Research Horizons


Cincinnati Children’s Doctor and Patient Honored at National Pancreas Foundation Gala 

Maisam Abu-El-Haija, MD, MS, medical director of the Pancreas Care Center at Cincinnati Children’s, and her patient, Bella Pedraja, 14, were both honored at the National Pancreas Foundation’s (NPF) 2023 gala, held April 15, 2023, in Cincinnati.  

Abu-El-Haija received the NPF’s Nobility in Science award for her advancements in pancreatic care at Cincinnati Children’s. Bella was honored with the Courage Award, which is presented to patients who have exemplified a high level of commitment and courage in battling either pancreatic cancer or pancreatitis. 

After a diagnosis of chronic pancreatitis, Bella and her family traveled from Miami to Cincinnati Children’s–ranked #1 in Pediatric Gastroenterology and GI Surgery by U.S. News & World Report–to receive a Total Pancreatectomy with Islet Autotransplantation (TPIAT). This procedure, which involves removal of the pancreas and reconstruction of the gastrointestinal tract, has made it possible for many children like Bella to return to their normal lives without pain. 

While at Cincinnati Children’s, Bella selflessly sought to brighten up the lives of patients and staff members around her by creating “theme days.” These days, which went on for more than a month, included “Dinosaur Thursday”, “May the 4th” (from Star Wars’ popular “may the Force be with you” saying), “Sunflower Sunday”, and “Superhero Sunday” among others.

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In addition, Bella set out to raise money for those needing treatment for pancreatic conditions. To date, she has raised more than $70,000 for Cincinnati Children’s and more than $18,000 for the NPF. 

Read more in our Newsroom

Read a 2020 article about TPIAT led by Dr. Abu-El-Haija in the journal Pancreatology