July 28, 2015

72915fraser640Thanks to the vision of legendary heart surgeon Dr. Denton H. Cooley and the leadership of Texas Children’s Hospital Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr., the Texas Children’s Hospital Heart Center is one of the most active pediatric heart programs in the United States, setting a record with 32 heart transplants in 2014 and consistently treating the most complex heart issues every day.

Since its inception 60 years ago, surgeons with the program have performed more than 27,000 cardiac operations, many of which have pushed the boundaries of a field pioneered by Cooley at Texas Children’s Hospital. The center has continued to push such boundaries under the leadership of Fraser, who joined Texas Children’s in 1995 and has helped focused the center on increasingly complex repair work, particularly in newborns and premature infants.

“I think Cooley would say that some of the contributions we’ve made in the past 20 years he didn’t dream could possibly be happening,” Fraser said. “We will continue to reach for a high bar and not coast on what Cooley and others got started here.”

The Heart Center began shortly after Texas Children’s opened its doors in 1954, a time when the idea of specializing in cardiology or heart surgery was a new concept on adults, much less children and infants. But, Cooley, a masterful surgeon ready to implement the advancements he had seen in medical school, was determined to make Texas Children’s the birthplace of pediatric cardiac care.

One of the program’s first major advances came when Cooley and his colleagues were able to open up the heart and operate inside it. The development of the heart-lung machine, which diverted blood from the heart and lungs, allowed this to happen and drove other doctors to Texas Children’s to observe what was unfolding.

Another milestone that garnered the Heart Center a lot of attention came in 1984 when Cooley performed the first pediatric heart transplant on 6-month-old Sara Remmington. The procedure was unlike anything that had been done, even in adults.

“That really was an exciting occurrence that attracted a lot of attention to the Texas Children’s surgical program,” Cooley said.

Fraser, who recently celebrated his 20th anniversary with Texas Children’s Hospital, is no stranger to monumental surgeries. During his career with the organization, he has performed the smallest arterial switch operation ever reported on a baby girl weighing less than two pounds. He also led a surgery on then 5-week-old Audrina Cardenas, who was born with her heart outside her chest. Fraser and a group of multidisciplinary surgeons saved Audrina’s life during a miraculous six hour open-heart surgery where they reconstructed her chest cavity to make space for the one-third of her heart that was outside of her body.

“We have a tremendous breadth of expertise in pediatrics at Texas Children’s,” Fraser said. “The Heart Center couldn’t be successful with a small baby without this whole focused interest on the children.”

Looking forward, Fraser said his team will continue to refine their techniques and focus on smaller and smaller children. Also, he said his team will work toward providing children with heart problems a life similar to that of a person with a normal, healthy heart.

“The pediatric cardiovascular field has had great success in obtaining survival and meaningful life for people with heart problems,” Fraser said. “Giving such patients a completely normal life, however has not yet been attained and is a goal we want to work toward.”

An important part of the Heart Center’s path forward is its continued relationship with the Texas Heart Institute, which Cooley started in 1962. For more than four decades, the two institutions have worked closely as they achieved numerous successes and Fraser said as long as he’s with Texas Children’s that relationship will continue.

“We’re enormously respectful and grateful for that mutually beneficial partnership,” Fraser said. “We can do so much more together moving forward.”

Dr. Parth Mehta’s favorite picture is one with five young children sitting around a small table putting together a puzzle. The kids, most of them bald, are smiling for the camera as their doctor snaps the photo. They’re cancer patients in a Texas Children’s clinic in Botswana and of the five, four have survived. While even one death is devastating, just a few years ago, none of them would have received the appropriate treatment. Most would have died without ever being diagnosed. Eight years ago, Mehta, now the director of Texas Children’s Global Oncology Programs, was the first pediatric oncologist in Botswana. When he arrived at the Princess Marina Hospital, only 22 cases of pediatric cancer had ever been diagnosed there. Today, more than 200 patients are under the care of Texas Children’s physicians in the same facility, and over the last eight years, more than 450 children with blood disorders and cancer have been treated.

