Intellectual Developmental Disabilities Research Center History

The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine (JHUSM) and Kennedy Krieger Institute share a long history related to intellectual and developmental disabilities. The Johns Hopkins Hospital was first built in 1889, and the Medical School began its programs in 1893. Its “founding fathers” included William Osler (clinical medicine), William Welsh (pathology), Franklin Paine Mall (anatomy), John Abel (pharmacology), William Halstead (surgery), and Howard Kelly (gynecology), now recognized as giants in the history of American medicine. Soon to follow were the first Department of Psychiatry, School of Public Health, and full time Department of Pediatrics in the U.S. Some 120 years later, the University is the largest single recipient of federal funding for biomedical research. The Hospital has been ranked first in the nation for 21 of the last 22 years by U.S. News and World Report, and currently has 2,550 full time faculty providing care through over 46,000 inpatient admissions and 500,000 outpatient visits per year.

The Children's Rehabilitation Institute (CRI), now Kennedy Krieger Institute, was founded by Dr. Winthrop Phelps, an orthopedic surgeon dedicated to the care of children with cerebral palsy. The original mission was "to treat and care for children with cerebral palsy and to train all personnel in all fields related to the problem." Currently, Kennedy Krieger Institute is one of the world’s foremost centers of excellence for research, training, and clinical services related to intellectual and developmental disabilities and serves over 19,000 children and young adults each year, with over 120,000 clinic visits through seventy-five outpatient clinics, six inpatient units, school programs, and a variety of home- and community-based services. 

A formally designated Research Institute was established within Kennedy Krieger in 1987, with an Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities Research Center. The Center leadership has changed approximately every 8-9 years, with former directors overlapping with new ones, thus ensuring stability, vitality, and orderly succession. The leadership history is as follows: Hugo M. Moser, M.D. (1987-1996); Martha B. Denckla, M.D. (1996-2005); and Michael Cataldo, Ph.D. (2005-present).

The IDDRC currently provides support to scientists throughout the Kennedy Krieger/Hopkins community. All supported projects have goals with clear relevance to developmental disorders, and five Cores offer investigators access to resources typically unavailable elsewhere within our institutions. The IDDRC also draws upon complementary resources for supporting these projects, available through other Core resources established through other mechanisms. Because the IDDRC resides within an exceptionally rich research environment that, by any measure, is exceptionally well-equipped to support our mission, the Center is structured to take full advantage of all those relevant resources. By establishing a nexus for research relevant to developmental disabilities within Kennedy Krieger and Johns Hopkins, the IDDRC stimulates faculty interest and recruits expertise to our field.