May 30, 2017

The Clinical Research Center/Research Resources Office presented the Clinical Research Award for Second Quarter 2017 to Kathy McCarthy, research nurse, Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers.

This award was established by the Clinical Research Center in collaboration with the Research Resources Office to recognize and honor individual contributions to protecting the best interest of the research subjects and compliance with applicable rules and regulations.

McCarthy’s research activities in the CRC focus on conducting clinical trials of new agents to treat pediatric cancers. She actively participates in the screening and management of patients enrolled on Phase I and II clinical trials, as well as supportive care for these patients and their families.

Peyton Richardson was diagnosed with acute lymphocytic leukemia (ALL) in January 2015. For the next two years, she and her doctors at Texas Children’s Cancer Center worked together to combat her disease. On May 15, they won their fight and Peyton rang the end-of-treatment bell in front of a crowd of friends, family and clinical staff in the Cancer Center’s infusion area.

During an emotional speech, Peyton thanked everyone for the help they gave her along the way.

“Without my cancer journey, I would not have met some of these amazing people,” she said through tears. “I love everyone here so much. I don’t know what I would do without you.”

Peyton’s primary doctor at the Cancer Center, Dr. ZoAnn Dryer, said Peyton’s bell ringing signifies the completion of two and a half long, hard years of treatment.

“This is it,” Dryer said. “From here on out, it’s just blood counts and check-ups.”

Carrie Richardson, Peyton’s mom, said the fact that her daughter is cancer free hasn’t really hit her because her family has been on the road to recovery for so long.

“It’s overwhelming,” she said. “We are just so thankful for everything that Texas Children’s has done for us.”

Roger Richardson, Peyton’s dad, expressed his appreciation as well.

“I’m very happy,” he said. “I’m so glad Peyton is here and has gotten to this point.”

To read more about Peyton’s path to recovery, including her being chosen to ride on a float at the 127th Rose Parade for Northwestern Mutual, and her writing and recording a song with Dr. Jennifer Arnold, click here and here.

An important milestone was recently reached at Texas Children’s Hospital that has one 17-year-old extremely grateful.

Joseph McCullough received a new liver on May 21, giving him a chance at a new life after battling primary sclerosing cholangitis, a life-threatening disease that causes end-stage liver disease. McCullough’s transplant was the 1,500th transplant performed by the Texas Children’s Transplant Services team.

“That’s fascinating,” Joseph said about being the 1,500th transplant recipient. “That’s unbelievable that I’m that number.”

Texas Children’s Surgeon-In-Chief Dr. Charles D. Fraser said the milestone – and the immeasurable service to children and families that it represents – is due to the hard work of the entire Transplant Services department and the multitude of other departments that support Transplant Services.

“I would like especially to thank to Dr. John Goss, medical director of Transplant Services and surgical director of the Liver Transplant Program at Texas Children’s, for providing strong leadership for the program and all of the medical and surgical directors of Transplant for their guidance, resilience in growing their programs and excellence in every aspect of patient care,” Fraser said. “Under their leadership, we have become not only one of the busiest pediatric transplant programs but also one of the best.”

Transplantation began at Texas Children’s in 1984 with a pediatric heart transplant that was performed by Dr. Denton Cooley. Since that time, liver, kidney and lung have been added and countless lives have been saved.

Just last year, 86 organ transplants were performed at Texas Children’s – 32 kidney transplants, 25 heart transplants, 21 liver transplants and 8 lung transplants – making Texas Children’s one of the most active pediatric transplant program in the nation, per the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network.

Behind the statistics, there’s an exceptionally experienced and well-coordinated transplant program that draws on numerous medical, surgical and support specialties, and transplant coordinators who play an essential role in connecting recipients with prospective donors.

“I believe our success is a testimony to the skill and commitment of our multidisciplinary team,” Goss said. “Our team offers an interdisciplinary approach to all aspects of the transplant process, from initial referral to hospitalization and outpatient management. We also work closely with patients, families and referring physicians to help make the evaluation process as convenient and efficient as possible.”

