August 18, 2015

The pitter patter of tiny feet is a welcome distraction through the halls of the House office building where U.S. Representatives often meet with lobbyists on a multitude of issues. Today, the lobbyists are from children’s hospitals. To lobby is the act of attempting to influence decisions made by officials in a government, most often legislators or members of regulatory agencies.

The term lobbyist often garners a suspicious look, carrying with it a connotation of someone who wines and dines politicians until they agree to legislation that favors the lobbyists’ interests. But today, the sound of the tiny shoes of a two year old running down the halls of legislative offices is a stark contrast to the idea of lobbying for many. The little girl running around and causing a lot of smiles is Audrina Cardenas, born at Texas Children’s Hospital in 2013 with a condition called Ectopia Cordis. Simply put, a third of Audrina’s heart was outside her chest. It took many specialties and several hours of surgery to fix her condition and Audrina is still undergoing surgeries to fix the issues that continue well past her initial surgery. Audrina is the definition of a complex medical case and in her role today, she is helping legislators understand why the Advancing Care for Exceptional Kids Act of 2015 (ACE Kids Act) is needed to reform Medicaid. She will meet with representatives and senators who will hear her story from her mom and Texas Children’s representatives and try to help them understand how this legislation will impact other children like Audrina for the better.

The bill is a proposal to improve how care is delivered to America’s children with complex medical conditions on Medicaid by creating federally designated centers of excellence at children’s hospitals that care for these patients. Texas Children’s Director of Government Relations Rosie Valadez-McStay has been meeting with representatives and senators for months advocating for the passage of ACE Kids but today she’s bringing the patients to them to tell their own stories.

“If you’re going to be a lobbyist, being a lobbyist for a children’s hospital is the best job,” Valadez-McStay said. “We try to bring real life stories to our elected representatives and help them understand how the legislation they are proposing, or considering approval, impacts our mission and most importantly, our patients at Texas Children’s and other children’s hospitals across the country.”

Valadez-McStay and her team represent the organization in both Washington D.C. and Austin where legislation that affects hospitals is debated. They advocate for Medicaid and other issues that determine how care is delivered, who receives it, and how we sustain critical health programs such as trauma care, child abuse training, immunizations and disaster preparation, to name a few.

They also host legislators during their time back in their districts or when they are passing through Houston. For the government relations team, the purpose of these visits is to provide better insight to legislators about the importance of children’s hospitals and what distinguishes these facilities from their adult counterparts.

“How we shape and influence our elected and appointed officials with regards to health care law and policy will affect the way care is delivered at Texas Children’s for decades to come,” said Senior Vice President Alec King. “Our strategies and initiatives reach far and wide to tell the story of Texas Children’s to these decision makers, ensuring that our mission is supported and protected.”

On an August trip to the hospital, Congressman Joe Barton, the US House of Representatives co-author of ACE Kids, met with hospital executives, physicians, nurses, administrators and patient families about how our system is planning and designing better models of care for children with medically complex conditions.

“Barton was a supporter of the concept of his legislation – designating children’s hospitals as pediatric centers of excellence,” Valadez-McStay said. “But it wasn’t until he went through our hospital, spoke to providers, administrators and parents, that he truly appreciated our role in not only the care of these children, but also in the health and wellbeing of their families in and out of the hospital and into adulthood.”

Back in D.C., the visits from Audrina and other patient families resulted in 145 additional House co-sponsors and 24 US Senate co-sponsors to the ACE Kids Act; legislation that could ultimately make a major difference in the care of patients like Audrina who are covered by Medicaid.

Direct lobbying of policymakers is combined with outreach to key stakeholders and constituents back home, also known as, grassroots advocacy. The team encourages grassroots advocacy by employees, families and supporters of Texas Children’s. To join the grassroots advocacy network, click here and find out how you can participate in the legislative process and help shape public policy that affects the care we deliver every day.

81915woodlandsurgentcare640Texas Children’s has expanded its urgent care network, adding a location in The Woodlands next door to the community’s children’s museum on West Panther Creek Drive.

