September 20, 2016

92116languageservices640For non-English speaking families like Argelia Diaz, she knows that when she comes to Texas Children’s, she can always count on a Spanish-speaking interpreter to help her communicate with her daughter’s medical team.

“I don’t know what I would do without them,” Diaz said through her interpreter. “They give us all the information that the providers want to tell us and help break down the medical terms for us. They are very kind and are always there whenever we need them.”

As an internationally recognized referral center, Texas Children’s cares for many international patients including those here at home who do not speak English. These patient families rely solely on the skills and expertise of Texas Children’s Language Services Department to bridge the communication barrier.

“Language barriers have the potential to adversely impact patient care and outcomes,” said Language Services Manager Alma Sanchez. “Issues like misdiagnosis, lack of compliance, medical errors and readmissions can all be further compounded when a patient has limited English proficiency. Communicating with them in their preferred language ensures everyone is on the same page regarding the care and treatment of the patient.”

Being an interpreter at Texas Children’s is more than just speaking a foreign language fluently. As the primary liaison between the physician and patient, interpreters ensure accurate and seamless communication is delivered to both parties during every phase of the health care process. Specially trained in diverse areas including medical terminology, modes and standards of interpretation, standards of ethics and intercultural communication, interpreters also serve as a cultural broker in the communication of information since there are many factors that may impede a patient or family’s clear understanding of a medical diagnosis or treatment plan.

“While speaking in the family’s native language, we explain their child’s diagnosis and ensure they understand all of the instructions provided by their care team,” said Violeta Riccio, project analyst at Language Services. “We also help the providers understand the patient’s concerns or questions in order to resolve any potential issues.”

On average, the Language Services Department receives 12,000 language requests per month – 4,000 are in-person interpretations, 7,000 are telephonic and 1,000 are through a mobile video system called My Accessible Real Time Trusted Interpreter (MARTTI) where an external interpreter can be contacted via live video. These capabilities enable Texas Children’s to provide interpretations in about 170 different languages.

To meet the growing demand for this service, Texas Children’s has 28 interpreters dispersed across several campuses – 17 at Texas Children’s Main Campus, five at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, four at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and two interpreters at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. Spanish is the most requested language for interpretation followed by Arabic, Vietnamese and Chinese-Mandarin.

Just like our patient families, Texas Children’s health care teams benefit greatly from this service too.

“Having an interpreter physically present is crucial to effective communication particularly in stressful situations when children are undergoing procedures or when critical information is being conveyed,” said Dr. Larry Hollier, chief of plastic surgery at Texas Children’s. “Having an onsite interpreter in the ambulatory surgery area has been transformative in terms of family satisfaction and the efficient and safe flow of children through the area.”

To learn more about Language Services, drop by their office located on the third floor of West Tower across from the gift shop. Click here to watch a video spotlighting a day in the life of interpreters at Texas Children’s.

Before Dr. Howard Weiner accepted his new position as chief of neurosurgery, he knew that Texas Children’s Hospital was the place he wanted to be.

“When I visited Texas Children’s, I was literally blown away by this place,” said Weiner, who also serves as professor of neurosurgery at Baylor College of Medicine. “Speaking with the people here, hearing about the vision, the leadership, the direction, it was very infectious. This was where I needed to be for the next 15, 20 years of my career to do the things that I wanted to accomplish in pediatric neurosurgery for our patients.”

Prior to joining Texas Children’s neurosurgery team, Weiner received his undergraduate degree from the University of Pennsylvania and his medical degree from Cornell University Medical College. During his residency, he was a Howard Hughes Medical Institute research fellow in the Department of Biochemistry at New York University. Following residency, Weiner was awarded the Van Wagenen Fellowship by the American Association of Neurological Surgeons to study brain development in Paris. He also completed a fellowship in pediatric neurosurgery at New York University Langone Medical Center, where his career continued for a total of nearly 27 years altogether.

With nearly three decades of experience in the field, Weiner shares his enthusiasm for the future of Texas Children’s neurosurgery program and the opportunity to work alongside a neurosurgery team that he describes as an “incredible team of innovators.”

“If you take every one on the faculty in neurosurgery here at Texas Children’s, everyone is driving their individual sub-specialty area,” Weiner said. “We are using minimally invasive approaches, like laser ablation, to treat epileptic brain lesions and brain tumors. Our teams are developing new techniques in fetal surgery to treat hydrocephalus and we are leading the way in defining neurosurgical clinical outcomes and best practices that are essential to growing a successful craniofacial surgery program to serve our patients and their families at Texas Children’s for many years to come.”

