May 19, 2015

Something big is coming to Texas Children’s starting June 5.

Something we’ve never done before. And you’ll want to be there. Stay tuned to Connect for more details.

Save the date for something big, audacious and maybe even a little bit fun.

Friday, June 5
Texas Children’s Hospital Main Campus
7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
10 a.m. to 11 a.m.

Monday, June 8
Texas Children’s Hospital Main Campus
3:30 p.m. to 4:30 p.m.
6 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.

Monday, June 22
Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus
7:30 a.m. to 8:30 a.m.
9:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

Summer, Fall and Winter 2015/2016
Your Texas Children’s location

Stay tuned to Connect for more information over the next couple weeks.


By: Dr. Charles Fraser, Jr.

It’s hard to imagine how precious the bond between a grandparent and grandchild is until it is personally experienced. For my wife, Helen, and me, that unforgettable moment occurred on April 10, 2015.

It all started with an early morning wake-up call from our son-in-law, David, who told us Laura was having contractions and suggested we head to the hospital. At 1:30 a.m., Helen and I – and several of our family members – hurried to Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women where we waited anxiously for the birth of our first grandchild. I say “grandchild” because none of us knew – nor did Laura and David know – whether they were having a boy or a girl…..until three hours later.

fraserAfter much anticipation, Laura gave birth to our adorable grandson, George Henry Nachtigall, at 4:40 a.m. He weighed 8 pounds and 14 ounces. When we visited Laura and David in the labor and delivery room, our hearts melted when we laid eyes on our grandson for the first time. We were overjoyed as we took turns cradling him in our arms. We were so happy for Laura and David to become new parents, and we were thrilled to assume our new roles as doting grandparents to George Henry.

What made this a truly remarkable experience was watching the outstanding care Laura received from her team of physicians and nurses at the Pavilion for Women. While it’s very rare for me to be on the labor and delivery floors – I am in the NICU a lot – I was overwhelmed by the nurturing atmosphere and the family-centered care my daughter received during her stay. Helen and I were so impressed that we sent an email to Texas Children’s CEO Mark A. Wallace chronicling our daughter’s experience and our experience at the Pavilion for Women.

The Pavilion for Women is truly an amazing place. Before its historic opening in 2012, I remember the early dialogues and the meticulous planning that went into building such a wonderful state-of-the-art facility. From a gaping hole in the ground, I watched the entire construction progress from my 19th floor office window in West Tower. Since my grandson’s birth, I’ve gained a new appreciation of why so many families, like my own, choose to deliver their babies at the Pavilion for Women.

My grandson, George Henry, is a little over a month old now. As a new grandfather, it’s fun thinking about all the things this little guy has brought to our family. He is such a joy to be around, and he is definitely the center of attention for me and Helen. George Henry’s great grandfather, Dr. Denton A. Cooley, adores him too.

Laura and David are doing well. They are learning how to be new parents and we’re learning how to be new grandparents, and as you can tell, we love every minute of it.


Two researchers from the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s – Dr. Benjamin Deneen and Dr. Olivier Lichtarge – were among the five Baylor College of Medicine faculty members honored with the 2015 Michael E. Debakey, M.D., Excellence in Research Award. Their work represents the college’s most significant published scientific contributions to clinical or basic research during the past three years.

The award, named in honor of the college’s first president and pioneering heart surgeon Dr. Michael E. DeBakey, was presented to the recipients at a ceremony and symposium May 6. The awardees received a commemorative medallion and funds from the Debakey Medical Foundation to support their research.

52015DebakeyAagaard175Dr. Kjersti Aagaard

Dr. Kjersti Aagaard is an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology in the section of maternal fetal medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women.

Aagaard’s research examined the effect of in utero exposures on the health of generations of offspring, particularly in the field of obesity. Her widely cited paper on the placental microbiome appeared in the journal Science Translational Medicine and showed that the placenta harbors a rich community of microrganisms, a finding that has implications for normal and abnormal pregnancy outcomes, including premature labor.

52015DebakeyDeneen175Dr. Benjamin Deneen

Dr. Benjamin Deneen is a researcher at the Dan and Jan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s and associate professor of neuroscience at Baylor College of Medicine

Deneen has focused his most recent work on developmental gliogenesis and how this process applies to glial-based diseases of the central nervous system. This translational approach has focused on the NFI (nuclear family 1) transcription factors, and he recently found that NFIA is regulated by the transcription factor SOX9, which mediates the genesis of glial cells. He went on to identify this unique set of genes that regulate key aspects of the molecular processes that control glial generation. From there, he determined the roles of NFIA expression and the proliferation of glial precursors, both during development and tumor initiation. A new mouse model enabled him to better understand the role of NFIA in the generation of glioma subtypes and thus to argue for the convergence of development and cancer.

