April 26, 2018

On April 24, Texas Children’s friends and supporters attended The Forum Luncheon highlighting the amazing work of the Texas Children’s Heart Center, currently ranked No. 1 in the nation for cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report.

Held at The Post Oak Hotel at Uptown Houston, the program highlighted the story of Tenley Kennedy, who was diagnosed with a life-threatening heart condition when her mother, Kelly Kennedy, was 20 weeks pregnant.

Kelly said she’d never give up on her baby girl, and neither did the team at the Heart Center.

Two-year-old Tenley 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 spent most of her life at Texas Children’s Hospital waiting for a heart transplant. On May 13, 2017, her day finally came. Tenley received a heart transplant. The little girl is now at home in Louisiana and thriving.

“Texas Children’s Hospital saved Tenley’s life, and we are forever indebted,” Kelly said.

April 24, 2018

Texas Children’s emergency operations plan was put to the test during a comprehensive active shooter exercise on April 16. This was the first time an emergency exercise of this scale and scope with external and internal participants was completed at Texas Children’s Hospital Medical Center Campus. Two similar exercises were previously conducted at the Woodlands and West campuses in 2017.

The exercise included over 200 Texas Children’s staff and employees and 30 members of local law enforcement including, the University of Texas Police Department, Harris County SWAT Team, and the state department diplomatic security service. There were also multiple external observers and evaluators onsite. Having multiple agencies involved in simulating an active shooter incident creates an environment that is as realistic as possible and allows law enforcement agencies to practice their skills in a new environment. A secondary benefit is having the opportunity to train in our hospital footprint which would be valuable in the event of a real active shooter incident.

After the participants arrived, they were put through a safety briefing with Texas Children’s Hospital Emergency Management, followed by further orientation with The University of Texas Police Department, and “Run, Hide, Fight” Training provided by Texas Children’s Security. During these exercises blank ammunition was used to simulate gunfire increasing realism while maintaining safety.

The exercise was held on the twelfth floor of the Legacy Tower, a new extension of Texas Children’s Hospital that officially opens Tuesday, May 22. Legacy Tower was the perfect place to host this exercise since it is vacant, so patient care would not be disturbed, and due to its convenient location on Texas Children’s Hospital Medical Center Campus.

The exercise involved two scenarios both presented within each of the five sessions. The first scenario was a disgruntled parent seeking retribution against the staff following the recent death of his child. The enraged father came into the hospital looking for a particular physician, became agitated, pulled out a weapon, and then started shooting. Once the father started shooting, people began to scramble, and at that point, all the staff were expected to execute the “Run-Hide-Fight” training that was provided. The shooter eventually isolated himself then took his own life.

After law enforcement entered the scene they began searching the area, located the shooter, secured the floor and evacuated all of the participants to a safe area. At that point the first evolution of the exercise ended and all the participants were gathered for a quick debriefing to discuss what happened before being repositioned for the next evolution of the exercise with participants changing roles.

“So that first time kind of startles them,” Aaron Freedkin, manager of Emergency Management, said. “Then they really settle into the “Run-Hide-Fight” training.”

The second scenario was a domestic dispute involving a person looking for his ex-wife, accusing her of taking custody of their kids and seeking retribution. While the scenes played out looked and sounded real, fortunately, this was only an exercise. However, these realistic situations are needed to evoke the intensity that would arise in the event of a real active shooter incident.

According to Texas Children’s Hospital Emergency Management, the first time they ran through the drill participants had the tendency to hesitate rather than react. However, the second time they were more comfortable and as a result, their performance improved. After the second evolution of the exercise, Texas Children’s Hospital Emergency Management conducted a follow-up discussion and debriefing in a process to capture lessons learned from the exercise.

“We are always seeking to improve our processes and our plans, so we do what’s called an after action debriefing or a hot wash,” Freedkin said. “This is where we sit them down and talk about what they went through and ask them what went well and if there are any opportunities for improvement.”

During the process, Everbridge, our emergency notification system, was tested by sending messages stating that there is an active shooter, the specific floor, and everyone is told to “run-hide-fight.”