“There is a population of 2 million people in Botswana and the challenge was quite overwhelming,” Mehta said, “Children died from diseases with a 95 percent cure rate in America because the drugs were not consistently available and no one really knew how to take care of these patients.”

Mehta started the first organized international effort in sub-Saharan Africa by Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, the largest pediatric cancer institute in the U.S. Under the vision of Physician-in-Chief Dr. Mark W. Kline, Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine had already established several centers to care for children with AIDS in Africa. Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative helped secure the Texas Children’s name in these regions and Dr. David Poplack, director of Texas Children’s Cancer & Hematology Centers, was determined to make a long-term effort to help kids with cancer and blood disorders in these countries.

“Our role has been to put ‘medical boots’ on the ground,” said Poplack. “We send physicians and nurses and we use our staff to train our local counterparts in the treatment of these diseases. Our real aim is to provide the intellectual capital to train the appropriate individuals who will carry the work forward.”

That’s the key to the sustainability of these programs. About 80 percent of pediatric cancer cases are in developing countries where the survival rate is less than 40 percent. In countries like the U.S., it’s approximately 80 percent. While Texas Children’s treats patients from all over the U.S. and 26 different countries, for those in Africa, just bringing their child to a clinic in a nearby town is a difficult task. Dr. Gladstone Airewele who grew up in Nigeria knows about these problems. Airewele is the director of the Global Hematology Programs at Texas Children’s Cancer & Hematology Centers. For many of his patients, saving a life is as easy as a pin prick to collect blood for newborn screening to detect sickle cell disease.

“It’s very gratifying to see children come to the clinic, get great care and do much better than they ordinarily would if it weren’t for this program,” Airewele said.

Airewele said the long-term plan is to help with a broad range of hematologic diseases including bleeding disorders, bone marrow failure, and hemoglobin disorders.

“In a few years, I hope to see leaders of pediatric blood disorders all over Africa who are affiliated with Texas Children’s but are local physicians in those countries,” Airewele said. “People who have been trained and are training others, so these diagnoses are no longer a death sentence for these children.”

Texas Children’s international cancer & hematology initiative is concentrated in sub-Saharan Africa with programs in Uganda, Botswana, Malawi, and Angola. Poplack and his team plan to expand the program to other regions. For now, a group of physicians at Texas Children’s are on call as consultants to BIPAI physicians who need answers about hematological and cancer-related diagnoses. Mehta and Airewele make frequent visits to the designated cancer clinics to pursue potential growth in our programs. For Mehta, the five young patients in that old photograph are a reminder of why this work is so pertinent.

“Medicine is not about borders,” Mehta said. “Medicine is not about cities and states. Cancer doesn’t just affect children in some places, and as a doctor who cares, not just treats, but cares for children with cancer, it’s almost axiomatic that one must take care of children everywhere.”

72915sportsteams640Once a week, Christie Hollins, an administrative assistant in the Department of Pathology, meets three of her coworkers at Palace Lanes for a fun night of bowling and comradery.

“We’ve been bowling together for five years and it’s great,” Hollins said of her team, Scared SpitLess. “We’ve grown as bowlers and as friends, and we thank Texas Children’s for making this happen.”

Like several other Texas Children’s employees, Hollins and her bowling team take advantage of the Total Rewards Program’s Team Sport Subsidy, which provides financial support for the registration fees of league team activities.

The organization will pay up to $600 per team per fiscal year as long as at least half of the team’s roster is comprised of Texas Children’s employees.

“Texas Children’s recognizes that fitness is important to the physical and mental health of its employees,” Benefits Specialist Kelly Mueller said. “Therefore, we encourage participation in organized, league athletic events such as softball, basketball, bowling, golf, etc.”

Racheal Proctor-Ezimako, a supervisor with Diagnostic Imaging, said she and her bowling team have used the sports subsidy for six years and that it allows them to offset the cost of a hobby they participate in once a week year round.

“I think it’s an amazing give back to our employees,” she said. “We get to bond outside work and that, to me, is very special.”

Hollins agreed and said with the assistance of the subsidy, each of her team members is able to just have fun bowling.

“As long as the subsidy is offered, I will continue to apply,” she said.