52015DebakeyKheradmand175Dr. Farrah Kheradmand

Dr. Farrah Kheradmand is a professor of medicine (pulmonary) at Baylor College of Medicine.

Kheradmand has devoted her professional career to the study of emphysema, the third leading cause of death in the United States. With most of her clinical work taking place at the Michael E. DeBakey VA Medical Center, she has used patient samples to characterize the immune makeup of those who have this deadly disease, contributing to the pipeline for translational research at the DeBakey VA Medical Center.

Using a pre-clinical model of emphysema in mice, she discovered the product of T-cells in the emphysema-stricken lungs start the chemical cascade that results in focal lung collapse, a hallmark of the disease.

A second study demonstrated the autoimmune basis of emphysema and a third showed that reduced levels of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor gamma in smoker’s lung promotes emphysema through the release of a particular cytokine that enhances the autoimmune effect. In addition, work with her collaborator Dr. David Corry, professor of medicine at Baylor, has enabled her to make seminal discoveries in the area of asthma.

52015lichtarge175Dr. Olivier Lichtarge

Dr. Olivier Lichtarge is a researcher at the Dan and Jan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s and professor of molecular and human genetics at Baylor College of Medicine. He is also director of Baylor’s Computation and Integrative Biomedical Research Center.

Lichtarge focuses his computational work on the molecular basis of protein function and interaction, the design of peptides and proteins with new functions and the interpretation of genome variations in health and disease. In a recent paper, he and his colleague demonstrated how high throughput of functional information, such as protein expression and interaction, can be integrated into a single gene network.

They invented a compression technique to shrink the size of the network, using it to determine the molecular function of the malarial gene Exp-1 as a glutathione-s-transferase. This led to the discovery that artemisinin, the malaria drug of choice, inhibits the activity of this gene – important because the drug is an herbal derivative of unknown mechanism to which malaria in southeast Asia is becoming resistant.

In a second paper, Lichtarge and his colleagues took on the problem of “big literature” using the protein p53 as an example. They developed a technology tool based on IBM’s Watson supercomputer and mined the scientific literature to extract important data related to the protein.

A third paper took on the most basic problem in biology – how phenotype relates to genotype, and in practice, it shows how to best interpret exome variations among individuals to bring about the personalization of medicine.

52015Xin175Dr. Li Xin

Dr. Li Xin is an associate professor of molecular and cell biology at Baylor College of Medicine.

Xin’s research has concentrated on the initiation of prostate cancer as it is affected by inflammation that alters prostate lineage differentiation. His work has identified the dual nature of the Notch protein in prostate disease – suppressing proliferation of the prostate basal cell while inducing luminal cell hyperproliferation, showing how this critical protein affects prostate cancer initiation.

Dr. Xin’s work provides a critical insight into the nature of prostate cancer in an area that has been understudied, and his future work promises to bring new clarity to prostate stem cell biology and the metastasis of this difficult disease.


The American Broncho-Esophagological Association (ABEA) recently honored Dr. Ellen Friedman by renaming its Presidential Citation for Excellence in Foreign Body Management to the Ellen M. Friedman Award for Excellence in Foreign Body Management. The honor was announced at the organization’s 95th annual meeting.

Friedman has been an otolaryngologist with Texas Children’s for more than 20 years. She also is director of the Center for Professionalism in Medicine and is a professor of Otolaryngology at Baylor College of Medicine.

The Ellen M. Friedman Award for Excellence in Foreign Body Management award was named after Friedman to acknowledge her leadership within the ABEA and her expertise in foreign body management. The award is intended to encourage continued leadership in endoscopic foreign body management and it is given annually to a person who submits a winning paper that describes excellence in innovation, skill and education in the management of aero-digestive foreign bodies.


Almost 300 clinicians in the Department of Surgery attended the sixth annual Edmond T. Gonzales Jr., Surgical Research Day at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women on May 8. The event provided a forum for researchers to unveil their work highlighting remarkable advancements in the field of pediatric surgery.

“I look forward to this day every year,” said Dr. Charles D. Fraser, Jr., surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital. “Our surgeons, residents and students are conducting innovative work that should contribute to better understanding of health issues that our patients experience. Their research is central to our core values as academic surgeons at Texas Children’s Hospital.”

The program featured seven oral presentations and 96 poster presentations spotlighting the academic efforts of the surgical faculty, post graduate fellows, nurses and advanced practice providers. In addition, lectures were given on surgical issues and awards were presented to honor faculty and research presentations.