The new facility is the third urgent care center to open during the past year. The other two centers are in the Cinco Ranch and Memorial areas and already have served more than 20,000 children and adults up to age 18.

“Our urgent care centers were created to respond to the growing need for expert pediatric urgent care,” said Texas Children’s Pediatrics Vice President Lou Fragoso. “The result is a clinical system that provides outstanding customer service through high-quality, efficient and affordable care – right in our patients’ neighborhoods.”

Open weekday evenings and weekends, the centers are staffed by board-certified pediatricians and are equipped to diagnose and treat common pediatric illnesses and injuries. If a patient’s illness or injury requires a higher level of care, our staff is able to stabilize and transfer that patient to an appropriate pediatric hospital.

“Our efficient processes allow us to register, diagnose, treat and discharge a child in less than one hour for a majority of patients,” Fragoso said. “By the time a child is discharged, their prescription will have been sent to the pharmacy and a summary of the visit sent to their pediatrician.”

Texas Children’s will continue to grow its urgent care network in the Houston area with more locations opening in the upcoming year.

For more information about Texas Children’s Urgent Care, go to care. You also can join the network’s Facebook page to receive the latest news and updates.

81915autismwalk640Ready to lace up to support a worthy cause? The Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine invite you to join their team for the 2015 Walk Now for Autism Speaks.

The walk will be held on Saturday, September 19, at the Houston Sports Park at 12131 Kirby Drive. The event is part of a nationwide fundraising effort to raise money and awareness for autism research and quality programs to improve the lives of children and adults with autism spectrum disorders.

All participants who raise $150 or more will receive a commemorative T-shirt on Walk Day.

Click here to join the NRI and Baylor team for the 2015 Walk Now for Autism Speaks. For more details about the event, click here.

August 14, 2015

81415transplant624Texas Children’s Hospital Transplant Services team is hosting the 2015 Pediatric Transplant Symposium at Texas Children’s Hospital.

The conference will be from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Friday, September 4, at the Texas Children’s Hospital Pavilion for Women fourth-floor conference center. Lunch will be provided.

Any health care professional with an interest in the care of transplant patients and those who currently care for transplant patients, are encouraged to attend. The topics discussed at the conference will be great for:

  • Faculty, fellows, residents and trainees involved in the care of transplant patients
  • Primary care physicians caring for transplant patients outside the inpatient hospital setting
  • Nurses and other health care professionals
  • Transplant multidisciplinary team members (PT/OT, dietitians, social workers, pharmacists, child life, staff nurses, surgical team, ambulatory care)

Attendees will learn more about:

  • Transplant ethics
  • Medical issues in transplantation
  • Cutting edge advancements in thoracic & abdominal transplantation
  • Transplant regulatory implications/compliance/readiness

Please register for the conference at: and see the website for specific continuing education information and registration details.

Contact Melissa Nugent, clinical educator for Transplant Services, at with questions.

August 12, 2015

81215BWCameron640Dear Cameron,

Why fit in when you were born to stand out.

One year ago on July 17, you burst into the world. Your daddy raced us to Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, and just 26 minutes later, you were born. After getting over the initial shock of your quick arrival, it sunk in that my life was changed forever. It was during your first bath that our nurse pointed out your dimples. To this day, your dimples remain one of my favorite things about you. Not only are they an adorable and unique facial feature, they are a constant symbol of your happiness. You are the happiest and smiliest baby I have ever known. You flash your smile and wave at anyone that catches your eye. It’s no wonder that people are so naturally drawn to you.

You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose.

It seems like just yesterday you needed me for everything from holding your head up, getting your burps out and marathon nursing sessions. In those early days, I marveled at your every move. Watching you grow, learn and reach milestones has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. You’re not walking just yet but have several other skills that you are honing to perfection. Your fierce ball throwing, jumping and speed crawling abilities have given your athletic parents high hopes for a sporty future. Your gravitation towards books warms my heart and I love watching you light up as you explore the words and pictures. “Turn the page” was the first instruction that you consistently followed, but only with your left hand.