Goss added that transplants are possible only because of the generous and selfless decisions made by donors and donor families. Without them, people like Joseph would run out of options.

“I can’t wait to play basketball again,” said the teenager, adding that anyone who can should become an organ donor. “I can’t wait to have a full day of school again as crazy as that sounds.”

Watch ABC-13’s news story about Joseph and click here to watch a video about Texas Children’s Transplant Program. Below are the stories of two more lives that have recently been touched by Texas Children’s Transplant team as well as information on how to become an organ donor.

Karla Alonzo
When Karla Alonzo was 13-years-old, she was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy, the most common disease of the heart muscle which causes it to enlarge and not pump blood as well as a healthy heart can. In and out of the hospital in her hometown of Port Arthur for years, Karla was referred to Texas Children’s Hospital when she started to feel extremely weak, couldn’t walk up the stairs and was always thirsty. First, doctors started Karla on medication to help improve the condition, but it was not as successful as they hoped. Next, Karla was implanted with the HeartWare HVAD, which kept her going for a while. Recently, she got what she really needed – a heart transplant. Performed by Dr. Iki Adachi, the transplant went well. Karla has been discharged from the hospital and is at home continuing to recover.

Tenley Kennedy
One-year-old Tenley Kennedy was born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a congenital heart defect that affects normal blood flow through the heart. As a result of her disease, Tenley has spent most of her life at Texas Children’s Hospital waiting for a heart transplant. On May 13, her day finally came. Performed by Dr. Carlos Mery, Tenley received a heart transplant. The little girl is still in the hospital recovering but should be able to go home very soon. Click here to watch KPRC’s story about Tenley.

To register to become an organ donor, click here.

As chief of the newly created section of Public Health Pediatrics at Texas Children’s – the nation’s largest and first public health section within a children’s hospital – Dr. Christopher Greeley has devoted much of his resources and time toward developing a one-of-a-kind, community wide program aimed at child abuse prevention.

“As a board certified child abuse physician, I kept seeing children after they were harmed,” said Greeley, who also is a professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “It would be a great day if no one were hurt. And the only way for that to happen would be for the health care team to spend more time on prevention.”

Greeley uses this analogy to illustrate his point:

Imagine standing by a river and watching kids floating by. You pluck them out of the river to rescue them. But you need to go upstream to find the break in the fence that is allowing the kids to fall into the water. Going upstream to find and correct the cause of problems is the model of public health.

“We have been spending all of our time scooping kids out of the river, and now we’re developing a program, a strategy to start going upstream,” Greeley said. “We will always take care of these kids, but part of what our team does is focus on socioeconomic factors that place kids and families at risk in the first place.”

Launched in October 2015, the Public Health Pediatrics section has two components – child abuse pediatrics and the Center for the Study of Childhood Adversity and Resilience (CARE). Both components work together to engage the community around perceived risk factors and improve the trajectory for children of abuse and neglect.

The child abuse pediatrics program focuses on four main areas:

  • Excellence in clinical care: About 2,500 suspected victims of abuse and neglect are evaluated annually at Texas Children’s and the Children’s Assessment Center (CAC) in Houston. Care is provided at Texas Children’s Main Campus and planned for the new Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands campus. Consultative services are available at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. The program provides medical support to CACs in Houston and Brazoria County. Because children in the foster care system are at risk of abuse, Texas Children’s is developing a foster care clinic.
  • Training and education: Baylor and Texas Children’s have three doctors in training in an accredited fellowship in child abuse pediatrics, one of the largest such programs in the country. Besides education for medical students and the greater Houston medical community, a training program is being developed for post-doctoral public health practitioners. An outreach program trains members of the community on signs and symptoms of child abuse.
  • Scholarship and new knowledge: Clinical research varies from early recognition of abuse to improving mental health services for children in foster care.
  • Community presence: The program’s interdisciplinary team of physicians, nurses, social workers and public health practitioners help primary care physicians and nonprofits who care for abused and neglected children and are available to civic groups, church groups and YMCAs.