Weiner’s plan is to continue transforming Texas Children’s into the premier pediatric neurosurgical program in the country by providing innovative, high-quality patient care and focusing on multidisciplinary collaboration and teamwork. While overseeing the growth of Texas Children’s neurosurgery program, he is cultivating a rich environment for faculty members to develop their subspecialty interest and propel their clinical and scientific discoveries to the next level.

“We are well on our way as a division of neurosurgery and as an institution to be the destination for high-quality, world-class innovative and especially attentive care for children,” Weiner said. “That is really my vision for neurosurgery. We will be the leaders in training the next generation of leaders in our field.”

Ranked No. 2 nationally in neurology and neurosurgery by U.S. News & World Report, Texas Children’s neurosurgery program is among the largest and most experienced pediatric neurosurgery units in the U.S., performing more than 950 surgeries annually for a broad range of pediatric neurosurgical disorders.

For more information about Texas Children’s neurosurgery program, click here.

92116westcampusorexpansion640With scissors in hand, leaders at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus proudly cut a red ribbon draped across the entrance to the hospital’s newly expanded perioperative suite.

The September 15 ribbon cutting unveiled four new operating rooms, a new procedure room, three new call rooms as well as a new doctor’s lounge, kitchen and break area. The expansion brings the total number of operating rooms at West Campus to eight and doubles the total number of procedure rooms – places where minor outpatient procedures occur.

The call rooms, doctor’s lounge, and enlarged staff kitchen and break area didn’t exist before the expansion and, according to Chief Surgical Officer at the West Campus Dr. Allen Milewicz, will help set the stage for expanded perioperative capabilities at West Campus.

“This expansion will allow us to do longer, more complex surgeries,” Milewicz said. “It also will help us increase the scope of services we offer.”

Two growth areas of interest are orthopedics and dental, Milewicz added. The demand for such procedures is increasing in the West Houston area because families and area providers are eager to take advantage of the broad range of pediatric expertise that only a dedicated children’s hospital can provide. West Campus wants to be able to continue to accommodate that demand and grow with it.

Trauma is another area of potential growth, Milewicz said. Currently, West Campus does not see a large amount of trauma cases but wants to develop this service in the future. Having a fully equipped perioperative suite will allow the West Campus surgical team to treat such patients in the best manner possible.

“The scope of what community hospitals are being asked to do is growing,” Milewicz said. “We want to accommodate that growth and meet the demands of our patients and their families.”

West Campus Vice President Matt Schaefer agreed and said the expansion of the perioperative suite is not about new rooms or space but about West Campus’ ability to improve lives.

“A little more than five years ago, we stood in this same place with our first surgical patient and cut the ribbon to our perioperative suite,” Schaefer said. “Since then, we have met the surgical needs of more than 20,000 children. The expansion increases our ability to reach more children.”

Schaefer added that the recent expansion of the Perioperative Suite is part of a $50 million capital improvement effort that will help expand West Campus’ capacity and capability. To date the following projects have been completed:

  • Additional office and administrative support space for dedicated physicians and providers
  • An 18-bed expansion of the hospital’s acute care capacity, including an eight-bed special isolation unit designed for children with highly contagious infectious diseases.
  • Conversion of offices within ambulatory clinics into additional exam rooms to increase outpatient subspecialty access
  • A dedicated suite for Interventional Radiology services

The following projects are still in the works:

  • A new 14 exam room clinic for Neurology, Renal & Dermatology
  • Build-out of the final inpatient shell floor to accommodate 22 PICU beds



Dr. Carol Baker, executive director of Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Awareness and Research and Baylor College of Medicine professor of pediatrics, molecular virology & microbiology, presented the 2016 Jeryl Lynn Hilleman Endowed Lecture “Vaccines for Pregnant Women: A Long Time Coming” at the National Immunization Conference in Atlanta, GA on September 13.

This endowed lectureship, the first permanent endowment established at the CDC Foundation, was given by The Merck Company Foundation in celebration of the 50th anniversary of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the 25th anniversary of the first combination vaccine for measles, mumps and rubella, M-M-R and its successor M-M-R II, licensed by Merck. The lecture has become an important and popular component of the CDC’s annual National Immunization Conference.

92116laceup4life640On September 9, Texas Children’s Hospital hosted the fourth annual Lace Up 4 Life inpatient walk in honor of National Childhood Cancer Awareness Month.