This year’s awards and their recipients are:

  • The Samuel Stal Research Award for outstanding research by a resident or fellow in the Department of Surgery was presented to Dr. Yan Shi. The award is named after Dr. Samuel Stal, former chief of plastic surgery at Texas Children’s. Dr. Shi was recognized for his research in liver carcinoma.
  • Dr. Larry Hollier, chief of Plastic Surgery, was honored with the Faculty Research Mentor Award. The award is given on an annual basis to honor a Department of Surgery faculty member who currently serves as a research through career development, professional guidance or cultivation of research interests.
  • Dr. Paulette Abbas, research fellow in Pediatric Surgery, received the Best Poster award for, “Persistent Hypercarbia after Resuscitation Is Associated with Increased Mortality in Congenital Diaphragm Hernia Patients.”
  • Dr. Adesola C. Akinkuotu, research fellow in Pediatric Surgery, received the Best Oral Presentation award for her research, “Risk Stratification of Severity for Infants with CDH: Prenatal vs. Postnatal Predictors of Outcome.”

This year’s speakers were:

  • This year’s keynote speaker was Dr. Tom Jaksic, the W. Hardy Hendren Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. He is also Vice Chairman of Pediatric General Surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital and Surgical Director, Center for Advanced Intestinal Rehabilitation. He presented research on the metabolism of critically ill neonates and the management of children with intestinal failure.
  • Dr. Laurence McCullough, Dalton Tomlin chair in Medical Ethics and Health Policy, associate director for Education, Center for Medical Ethics and Health Policy at Baylor College of Medicine, presented a lecture on the professional responsibility of surgical innovation, research and treatment.

The Surgical Research Day Planning Committee included Dr. Jed Nuchtern (chair), Melinda Mathis (co-chair), Dr. Jennifer Dietrich, Dr. Chester Koh, Dr. Sandi Lam, Dr. Carlos Mery, Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, Kathy Carberry, Matthew Girotto, Veronica Victorian, Shon Bower and Laura Higgins.

View more pictures of the Edmond T. Gonzales Surgical Research Day:


May 15 was International Kangaroo Care Awareness Day. At Texas Children’s Newborn Center, our physicians and neonatal nurses are strong believers in the benefits of kangaroo care, which promotes parental bonding with a new baby from the earliest moments of life.

Kangaroo Care is a method of holding babies skin to skin with a parent. The infant wears a diaper and is placed on the parent’s bare chest and covered with a blanket for warmth, much in the same way a kangaroo cares for its baby in the pouch.

The benefits for the infant include improved feeding, temperature stability, stabilized heart rate and respiratory status, improved oxygenation and decreased length of hospitalization. Skin-to-skin contact also improves the bonding between parents and baby, and stimulates breast milk production for new mothers.

Texas Children’s neonatal nurse practitioner and mom Jennifer Gallegos shares her and her husband’s unforgettable bonding experience with their son, Bennett, moments after his birth.

“Kangaroo Care has always been a passion of mine as a bedside nurse and as a nurse practitioner. It took on new meaning when our second child, Bennett, was born at 34 weeks. The time spent with Bennett in skin to skin was memorable, and is treasured by both my husband and I to this day.

The first time my husband, Greg, held Bennett, our son was still on CPAP. For me, it was no big deal, but Greg was terrified of all the “wires and machines.” A little encouragement from Bennett’s nurse persuaded him to try it. The photo to the right is their first of several sessions. Greg became a believer, and he would use their special time to give Bennett “pep talks” on breathing so he could come off the CPAP. While I enjoyed holding Bennett skin to skin, it was just as special watching a father bond with his baby in this way as well.”

To learn more about the benefits of Kangaroo Care at Texas Children’s Newborn Center, click here.


Amonica Robinson recently received the Best of the West award for her work as a patient access representative in the Emergency Center at West Campus.

The award recognizes an employee each quarter who has exceled at demonstrating Texas Children’s values – leading tirelessly, living compassionately, amplifying unity and embracing freedom.

Robinson joined Texas Children’s in 2000 and will soon be celebrating her 15th year with the hospital. Most recently, she has provided exceptional customer service to our patients and families at West Campus. She also has been an integral part of the hospital’s Emergency Center admission team.
Some of her colleagues and patient families have said the following about Robinson:

  • “Amonica was so caring.”
  • “It was so nice to have someone who truly felt concerned about my child.”
  • “She reacts to the needs of the patients, doing her best to provide excellent customer service while they are waiting for care in the EC.”

Please join West Campus in congratulating and thanking Robinson for showing us what it takes to be the best of the west.