Oh, the Places You Will Go

The travel seed has been firmly planted in you. It was on your first out-of-town trip to the Texas Hill Country at 10 weeks of age that we discovered the ridiculous amount of baby gear you require. At four months old, you conquered a 10-hour road trip to Destin, Florida to celebrate Thanksgiving with the family. At six months, we rush ordered a passport for you, as sadly your great grandmother in England passed away. On your first flight, the Dreamliner Captain welcomed you into the cockpit and totally dug your Snoopy bomber jacket. Even though the circumstances for the trip were sad, the extended family fawned over you and happily introduced you to mushy peas. At eight months, your daddy wheeled you up and down the hilly San Francisco streets and you experienced life behind bars in an Alcatraz jail cell. Your passion for the outdoors and new experiences has made me giddy for the lifetime of travel we have ahead of us.

81215BWDearCameron640Family, like branches on a tree we all grow in a different direction, yet our roots remain as one.

You are blessed to receive so much love from your entire family. Your Grammy and Pops enthusiastically swing you at the park, play endless games of peek-a-boo and chase you around in your red sports car. Your Nanny and Grandad love exposing you to music, culture, travel, and puppies. Even though your Nanny swore she wouldn’t be “that Grandma,” she proudly showcases you all over social media. Your free-spirited nanny Sarah lovingly cares for you day after day and encourages you to become whoever it is that you want to be.

To the world you may be one person; but to one person you may be the world.

Cameron, you have taught me to practice patience, to be more selfless and to live in the moment. You have allowed me to trust my Mommy instincts and that it is ok to break “parenting rules.” I am infinitely grateful for the bond you have solidified between your Daddy and me. We are a team and you are our M.V.P. You are generous in your cuddles and sloppy kisses and gentle towards other babies and animals. You are courageous, determined and show resilience when you fail. You delight in your accomplishments and value the praise you receive. I admire these qualities and hope that the baby you are today is an indication of the man you will become.

Your first year felt both long and short and hard and effortless, however the one constant is that my love for you grows at a faster rate than you do. I am so proud to be your mom. As this first chapter in our lives together comes to a close, I will end this letter with the wise words of Dr. Seuss: “Cameron, you’re off to great places, today is your day, your mountain is waiting, so go get on your way.”

Love, Mommy (Julie Griffith)

Click on this image to watch a video slideshow of Cameron’s first year.


August 10, 2015

bench-and-beside-Header1Bench and Bedside is a digest of the previous month’s stories about the clinical and academic activities of our physicians and scientists. We welcome your subsmissions and feedback.

July 7

Texas Children’s Hospital launches pediatric Thyroid Tumor Program

Texas Children’s Hospital recently formed a new pediatric Thyroid Tumor Program dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of children and young adults with thyroid tumors, cancer and diseases. Read more


Radiology expansion promotes environment of collaboration

New and improved office space for the Department of Pediatric Radiology brings together all radiologists in one large reading room and houses the department’s offices in one centralized location. The expansion also provides space for daily morning huddles. These changes help ensure the hospital’s imaging services are available for patients in a timely manner. Read more

July 14

Dr. Susan Blaney elected chair of CPRIT Advisory Committee on childhood cancers

Dr. Susan Blaney, deputy director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, was recently elected to serve as chair of the Cancer Prevention & Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT) Advisory Committee on Childhood Cancers (ACCC). Blaney, who has been a member of the committee for three years, will serve a two-year term. Read more

81015TheWoodlandsHealthCenter300July 14

Health Center staff prepares for transition to community hospital setting

With the opening of the outpatient and subspecialty building at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands just 15 months away, steps are being taken to ensure the transition for staff, patients and their families is seamless. One such step was taken June 25 and 26 when staff and leaders at the Woodlands Health Center and staff and leaders at the West Campus Outpatient and Subspecialty Building met and discussed what it’s like to go from working at a small community health center to a community hospital. Read more

81015HeartFailure300July 14

Texas Children’s opens first-of-its-kind pediatric Heart Failure Intensive Care Unit

Texas Children’s Heart Center and the section of Critical Care Medicine cut the ribbon July 6 on a new, first-of-its-kind pediatric Heart Failure Intensive Care Unit. This highly-specialized 12-bed unit focuses on the treatment of children with heart failure, as well as those requiring intensive care before and after heart transplant. Read more

