Timothy Buie, M.D. ’84, had some help from family when deciding his career choice. His father, for instance, was a physician in Kansas City and mentored a number of medical students. “I really think I’m a physician because my dad was a good physician and he really inspired us to serve,” Buie said.
And then there was his brother, Steve, now a Kansas City-area family medicine physician, who graduated from the School of Medicine the year before. Buie joked that he thought he’d become an actor until Steve told him, “It just doesn’t pay,” and handed him an application to the School of Medicine.
Today, Buie is a renowned pediatric gastroenterologist at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and is one of the country’s leading authorities on medical conditions in children with autism.
His work with children who battle developmental and gastrointestinal problems led Buie to create a teaching curriculum that includes guidelines for parents and health care providers regarding behaviors of children with autism that may represent pain or other underlying medical issues. He has received numerous awards for his achievements, and the School of Medicine added to those on May 19 by presenting him with the 2015 E. Grey Dimond, M.D., Take Wing Award.
“I think those who knew me then would not have expected me to receive the Take Wing Award, let me tell you. But I’m really grateful,” Buie said. “My class was really an exceptional class and there are an awful lot of people who ‘took wing.’ ”
While the understanding of autism has evolved, Buie said that knowledge has also served as an interesting model when thinking about other chronic diseases, as there is a good deal of overlap with other conditions.
Buie said the pediatrics textbook he used in school said autism occurred in one out of every 5,000 individuals. More recent reports claim one in 68 individuals have some form of autism spectrum disorder, According to Buie, the numbers are continuing to rise with an added burden of an annual $60 billion used to care for and support autistic children and adults.
“We are seeing a higher frequency of autism, a lot of psychiatric disorders and other developmental disabilities. They are overwhelming our system,” he said.
Buie currently serves as director of gastroenterology and nutrition at the Lurie Center for Autism at the Massachusetts General Hospital for Children and is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
He has recently created a video series “Office Hours with Dr. Tim Buie,” co-produced with Autism Speaks, the world’s leading autism science and advocacy organization. The videos explore a variety of medical conditions often seen in autistic children and include rare footage of patient examinations to help illustrate these conditions. Buie said the series has received an overwhelming response from families and physicians as an online learning tool. The videos and question/answer sessions for each installment are available at AutismSpeaks.org.