“Overall, it was a very successful exercise. We really want people to get that visceral reaction,” Freedkin said. “It’s one thing to show people a video or to give them a PowerPoint and show them how to respond during an active shooter event. It’s very different to stick them on a floor and then have somebody shooting off a weapon. So, this really gets your adrenaline going and gives them more of a realistic feel for what a real event would be like.”

We are better prepared today than we were before, and the lessons learned from this exercise will drive improvements to our planning and response for many months to come.

Just 12 short months ago, Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative at Texas Children’s Hospital, the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, and leaders in Botswana, Uganda and Malawi, announced a $100 million initiative to create an innovative pediatric hematology-oncology treatment network in sub-Saharan Africa.

Called Global HOPE (Hematology-Oncology Pediatric Excellence), the aim of the initiative is to build long-term capacity to treat and dramatically improve the prognosis of children with cancer and blood disorders in sub-Saharan Africa where the overwhelming majority of pediatric cancer and hematology patients do not survive. The mortality rate is estimated to be as high as 90 percent, in large part due to an inadequate health care infrastructure and a significant lack of expert physicians and other health care workers trained to treat children with cancer.

Global HOPE already is making great strides to change these outcomes and the reasons behind them. Since its creation in February 2017, more than 1,000 patients have been treated, 369 health care professionals have been trained, eight physician fellows have enrolled in the first Pediatric Hematology Oncology Fellowship Program in East Africa and seven cancer awareness and survivor events in Botswana, Uganda and Malawi have been organized.

“We’re very excited by the progress in a relatively short amount of time,” said Dr. David Poplack, director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers. “Capacity building takes time. This may mean we exceed our original expectations.”

Initially, Global HOPE leaders envisioned treating 5,000 patients in the first five years, but the expectation assumed the numbers would ramp up as the program did. A similar situation occurred in 2003 after the largest pediatric HIV treatment network in the world was created by the Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, Baylor College of Medicine International Pediatric AIDS Initiative and the Governments of Botswana, Uganda and Malawi. The network has leveraged existing experience, infrastructure, and public/private partnerships to train 52,000 health care professionals and provide care for nearly 300,000 children with HIV and their families in sub-Saharan Africa, lowering the mortality rate for these children to 1.2 percent.

“The success we’ve had in radically changing the course of pediatric HIV/AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa is due in large part to the tremendous support provided by the country governments, health care providers on the ground and donors who have made our work possible,” said Dr. Mark W. Kline, president and founder of BIPAI, physician-in-chief of Texas Children’s Hospital and chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “We are very pleased by the progress Global HOPE already has made in building a self-sustaining infrastructure that changes the tide of these childhood diseases in sub-Saharan Africa.”

Global HOPE is building on the work Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers and its partners have been providing children with cancer and blood disorders in Africa for a decade. Through the partnership, Global HOPE is active in three countries and has 51 faculty and staff working in Texas Children’s global sites.

These sites, called Centers of Excellence, are being expanded in Botswana, Malawi and Uganda, and aim to serve as regional hubs for pediatric hematology/oncology programs. Progress also is being made on implementing standard treatment protocols and clinical practice guidelines to ensure quality pediatric hematology/oncology care and services are provided across the cancer care continuum, and positively impact overall pediatric health services.

To develop local leaders in Africa in the pediatric hematology/oncology field, Global HOPE has established the first Hematology/Oncology Fellowship in East Africa in Uganda. This two-year fellowship is accredited by the Uganda Medical and Dental Practitioners Council and incorporates online training, live lectures, rotations from sub-specialists to provide training on-site, and professional development opportunities, including attending scientific conferences and participating in leadership seminars.

“This fellowship is one of the most important things we are doing in Africa,” Poplack said. “It is the formal educational program that enables us to build medical capacity to diagnose and treat pediatric blood disorders and cancer.”

The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation is committing $50 million over five years to fund the training of health care providers as well as clinical infrastructure and operations. Global HOPE will raise an additional $50 million for the initiative.

Read these blogs to learn more about Global HOPE:

Global HOPE supports parent-led advocacy group in Uganda

How a blueprint for treating HIV/AIDS is helping address childhood cancer in Africa

All kids with cancer deserve a fighting chance

On April 17, Texas Children’s Hospital launched the new podcast series “Outcomes.” The seven-part series captures just a few of the remarkable stories that occur inside the walls of our hospital every day. Join patient families and Texas Children’s experts on their journey to save lives.

