Serve children and adults who suffer from genetic and other complex medical disorders by providing comprehensive medical, laboratory, and consultative services, and by increasing and disseminating knowledge of science and medicine.
Since its founding in 1989, the Clinic for Special Children (CSC) has endeavored to bring compassionate clinical care to children and adults with complex medical disorders. While CSC’s focus is the treatment and research of disorders identified in Old Order Amish and Mennonite communities, the impact of CSC’s clinical and research work has been felt all over the world.
Over three decades later, the Clinic is still thriving on the cutting edge of genomic research.
Although CSC was founded to treat metabolic disorders, the organization now treats patients with genetic disorders of all types. CSC is envisioned as a comprehensive medical practice for patients, meaning they can see physicians knowledgeable about their disorder for all their medical needs and not just for the management of their genetic disorder. In order to enhance this idea, CSC has forged collaborative relationships with individual physicians and healthcare organizations to provide affordable specialty care on-site, making services more accessible to families.
In order to provide high-quality, cost effective care to vulnerable communities, CSC has integrated advanced laboratory techniques into every day primary medical care. CSC operates a CLIA-certified clinical laboratory licensed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. While CSC’s laboratory was originally focused on biochemical assays, such as urine organic acids, its scope has expanded to being able to conduct on-site biochemical and genetic testing. These resources allow CSC clinicians to quickly diagnose genetic disorders with custom genetic tests designed in-house by CSC’s laboratory team.
The integration of clinical and laboratory services has generated many opportunities for research and scholarly work. CSC staff have collaborated with many institutions to conduct ground breaking research and have co-authored over 125 peer reviewed publications. In 2017, a research operations group was established to manage CSC’s research. Research projects have included natural history studies, gene variant detection, and clinical trials. Most recently CSC has participated as a clinical site in multi-center gene therapy trials. All research at CSC is focused on translating knowledge gained from clinical research and laboratory studies into clinical benefit for the patients served by the organization.
CSC has grown from a couple of employees to a staff of over 25 which serves over 1,100 active patients. CSC is a non-profit organization with a volunteer board of directors that oversees all operations. The board of directors is led by Herman Bontrager, Board Chair. Day-to-day management of the organization is accomplished by a core leadership team consisting of:
- Karlla Brigatti, MS, CGC – Research Operations Director
- Vincent Carson, MD – Clinical Operations Director
- Adam D. Heaps, MS, MBA – Executive Director
- Erik G. Puffenberger, PhD – Laboratory Director
- Emily Seitz – Development Director
- Kevin A. Strauss, MD – Medical Director
Internationally recognized as an innovative medical and scientific organization, the Clinic for Special Children has remained on the cutting edge of genomic and translational medicine. It’s because of the innovative and pioneering nature of the organization that CSC can provide the best care possible to patients and their families. For over 31 years CSC has remained focused on its most important task: providing care to vulnerable individuals with genetic disease.
In the late 1980s Dr. Holmes Morton, a Harvard trained pediatrician, was pursuing a biochemical fellowship at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). During the fellowship, he diagnosed an Amish child with Glutaric Acidemia type-1 (GA-1). He would then go on to diagnose another 16 patients from the Amish community with GA-1 as well as individuals with another rare disorder called Maple Syrup Urine Disease (MSUD) in Lancaster’s Old Order Mennonite population. These disorders were neurologically devastating and many children suffered greatly from these diseases.
In order to provide local, affordable services Dr. Morton and his wife Caroline partnered with the local Amish and Mennonite communities to found the non-profit Clinic for Special Children in 1989. In 1990, the original post-and-beam style building was raised largely by volunteers from the Plain communities. In 2000, an expansion was added to the original building, adding more office and exam room space. After many years of distinguished service, Dr. and Mrs. Morton departed the organization in 2016.
Help us to continue to provide patients with timely, affordable and effective care!
Our clinic serves as a trusted medical home for families working to prevent and treat genetic illness in their children. Serving predominantly Amish and Mennonite families, the sturdy, timber-framed building was "raised" by the hands of those in the Anabaptist community outside of Strasburg, PA. Inside the clinic is filled with an array of high-tech gene sequencing that allows us to deliver state of the art care in a nurturing environment.