July 14

Young investigator given research boost from national grant

Dr. Rikhia Chakraborty is a young scientist with a distinct goal – to find the causes that potentially lead to Langerhans cell histiocytosis (LCH), a rare cancer mainly affecting pediatric patients, and determine the best way to prevent and treat the disease. Chakraborty’s research was recently recognized by Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation with a Young Investigator Grant worth $100,000. Read more

81015Mata300July 14

Hour-long documentary on Mata conjoined twins to air on Discovery Life Channel

An hour-long documentary on the formerly conjoined Mata twins aired on the Discovery Life Channel on July 16 . The program spotlighted Texas Children’s Hospital’s efforts leading up to and after the historic surgery that separated Knatalye Hope and Adeline Faith Mata. Read more

81015surgeryFraser300July 14

Department of Surgery makes great strides 2010-2015

During his annual state of the department meeting, Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr. highlighted the impressive efforts within the Department of Surgery. Read more



July 20

A new community hospital partnership allows patients to deliver at CHI St. Luke’s Health – The Vintage Hospital

Pregnant members of Texas Children’s Health Plan – The Center for Children and Women Greenspoint location recently received some big news. They can now deliver their babies at CHI St. Luke’s Health – The Vintage Hospital located in Northwest Houston. Read more

81015HH300July 21

Texas Children’s conference empowers HH patients, families

On July 11, Texas Children’s Hospital and Hope for Hypothalamic Hamartomas hosted an educational conference to empower patients and their families affected by a rare and often devastating brain condition. Hypothalamic Hamartoma (HH) is a noncancerous tumor of the hypothalamus that causes uncontrollable seizures, early puberty, hormonal imbalances and cognitive and behavioral problems. Read more

81015epileptologist300July 21

World renowned epileptologist, colleagues visit Texas Children’s Hospital

World renowned epileptologist Dr. Helen Cross and two of her colleagues visited Texas Children’s July 9 and July 10 to get more information on the Medtronic Visualase system, which uses real-time MRI-guided thermal imaging and laser technology to destroy lesions in the brain that cause epilepsy and uncontrollable seizures. Read more

81015WCSIU300July 21

Leaders prepare for opening of special isolation unit

Clinicians recently participated in a detailed simulation to prepare for the soon-to-be-open special isolation unit. The state-of-the-art facility will open its doors in October and a Special Response Team will stand ready to receive children suspected of having a highly contagious disease. Read more

81015Ethanbell300July 21

End-of-treatment bell brings hope for cancer patients

Patients at the Texas Children Cancer and Hematology Centers now can ring a bell in both the inpatient and outpatient units at the end of their treatment. Listen to a song Purple Songs Can Fly artist and cancer survivor Christian Spear wrote and dedicated to patients entering a new phase of their lives with the ringing of the end-of-treatment bell. Read more

July 21

ICD-10: Let’s reach 100 percent educational compliance by September 1

On October 1, Texas Children’s and other hospitals around the nation will convert to the federally-mandated ICD-10 coding system to better report patients’ diagnoses and inpatient procedures. To ensure we are ready systemwide for this transition, employees must complete their required online education and training by September 1. You can access your assigned e-learning module here. Read more

July 28

Texas Children’s Auxiliary awards given to Gargollo and Rosenfeld

The 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. Read more

July 28

NRI study: Insufficient energy production by mitochondria can lead to neural degeneration

In a fascinating study recently published in PLOS Biology, Dr. Hugo Bellen, Manish Jaiswal and their colleagues at the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s found that insufficient energy production by the mitochondria can cause photoreceptor neurons in the retina to degenerate. Read more

July 28

Fraser celebrates 20 years with Texas Children’s Hospital Heart Center

Thanks 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. Read more

81015cancer300July 28

Texas Children’s expands crucial care to cancer and hematology patients in developing countries

Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Center physicians are crossing the globe to provide care for children suffering from cancer and blood disorders. Watch a video to see how the care they provide continues to reach new populations. Read more

July 28

Zarutskie’s arrival, expertise complements patient care at Family Fertility Center