New episodes will be released every Tuesday and will feature patient stories and physician commentary from Texas Children’s Heart Center, Texas Children’s Cancer Center, Texas Children’s Neuroscience Center, Texas Children’s Fetal Center, Vaccine, the Vascular Anomalies Center, and more.

Subscribe now at texaschildrens.org/podcasts or where ever you get your podcasts like iTunes, Spotify, and Soundcloud.

Contact brand@texaschildrens.org with questions or comments.

Dr. Peter Hotez, director of the Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, and Dr. Huda Zoghbi, director of the Jan and Dan Duncan Neurological Research Institute at Texas Children’s Hospital, have been elected as the newest members of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, one of the nation’s most prestigious honorary titles.

“Membership in the Academy is not only an honor, but also an opportunity and a responsibility,” said Jonathan Fanton, president of the American Academy. “Members can be inspired and engaged by connecting with one another and through Academy projects dedicated to the common good. The intellect, creativity and commitment of the 2018 Class will enrich the work of the Academy and the world in which we live.”

The Academy is one of the country’s oldest societies and independent policy research centers. It recognizes exceptional scholars, leaders, artists and innovators and engages them in sharing knowledge and addressing challenges facing the world. This year, Hotez and Zoghbi join more than 200 other individuals from a wide range of disciplines and professions as elected members of the Class of 2018.

The Class of 2018 members were elected in 25 categories and are affiliated with 125 institutions from across the globe. They include scientists, scholars, an academy award winner, philanthropists, CEOs, historians, a past U.S. president and a current Supreme Court judge.

See a full list of new members.

The new class will be inducted at a ceremony in October 2018 in Cambridge, Mass., at which the newly elected members will sign the Book of Members, and their signatures will be added to the Academy members who came before them, including Benjamin Franklin (1781) and Alexander Hamilton (elected 1791) in the 18th century; Ralph Waldo Emerson, (1864), Maria Mitchell (1848) and Charles Darwin (1874) in the 19th; and Albert Einstein (1924), Robert Frost (1931), Margaret Mead (1948), Milton Friedman (1959) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (1966) in the 20th.


In addition to his responsibilities at Texas Children’s, which include being the Endowed Chair in Tropical Pediatrics, Hotez is professor and dean of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine and is a Fellow in Disease and Poverty for the James A. Baker III Institute for Public Policy at Rice University. He also holds a title of university professor at Baylor University and is founding editor in chief for the open access medical journal PLOS Neglected Tropical Diseases.

Hotez has been recognized for his work in research and advocacy as a world-renowned expert in neglected tropical diseases. He founded the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine in 2011. There, he leads an international team of scientists working to develop vaccines to combat some of the world’s most common yet potentially deadly diseases such as hookworm infection, schistosomiasis and other infectious and neglected diseases, including Chagas disease, leishmaniasis and SARS. These diseases affect millions of children and adults worldwide in some of the most poverty stricken areas.

In 2006 at the Clinton Global Initiative he helped to launch a Global Network for NTDs, and 10 years later in 2016, Hotez became known as the thought leader on the Zika epidemic in the Western Hemisphere and globally. He was among the first to predict Zika’s emergence in the U.S. He has been called upon frequently to testify before Congress and served on infectious disease task forces for two consecutive Texas governors.


Zoghbi, a professor of pediatrics, molecular and human genetics, neurology and neuroscience at Baylor, is the world’s leading expert on Rett syndrome. The disease strikes after about a year of normal development and presents with developmental regression, social withdrawal, loss of hand use and compulsive hand wringing, seizures and a variety of neurobehavioral symptoms.

After encountering girls with Rett syndrome, Zoghbi set out to find the genetic cause of the disease. She and her research team identified mutations in MECP2 as the cause and revealed the importance of MeCP2 for the function of various neuronal subtypes. Her work in mouse models showed just how sensitive the brain is to the levels of MeCP2. Too little MeCP2 causes Rett syndrome; doubling MeCP2 levels causes progressive neurological deficits. The latter disorder is now recognized as MECP2 duplication syndrome.

