Doctor Turns Talent to War against Add

Article excerpt

AT PRECISELY noon on June 25, 1994, Jeff Schulman had a life-altering revelation.

Schulman, a pediatric allergist, was sitting in a lecture on children with learning and attention problems.

The lecturer was Dr. Mel Levine, director of the Clinical Center for the Study of Development and Learning at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, and author of several books on learning disorders.

"As I listened to Levine talk, I suddenly knew that this was what I wanted to do with my life," Schulman said.

Within hours, Schulman, 47, went home and drafted a detailed proposal for his own development and learning clinic. Then he drew a floor plan.

Schulman shuttered his 17-year allergy practice and signed on for a nine-month fellowship in developmental and behavioral pediatrics with Levine.

Two weeks ago, Schulman's new enterprise, the Gateway Center for Development and Learning, opened at 605 Old Ballas Road in Creve Coeur. The not-for-profit center - the first in this area - offers evaluations of developmental and learning problems, academic tutoring, parenting classes and counseling for children, adolescents and adults. Start-up costs for the center were more than $200,000.

Schulman is no stranger to high-stakes medical entrepreneurship. In 1985, he founded Physicians Health Plan, and was its board chairman through 1994. To bring his business skills up to speed for that venture, Schulman got his MBA from Washington University in 1988.

But Schulman's interest in his current project is as much personal as professional. Having family members with attention and learning problems, Schulman knew firsthand the frustrations of the fragmented approach to treatment.

"There is no child with an attention deficit or learning disability whose family is not affected," he said. "It affects all their relationships, all their routines. The parent has to assume the role of advocate for the child with doctors, psychologists and teachers, while playing the role of adversary at home. That is the main thing that motivated me."

The prevalence and treatment of attention deficit disorder, or ADD, is controversial. According to the national advocacy organization - Children and Adults With Attention Deficit Disorders, or CHADD - 3 percent to 5 percent of children have attention problems of neurobiological origin. Problems in school, depression and even drug abuse have been linked to ADD. …