Dr. Paul Zarutskie recently joined the Family Fertility Center at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. With more than 30 years in the field of reproductive medicine, Zarutskie combines his expertise and compassionate approach to patient care to help infertile couples achieve their dream of starting a family. Read more

August 14

Transplant Services team to host pediatric transplant symposium

Texas Children’s Hospital Transplant Services team is hosting the 2015 Pediatric Transplant Symposium at Texas Children’s Hospital. Learn how to register for this conference. Read more

August 4, 2015

Twenty years ago on August 1, Texas Children’s launched what is now the largest pediatric network in the nation with more than 200 board-certified pediatricians and 50 practices throughout the greater Houston area. Each year, the group sees 400,000 patients and completes more than a million visits.

“Texas Children’s Pediatrics has been one of the best things for Texas Children’s Hospital,” CEO and President Mark A. Wallace said. “More importantly, it’s been one of the best things for the community.”

The physician network was formed in 1995 with the purchase of a practice in west Houston owned and operated by four brothers – Drs. Ben, Morris, Harry and Paul Rosenthal. Because of its success, more and more pediatricians joined the group, making it what it is today.

Harry Rosenthal, who still practices at Texas Children’s Pediatrics Ashford with his brother, Ben Rosenthal, and his brother’s daughter, Dr. Rachel Rosenthal Bray, said his family is happy to be part of such a successful organization.

“It was one of the best decisions we’ve ever made,” Rosenthal said. “Texas Children’s Pediatrics has been wonderful for our practice.”

Dr. Kamini Muzumdar of Texas Children’s Pediatrics North Cypress agreed and said joining the group 15 years ago “made sense in every possible way” and has allowed her and her more than 20 other colleagues at the practice to accomplish things they never would have been able to do had they been on their own.

“Being part of Texas Children’s has given us the opportunity to be a part of an organization that has a reputation for providing exceptional care,” Muzumdar said.

In addition to providing its physicians with administrative, financial and management expertise, Texas Children’s Pediatrics offers a link to the entire Texas Children’s system, which includes more than 2,000 medical staff who provide care in more than 40 pediatric subspecialties.

“Texas Children’s Pediatrics is part of the Texas Children’s family,” said Kay Tittle, president of Texas Children’s Pediatrics. “The organizations support each other and allow everyone to focus on our top priority, which is taking care of patients and their families.”

The close working relationship also helps us grow to meet the ever-changing needs of those we serve.

“We’ve been doing this for 20 years and have been doing a phenomenal job,” Texas Children’s Pediatrics Vice President Lou Fragoso said. “But, the needs of families are changing, the way they need their care delivered is changing and we need to change with them.”

That’s why just this past year, Texas Children’s opened its first two urgent care centers and started a pilot program called Texas Children’s Pediatrics Walk-In-Now (W.I.N.) at Texas Children’s Pediatrics Cy-Fair. Both programs offer additional access to quality pediatric care any time of the day or night. Additional urgent care and W.I.N. locations will be opening soon.

A few months ago, Texas Children’s Pediatrics launched the ParentAdvice Center, a new mobile health management app available for free on iTunes and Google Play that will help families make smart decisions about what level of care is needed for their child and how to provide symptom relief for minor illnesses or injuries at home.

And, for years Texas Children’s Pediatrics Community Cares Program has provided trusted, high-quality pediatric medical services for children who otherwise would seek care from emergency rooms or possibly go without care or treatment due to low family incomes and/or lack of health insurance.

Regardless of the family’s financial situation, the Community Cares Program provides health care to children from birth to age 18 and offers the opportunity to develop a trusting, long-term relationship with a board certified pediatrician. The program also collaborates with community partners to assist families with other needed health care services.

Texas Children’s Pediatrics Chief Medical Officer Dr. Stanley Spinner said as long as the organization continues to come together as a unified group of physicians whose primary focus is the patient then Texas Children’s Pediatrics will continue to be successful.

“It’s exceeded my expectations,” said Spinner, who was one of the first physicians to join Texas Children’s Pediatrics. “And, I’m sure it will continue.”