have emotional or behavioral concerns. Key distinctions include:

  • Home to the only psychologist in Indiana trained in the Early Start Denver Model behavioral therapy program for children with autism
  • Home to one of only eight neurodevelopmental disabilities residency training programs worldwide
  • Access to leading-edge technologies for genetic testing, including exome and genome sequencing

Learn more about Developmental Medicine at Riley Children's.

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Marilyn J. Bull, MD

Developmental - Behavioral Pediatrics