72915sportsteamssinside640Mueller said Texas Children’s is happy to provide the subsidy as well as the myriad of other benefits offered to employees, including health, dental, retirement and pension.

“Texas Children’s offers a well-rounded benefits program that spans from health to financial to overall wellbeing,” she said. “We want our employees to be healthy and happy.”

Here are the sports subsidy basics and how to apply:

  1. A written application must be submitted to Human Resources at least one month prior to the due date of the registration fee. The application must include a copy of the Texas Children’s registration form and a list of all team participants, including non-Texas Children’s players.
  2. All team participants must sign and return the appropriate waiver form with the written application.
  3. Texas Children’s financial support is provided for team registration only and does not cover fees or payment for coaches, uniforms, refreshments, etc.
  4. The maximum annual registration payment is $600 per fiscal year per team. Payment will be issued directly to the sponsoring organization. Requests will be granted based on budgetary constraints.
  5. The roster of any team sponsored by Texas Children’s must consist of at least 50 percent active employees of Texas Children’s.
  6. Participation on an athletic team is voluntary, and is not related in any way to an employee’s job duties or employment status at Texas Children’s.
  7. Each individual team member agrees to hold Texas Children’s, its officers, trustees, employees and agents harmless from any claims for damages resulting in participation in this program.
  8. To apply for a sport subsidy, click here. To get more information about overall benefits at Texas Children’s click here.

72915Zarutski640As a child, we’ve all asked ourselves this question, “What do I want to be when I grow up?”

For Dr. Paul Zarutskie, the newest team member to join the Family Fertility Center at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, his interest in reproductive medicine happened unexpectedly.

As a young teenager, Zarutskie dreamed of becoming a pilot and aeronautics engineer who designed missiles. When he was awarded a high school grant to intern in a lab in Philadelphia, a blunder in the paperwork misassigned him to a reproductive endocrinology lab.

“I wasn’t disappointed at all,” Zarutskie said. “The science was so fascinating to me, that I never looked back. I knew this was my calling.”

Since that inspirational moment in his youth, Zarutskie finds tremendous joy helping infertile couples achieve their dream of starting a family. As a tireless patient advocate, pioneering researcher and renowned contributor to the field of reproductive medicine, Zarutskie has devoted much of his career to advancing cutting-edge fertility treatment technologies to help patients achieve the best pregnancy outcomes.

As a reproductive endocrinologist for more than 30 years, Zarutskie has developed innovative treatment protocols, drugs, devices and laboratory procedures, including intracytoplasmic sperm injection and cryopreservation, a technique that freezes and stores sperm and eggs to protect the ability of couples to conceive in the future. Zarutskie was also one of the first infertility specialists in the United States to introduce preimplantation genetic screening services into clinical practice that examines embryos for inherited genetic abnormalties, which in turn, can help identify the healthiest embryo for transfer.

Zarutskie earned his medical degree from Hahnemann Medical College, Drexel University, followed by an OB/GYN residency at Duke University Medical Center and a fellowship in reproductive endocrinology at Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He served most recently as chief of the Division of Reproductive Endocrinology and Infertility at the University of Washington in Seattle.

After making the 2,343-mile trek to Houston, Zarutskie is thrilled to join such a reputable team of physicians, nurses and staff who share his same passion at the Family Fertility Center.

“I have known Dr. William Gibbons for a very long time and I am impressed with the incredible work being done here, particularly in the area of genetics and reproduction,” said Zarutskie, who is also an associate professor of obstetrics and gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine. “I am privileged to be part of this amazing team and continue to pursue my passion of helping would-be parents achieve their dream of having a baby.”

Beyond the in-depth knowledge and expertise Zarutskie brings to the Family Fertility Center, his approach to patient care helps couples find comfort knowing there is hope beyond infertility issues.

“Dr. Zarutskie is incredibly compassionate and personable, but very intelligent in explaining why I am having trouble getting pregnant,” said Family Fertility Center patient Katie Walford, who was referred to Zarutskie after her friend had successful IVF treatment with him 20 years ago. “I wanted to go with someone who I could trust.”