Patients and staff on the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit participated in the walk on the inpatient and outpatient floor to raise awareness for Be The Match®, the largest and most diverse bone marrow registry in the world.

Patients on the unit are immunocompromised and were able to participate in the walk in a way that is safe as they undergo treatment. Each year, thousands of children are diagnosed with blood cancers like leukemia or lymphoma, sickle cell anemia or other life-threatening diseases. Seventy percent of people do not have a donor in their family and depend on Be The Match® Registry to find a match to save their life.

With a rotating disco ball projecting an array of bright colors on the walls of the unit, the Bone Marrow Transplant staff pumped up the crowd with high energy music while patient families and staff waved flags and cheered on our courageous patients as they crossed the finish line.

The inpatient walk preceded the first annual Lace Up 4 Life Walk/Run in Sugar Land on September 10 where Bone Marrow Transplant staff, patients and their families teamed up to represent Texas Children’s Hospital.

Texas Children’s Bone Marrow Transplant team dubbed “Team Transplantors” raised funds to support the Gulf Coast Marrow Donor Program and to raise awareness about childhood cancer. The donations will support patients who need a marrow or umbilical cord blood transplant to find a donor and receive treatment.

One of the most touching moments at the event was when a patient who underwent a bone marrow transplant at Texas Children’s met her bone marrow donor for the first time. Click here to watch the ABC-13 video. (It is the second video in the link.)

September 13, 2016

91416baylorbulidings2640On Monday, Texas Children’s finalized the purchase of the Baylor Clinic building at 6620 Main St. and the O’Quinn Medical Tower at 6624 Fannin St. The buildings were acquired from Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center and will now be called the 6624 Fannin Medical Tower and the Baylor Medical Clinic at 6620 Main St.

“As we anticipate the future demands of our patient population and the community, finding additional space is critical,” said Texas Children’s President and CEO Mark A. Wallace. “We are fortunate that two properties in the Texas Medical Center, in such close proximity to our existing facilities, became available.”

Wallace added that the purchase of the buildings is not about bricks and mortar but our mission and our ability to better serve more children, women and families who require the unique services of Texas Children’s.

“This is an investment in our mission of advancing patient care, education and research,” Wallace said. “It’s all about investing in people: our medical staff, our employees and especially in our patients and their families.”

Click here for Mark Wallace’s blog post – TMC building acquisition: Planning for the future, growing for our people

Initially, Texas Children’s will lease back a portion of each building to its current tenants until CHI St. Luke’s Health and Baylor College of Medicine relocate to Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center’s 27.5-acre McNair Campus. Texas Children’s Director of Real Estate Services David Perryman will provide oversight of third-party property management firm Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) to operate the buildings until the leases expire and tenants relocate.

Meanwhile, a facilities master planning initiative is underway to integrate these two properties into Texas Children’s overall expansion and growth plans for pediatric and women’s services. Texas Children’s does not intend to actively market or lease existing or future vacancies.

“The purchase of these two buildings will help us connect our services even more so than they already are,” said Jill Pearsall, assistant vice president of Facility Planning and Development. “It also will offer a tremendous amount of support to our staff and physicians, and it will ultimately improve not only patient care but the quality of our patients’ experience when they seek our services.”

The Baylor Clinic Building was built in 2003, has 15 stories – 10 of which are parking – and comprises 227,670 square feet of rentable area. The O’Quinn Medical Tower was built in 1991, has 27 stories – six of which are parking – and provides 445,725 square feet of office and clinical space.

Executive Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Weldon Gage said Texas Children’s purchased the properties with money from the organization’s cash reserves, which are set aside specifically for capital expenditures and are separate from the hospital’s operating budget.

“This purchase is a perfect example of why we need to have significant cash on hand,” Gage said. “In doing so, we are able to take advantage of opportunities such as these that will further our mission.”

Below are additional details about the purchase, the buildings and how they will be used.

What is the short-term plan for both locations?
We will continue to lease space to the current tenants. Our facilities master planning also will help determine how these two properties can be used to support our overall growth of pediatric and women’s services.

Who will manage the leases?
Texas Children’s Director of Real Estate Services David Perryman will provide oversight of a third-party property management firm, JLL, to operate these buildings.

How long will we lease the space to the current tenants?
We will honor the leases of current tenants and determine future plans as part of our facilities master planning. We do not intend to actively market or lease existing or future vacancies.