In conjunction with child abuse pediatrics, the main focus of CARE is community-level research to identify, promote and implement strategies to prevent adverse childhood experiences such as poverty, violence, inequality, homelessness, and lack of mental health, education and nutrition.

For instance, to help relieve parental stress and improve children’s outcomes, the launch of the upWORDS program at Texas Children’s teaches parents how to improve the quantity and quality of language spoken with their children, which has been known to increase brain development and positively impact their child’s future.

The Public Health Pediatrics section is also working with nonprofit communities, city and county agencies to develop partnerships and strategies to help families cope with other issues including postpartum depression, violence, and food insecurity or hunger in Houston.

“Improving the circumstances that cause adverse childhood experiences is a long-term complex undertaking that must be adapted to fit each community,” Greeley said. “But the section of Public Health Pediatrics is ready to do whatever it takes to improve the lives of children.”

Texas Children’s Physician-in-Chief Dr. Mark W. Kline who recruited Greeley to head this new section applauds the success and foresees the future growth and far reaching impact of this program.

“As a transformative figure in the Department of Pediatrics, Greeley will inspire a generation of public health-oriented pediatricians-in-training who, in turn, will populate programs across the country,” Kline said. “His program is a prime example of the things that we are doing that other pediatrics departments in the U.S. can replicate.”

May 23, 2017

On May 16, Michael Phelps visited with patients at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and was honored at the 12th annual An Evening with a Legend event.

Phelps, the most decorated Olympian of all time, started his day at Texas Children’s by making a special visit to the Cancer Center to spend time with patients and their families. During the one-on-one room visits, Phelps offered words of encouragement and let the families know they are not alone in the fight. As someone who accomplished a seemingly unattainable feat in his career, Phelps emphasized the importance of pushing forward with continued endurance.

Later that evening, nearly 650 guests enjoyed an unforgettable evening at the Hilton Americas – Houston’s Ballroom of the Americas for the 12th annual An Evening with a Legend event honoring Phelps.

Benefiting Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, the evening included a beautiful seated dinner, exciting paddle raise and an intimate conversation with Phelps, moderated by Emmy® award-winning journalist Andrea Kremer. Guests had the opportunity to learn about Phelps’ journey to become a gold medal legend and what is in store for the next phase of his life.

“Michael Phelps was a wonderful legend,” said Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Director Dr. David Poplack. “He is a sincere, empathetic person who cares deeply about the issues faced by children with cancer. We are grateful to have had the opportunity to host him and appreciate his support for all that we do.”

Co-chaired by Shelley Barineau, Julie Bergen, Ned Torian and Kathy Zay, the event raised more than $1.2 million for the Cancer Center. Carmen and Butch Mach and Kelli and John Weinzierl served as honorary chairs for the event.

Click here to hear from the co-chairs and to learn more about the Evening with a Legend event. To hear from past legends honored at the event, click here.

More than 300 members of the Texas Children’s Hospital Department of Surgery attended the eighth annual Edmond T. Gonzales, Jr., Surgical Research Day on May 19. The event provided a forum for researchers across the department to showcase their work.

“As the research enterprise within the Department of Surgery grows, this day, where we highlight the research being conducted in the department, is more important than ever,” said Dr. Charles D. Fraser, Jr., surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children’s Hospital. “The new research discoveries coming from academic surgeons and scientists at Texas Children’s Hospital are changing the future of health care.”

This year 159 abstracts were submitted for review. Eleven of these abstracts were chosen for oral presentations on Surgical Research Day and 130 were accepted for poster presentations. This year eight students vied for the Best Presentation award and three faculty members were chosen to present their research.

The 2016 keynote speaker was Dr. Michael Longaker, the Deane P. and Louise Mitchell Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine and Lucile Salter and Packard Children’s Hospital. He is a pediatric plastic surgeon who also directs Stanford Medical School’s Program in Regenerative Medicine and Children’s Surgical Research, and co-directs the Institute of Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine.