Besides seeing his patients, Zarutskie has published numerous scientific research articles in prestigious national and international fertility journals. Currently, he is collaborating with research colleagues to explore how obesity and metabolic issues affect oocyte retrieval, as well as how genetic markers are better defining the window of embryo implantation to improve fertilization outcomes.

“I am delighted to have someone of Dr. Zartuskie’s experience and reputation join our Pavilion for Women family,” said Dr. William Gibbons, director of the Family Fertility Center and chief of reproductive endocrinology services at Texas Children’s. “He has the skill set and the experience to enrich our practice and help us continue to provide exceptional care to our patients.”

Click here to watch a video tour of the Family Fertility Center. If you have questions, want to schedule an appointment with Dr. Zarutskie or Dr. Gibbons, or learn more about the benefits available to full-time Texas Children’s Hospital employees, call Ext. 6-7500.

72915ronaldmaxie640Ronald Maxie from Supply Chain is the latest Texas Children’s Super Star employee. “What makes someone at Texas Children’s a super star is hard work, dedication and compassion for others,” said Maxie. Read more of Maxie’s interview, and find out how you can nominate a Super Star.

Q&A: Ronald Maxie, April 2015 Employee

Your name, title and department. How long have you worked here?
Ronald Maxie, Supply Chain Tech II, 8 Years.

What month are you the Super Star for?
April 2015

Tell us how you found out you won the Super Star Award.
My management team told me.

What does it mean to be recognized for the hard work you do?
I feel enlightened and grateful that my peers value my work ethic.

What do you think makes someone at Texas Children’s a Super Star?
Hard work, dedication and compassion for others.

What is your motivation for going above and beyond every day at work?
To contribute and participate in the mission of Texas Children’s Hospital.

What is the best thing about working at Texas Children’s?
Being part of a GREAT dock staff that provides the BEST service to support staff, patients and their families.

Anything else you want to share?
I would like to say to my Texas Children’s family that the pleasure has been all MINE!!

72915ROTB640Have you ever wondered what it feels like to run on the floor of NRG Stadium, home of the Houston Texans? If so, you and your child now have a chance. All you have to do is sign up for the TORO’S Kids 1K on Sunday, September 20.

Presented by Texas Children’s Hospital, the stroller-friendly run/walk is for children 12 years old and younger. All race participants must be accompanied by a parent or guardian and will cross the finish line on the floor of NRG Stadium – all TORO’s Kids 1K participants also will receive medals.

The 1K event will be followed by the fifth annual Running of the Bulls 5K run/walk presented by H-E-B at NRG Stadium. The post-race party for both races will be held on the floor of NRG Stadium and will include opportunities to receive autographs from Houston Texans Cheerleaders, Ambassadors and TORO. In addition, race participants can enjoy free food and drinks, giveaways and live music.

For more information about the event or to sign up, click here.

72915surgery360The Texas Children’s Hospital Auxiliary awarded urologist Dr. Patricio Gargollo the Denton A. Cooley Fellowship in Surgical Innovation Award and orthopedic surgeon Dr. Scott Rosenfeld the Outcomes Fellowship Award for 2015. Each award totals $75,000. This is the fourth year the Department of Surgery has received funding from the Texas Children’s Auxiliary.

The Denton A. Cooley Fellowship in Surgical Innovation Award is given to a physician whose surgical research focuses on innovative ways to help children and to save lives. The Outcomes Fellowship Award supports patient care, education and research.

Gargollo is director of the Program for Complex Urogenital Reconstruction, associate medical director for Pediatric Surgery of the Texas Children’s Simulation Center and co-director of the Urology Robotic and Minimally Invasive Surgery Program. With his award money, Gargollo proposes to integrate clinical simulation into the curriculum for medical students, residents, fellows and physician assistant fellows. Specifically, he proposes to combine training in laparoscopic techniques and simulation technology.

Rosenfeld specializes in pediatric orthopedics, sports medicine, scoliosis and hip disorders. He also is co-director of the Adolescent and Young Adult Hip Clinic at Texas Children’s. With his award money, Rosenfeld proposes to develop diagnostic algorithms for pediatric musculoskeletal infections and determine the most efficacious means of treatment. These clinical practice guidelines will be region specific, making them useful in all parts of North America.