Did we know these buildings would be available prior to beginning construction on Pediatric Tower E?
No, we did not. However, we are fortunate that two properties so close to our existing facilities became available, as they will help us address the growth of pediatric and women’s services we anticipate in the future.

What will backfill the relocated locations?
Our facilities master planning is underway to determine how these two properties will help us meet our overall growth of pediatric and women’s services. As this plan is finalized, we will be determining how vacated areas will be backfilled.

Will the buildings be renamed?
Eventually the buildings will be renamed, subject to any naming rights or restrictions transferred with the sale. We also want to be respectful of existing tenants and their patients who know the buildings by their current names. That is why the buildings initially will be called the 6624 Fannin Medical Tower and the 6620 Baylor Medical Clinic.

Are any improvements planned for the building?
We are developing short-term and long-term capital plans to help ensure an efficient, reliable and comfortable environment for our employees, tenants and the public.

Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers is the largest cancer and blood disorder center in the country. Patients from all over the world come here to receive their care because they know this is the best possible place they could be.

When Carrie Richardson’s daughter, Peyton, was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia in January 2015, she knew from the moment she arrived at Texas Children’s, her daughter would be cared for by an incredible team of amazing nurses and oncologists that any parent of a sick child could ever hope for.

“Peyton has been cared for in the most empathetic, loving and encouraging way possible,” Richardson said. “The oncologists and their team of nurse practitioners work together so seamlessly because they are working together with the best intentions for each child undergoing treatment. The comfort that Dr. Dreyer gives Peyton reassures her that every treatment she receives is one step closer to ringing the golden bell on the 14th floor of the Cancer Center.”

Ranked no. 2 in the nation by U.S. News & World Report, Texas Children’s Cancer Center comprises a multidisciplinary team of dedicated and compassionate physicians, nurses, child life specialists, social workers and other subspecialists who care for the physical, emotional and psychosocial needs of young patients.

“A diagnosis of a child with a pediatric cancer affects the entire family,” said Aisha Jones, a social worker at the Cancer Center. “It’s our job to help families to cope, to provide resources, to be there to help them problem solve and just to be a support system throughout the course of treatment and thereafter.”

Besides providing world-class, comprehensive patient care, our oncologists are leading the way in advancing pediatric cancer research. The Cancer Center has 42 laboratories and nearly 400 people who are engaged in research to help revolutionize cutting-edge therapies for treating and ultimately curing all childhood cancers.

“We’re looking at different ways to develop therapies through nanotechnologies, cellular therapies, immune-based therapies that are really cutting edge and helping us to move the field forward,” said Dr. Susan Blaney, deputy director of Texas Children’s Cancer Center. “We are looking for the best cures with the least toxicities.”

Dr. David Poplack, director of Texas Children’s Cancer Center, applauds the remarkable progress that has been made in the cure of childhood cancers.

“More than 30 years ago, we were curing 20 percent of kids with cancer and losing 80 percent,” Poplack said. “Now, we are curing over 80 percent of cancer and losing less than 20 percent, which is an incredible statistic and a reflection of the remarkable success we’ve achieved.”

Poplack says the majority of children with cancer in this world aren’t in the United States or North America. They are in the developing countries throughout the world like in sub-Saharan Africa where Texas Children’s is growing a global oncology program in Botswana, Malawi and Uganda and a hematology program in Angola to treat children with sickle cell anemia, an inherited blood disorder.

“We are building a unique program in sub-Saharan Africa so that we can bring knowledgeable physicians there to teach their physicians how to properly treat children with cancer,” said Dr. Parth Mehta, director of Texas Children’s Cancer Center’s Global Oncology Program. “Today in Botswana, we have an overall survival rate from pediatric cancer approaching 60 percent, which is unheard of in that region of the world.”

While major milestones have been reached in the field of pediatric oncology, Poplack says he and his team will continue to strive to reach their ultimate goal.

“We want to cure every child with cancer,” Poplack said. “Our job is not done until we cure 100 percent of kids and until we’re able to prevent these diseases.”

For Peyton’s mom, she knows that with each treatment, her daughter will be one step closer to ringing that golden bell. Peyton is in active treatment of her leukemia until 2017 but is doing exceptionally well and recently returned to school full time as a ninth grader. Her parents are grateful for her team of doctors at Texas Children’s.

“It takes a special person to care for children with cancer and the halls of the Cancer Center are filled with the most special people in this world,” Richardson said. “To know each nurse and each doctor is to love each of them like they are family.”