Laura Laux Higgins, director of special projects in the Department of Surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital, gave an ethics presentation on ethical violations in research. Higgins worked at leading legal firms as a litigator and spent several years at a top management consulting firm before joining Texas Children’s.

Awards presented at the event were the Samuel Stal Research Award for outstanding research by a resident or fellow, the Research Mentor Award, and Best Oral Presentation and Best Poster Presentation.

  • The Samuel Stal Research Award was presented to Dr. Luis De Leon, a post-doctoral research fellow in Congenital Heart Surgery. The award is named after Dr. Samuel Stal, former chief of Plastic Surgery at Texas Children’s.
  • Congenital Heart Surgeon Dr. Carlos Mery was honored with the Research Mentor Award. The award is given on an annual basis to honor a Department of Surgery faculty member who serves as a research mentor through career development, professional guidance or cultivation of research interests.
  • Best Oral Presentation award was given to Dr. James Fisher who is in the first year of his fetal surgery fellowship. He presented his work on the Development and Validation of a Fetal 3-D Surgical Simulator: Implications for Minimally Invasive In-Utero Gastroschisis Repair.
  • Best Poster award was given to researcher Andrew Lee from Anesthesiology for a poster on Use of the Baxter Faces (BARF) Scale to Measure the Severity of Nausea in Spanish Speaking Children.

Recipients of the 2017 Surgical Seed Grant Awards were announced as the grand finale of Texas Children’s Hospital Surgical Research Day. This grant program, funded by the Department of Surgery, allows surgery researchers to generate the preliminary data necessary for National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant applications and other extramural funding. Click here to find out who received a seed grant.

The Surgical Research Day Planning Committee included Dr. Jed Nuchtern (chair), Melinda Mathis (co-chair), Dr. Swathi Balaji, Shon Bower, Kathy Carberry, Dr. Jennifer Dietrich, Matthew Girotto, Laura Laux Higgins, Dr. Chester Koh, Dr. Lingkun Kong, Dr. Sandi Lam, Liz McCullum, Anissa Quiroz, Angie Rangel, Dr. Scott Rosenfeld, Stacy Staples and Veronica Victorian.

In support of Patient and Family Services’ Step Up for Patients First initiative, Texas Children’s Well-Being Team invites all staff to participate in the upcoming StairWELL Challenge. This well-being challenge encourages employees to make physical activity a priority while committing to take the stairs to improve the elevator experience for our patients and their families.

Challenge Details
  • The challenge is from Thursday, June 1, through Friday, June 30, 2017.
  • Participants’ goal is to complete two to eight flights of stairs each day and keep track of their progress via a tracking sheet (participants will receive this upon signing up for the challenge).*
  • To sign up for the challenge, click here.

“Stair climbing burns more calories than a traditional walk and increases your chance to achieve weight loss,” said Employee Medical Clinic Physician Dr. Irene Lomeda. The vigorous and continuous movement of your legs results in deeper breathing and increases your heartbeat, which enhances blood flow to all areas of your body. Stair climbing is also an ideal way to improve your energy, increase the function of your immune system and lower your risk for diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis and heart disease.”

During the challenge, look out for Well-Being Team and Wellness Ambassadors as they will be in the stairwells periodically to catch you climbing the stairs across all locations. They will be handing out Texas Children’s swag and fun incentives to celebrate stepping up for good health.

All Texas Children’s badge holders are eligible to participate. Commit to the challenge as an individual and encourage your co-workers to participate with you!

For more information about the challenge, visit the Well-Being page on Connect.

*In response to patient and family feedback, Texas Children’s Hospital has provided stairwell access for patients and families in the Mark A. Wallace Tower from Monday to Friday, 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. We understand taking the stairs isn’t an option for some; however, if you choose to take the stairs, this option is now available to you.