The discovery of the Rett syndrome gene provided a straightforward diagnostic genetic test, allowing early and accurate diagnosis. It also revealed that mutations in MECP2 can cause a host of other neuropsychiatric features ranging from autism to juvenile onset schizophrenia. Further, it provided evidence that an autism spectrum disorder or an intellectual disability disorder can be genetic even if it is not inherited.

Her discovery opened up a new area of research on the role of epigenetics in neuropsychiatric disorders. Her more recent work has shown that symptoms of adult mice modeling the duplication disorder can be reversed using antisense oligonucleotides that normalize MeCP2 levels. This discovery provides a potential therapeutic strategy for the MECP2 duplication syndrome and inspires similar studies for other duplication disorders.

Zoghbi and collaborators also have made many discoveries toward understanding mechanisms driving adult-onset neurodegenerative disorders and are now focused on identifying potential therapeutics for these disorders.

Texas Children’s Hospital’s Trauma Center has received the prestigious 2018 Trauma System of Care Award from the Southeast Texas Regional Advisory Council (SETRAC). The Trauma System of Care Award recognizes Texas Children’s Hospital as one of the best in SETRAC’s nine-county region for excellence in the development and advancement of pediatric trauma services.

At a recent awards ceremony, SETRAC honored Texas Children’s as well as other hospitals and first responders who have exhibited outstanding performance in areas such as trauma care, stroke care, cardiac care, multi-agency teamwork, disaster preparedness and citizen hero of the year. The ceremony was held at the Hilton of America’s and was attended by nearly 700 individuals and elected officials, including State Representatives, City of Houston EMS Physician Director Dr. David Persse, and Jim “Mattress Mack” McIngvale, owner and operator of Gallery Furniture.

“This award means a lot because, being only in our eighth year, we are the youngest Level I trauma center in Houston,” said Dr. Bindi Naik-Mathuria, Trauma Center director. “We have come a long way in developing programs to provide the best care for injured children as well as injury prevention education for our community. It was rewarding to be recognized as the best pediatric trauma hospital in the region.”

Texas Children’s Hospital has been verified as a level I Pediatric Trauma Center since 2010. The level of verification was requested by the hospital and the on-site review of the hospital was conducted by a team of reviewers experienced in the field of trauma. Using the current Resources for Optimal Care of the Injured Patient manual as a guideline, this team determined if the criteria for the requested level have been met.

Established by the American College of Surgeons in 1987, the Consultation/Verification Program for Hospitals promotes the development of trauma centers in which participants provide not only the hospital resources necessary for trauma care, but also the entire spectrum of care to address the needs of all injured patients. This spectrum encompasses the prehospital phase through the rehabilitation process. Verified trauma centers must meet the essential criteria that ensure trauma care capability and institutional performance.

SETRAC was founded by the late Dr. James H. “Red” Duke, Jr., legendary trauma surgeon at Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center and John B. Holmes Professor of Clinical Sciences at UT Health Medical School, and has been funded by the Texas Department of State Health Services for the last 25 years.

April 19, 2018

On April 18, Olympian Kristin Armstrong and Scott Schnitzspahn, vice president of Elite Athletics, USA Cycling, met with employees and visited with patients during a tour of Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. Armstrong, a three-time gold medalist, and Schnitzspahn brought smiles to many of the patient’s faces and were enjoyed by the many employees and leaders who got to meet them.

Armstrong is the winner of the women’s individual time trial in 2008, 2012 and 2016.

At the 2008 Summer Olympics in China, Armstrong completed one of the biggest achievements of her career by winning the gold medal in the women’s road time trial competition. Finishing in under 35 minutes, Armstrong was 25 seconds ahead of silver medalist Emma Pooley from Great Britain and with Karin Thurig from Switzerland, who took the bronze.

Armstrong successfully defended her Olympic title in the individual time trial at the 2012 Olympics in London and became the oldest rider to win an Olympic time trial, finishing 35th in the women’s road race.

In August 2016, Armstrong made history again at the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janerio after coming out of retirement to win the gold medal in the women’s individual time trial and becoming the first rider ever to win three gold medals in the same discipline. She also became the oldest female cyclist to win an Olympic medal.

In September 2017 Armstrong joined USA Cycling as Endurance Performance Director.