November 26, 2018

When the Houston Texans took the field on Monday night, November 26, they were out to win one in honor of a true Houston legend – Texans owner and philanthropist Bob McNair, who passed away on November 23 at the age of 81.

“I was proud to call Bob my friend, and he was such an important part of the Texas Children’s family,” said President and CEO Mark Wallace. “Because of his generous support, Texas Children’s has become one of the preeminent destinations in the world for pediatric health care and women’s services. All of us at Texas Children’s are sending positive thoughts and uplifting prayers to the entire McNair family during this difficult time.”

McNair and his wife, Janice, first called Houston home in 1960, just six years after Texas Children’s Hospital opened its doors. Initially unlucky in business, McNair finally found success when he started Cogen Technologies, which went on to become the largest privately owned cogeneration (an efficient form of power generation that produces electricity and heat at the same time) company in the world.

Of course, many will remember McNair as the man who tirelessly championed the cause to bring football back to Houston after the Oilers left in 1996. He was devoted to Texans fans and desperately wanted to bring a championship home for the people of Houston.

The same determination McNair put into building the Texans into a great team he also put into helping make a difference in the lives of others.

For nearly six decades, the McNairs used their resources as a force for positive change in Houston and across the United States. Through The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, they gave more than half a billion dollars to support education, advance medical research, train future business leaders, and encourage civic engagement. They set up scholarship programs at several universities, including Rice in Houston, that have made it possible for countless young people to attend college and earn their degrees.

Texas Children’s and our academic partner, Baylor College of Medicine, owe so much to McNair’s legacy and generosity.

The McNair Medical Institute has provided crucial funding that has supported the development of several research initiatives, and has also enabled Texas Children’s and Baylor to recruit some of the most brilliant minds in health care and medical research through the McNair Scholar program. And Texas Children’s partnership with the Texans has helped us encourage children throughout Greater Houston to make healthy choices and inspired them through community activities and school events throughout the year, like our upcoming mini PLAY 60 event.

These are just a few examples of the selflessness McNair exhibited on a daily basis. His towering legacy will live on for years to come in Houston, in Texans football and in the care that we provide at Texas Children’s.

November 19, 2018

Over 300 miles away from Texas Children’s Hospital is the Vannie Cook Children’s Clinic. Located in McAllen, Texas, the facility is an extension of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, dedicated solely to pediatric cancer and blood disorders in the Rio Grande Valley.

The clinic opened in 2001, as a joint venture between a local foundation, the Vannie E. Cook Jr. Cancer Foundation, Baylor College of Medicine and Texas Children’s Hospital. Since then, more than 9,500 families have found the care they need right where they need it most – in their own backyard.

“Before we arrived, most of the local children with cancer and blood disorders had to travel several hours to and from San Antonio or Houston for treatment,” said the clinic’s medical director Dr. Juan Carlos Bernini. “This region didn’t have any pediatric cancer facilities, and there were no pediatric oncologists or hematologists regularly practicing close by.”

During the first year of operation, clinic staff expected to see about 100 patients. Instead, they saw more than 400. “It was obvious how critical our presence was, but the community thankfully trusted and bolstered our ability to serve them,” said Bernini.

Comprehensive care

Texas Children’s/Baylor College of Medicine physicians staff the clinic in the only comprehensive pediatric cancer and hematology center in South Texas.

“The clinic has grown from a small group of providers into a top-notch team of physicians, nurses, social workers, clinic technicians and administrative supporters, all committed to delivering the newest and most advanced therapies to our young patients,” Bernini said. “Our commitment to the patient and family starts at diagnosis and continues throughout treatment and beyond. Most importantly, we’re able to forge exciting paths for long-term survivorship with our patients every day.”

The outpatient clinic is comprised of over 10,000 square feet of space with two waiting rooms, seven exam rooms, two procedure rooms, two phlebotomy stations, two laboratories and a large infusion suite divided into areas for toddlers, young children and adolescents, respectively.

In addition to offering diagnostic and cancer treatment services, the clinic offers a long term survivor program which follows childhood cancer survivors through adulthood, and a research program that offers participation in epidemiology studies and clinical trials.

As a member of the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), we are able to provide local children with critical access to clinical trials. This is particularly important since a large portion of the population that we treat is Hispanic, a population that is generally under-represented in clinical trials.

Still growing

Leaders with the Vannie Cook Children’s Clinic and its partners are always evaluating the services provided at the clinic and are constantly striving to deliver the best care possible to the children served in the Rio Grande Valley.

Dr. David Poplack, associate director of the Cancer and Hematology Centers and director of Global HOPE, helped pave the way for the partnership between Texas Children’s and the Vannie Cook Foundation. He has always said that supporting the clinic was and continues to be the right thing to do.

“At Texas Children’s we believe our responsibility to care for children doesn’t begin and end with those who are able to come to us for help,” Poplack said. “We have an obligation to identify and address critical gaps in coverage whether they are near or far.”

After the grand opening over two months ago, Texas Children’s 12th urgent care clinic, the second of which is located near a Texas Children’s Emergency Center has exceeded expectations.

“We are thrilled with the strong start our West Campus Urgent Care has had so far,” Director of Business Operations for the Urgent Care, Roula Smith said. “It definitely reaffirms that this was the right decision for our patients, as we provide the right care, at the right place, at the right time, at the right cost.”

On September 11, located next to the Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus Emergency Center, the clinic opened to help manage the Emergency Center’s low-acuity patient population and to serve patients and families in the West Houston area.

From opening through the end of October, the clinic has seen nearly 3,000 patients. Approximately one third of the patients are Texas Children’s Health Plan (TCHP) members. This helps TCHP members have access to the same high quality care but in a more cost effective environment. More than half of the patients seen at Texas Children’s Urgent Care West Campus have been self-select patients, who are not presenting via the Emergency Center but arrive to the clinic voluntarily.

This collaboration with the Emergency Center offers a quicker and less expensive option for low-acuity patients. The number of patients that leave the Emergency Center without being seen has been reduced by 80 percent during operating hours.

“In addition to being a win for our patients, it is a win for the Texas Children’s system as a whole,” Smith said. “We know that our colleagues in the Emergency Center are able to take care of higher acuity patients and our TCHP members are receiving care in the right environment for their needs.”

Prior to the clinic opening, the “Save My Spot” feature launched which allows patient families to reserve a time slot at the clinic from the comfort of their own home. This feature is live and wait times are also posted on the website so families know how long it will be before they are seen. Nearly 200 families have used this feature so far and the average cycle time for clinic visits is approximately an hour.

“Urgent care has been the perfect addition to the West Campus,” Assistant Vice President at West Campus Sara Montenegro said. “We have the full spectrum of care available – primary care, specialty care, urgent care, emergent care, surgery, and inpatient care, available in close proximity to each other now, and we are seeing very strong patient arrivals in our Urgent Care & Emergency Center, with this new addition. We knew this was a need in the community, and it is exceeding expectations!”

For more information about Texas Children’s Urgent Care and its locations, click here.

The shuttle commute for employees at the Medical Center campus continues to be quicker and easier following the addition of three new shuttles earlier this spring. We are now operating 12 shuttles, which are helping reduce midday wait times at the circulator stops. According to Facilities Operations, wait times have been cut in half since the addition of the shuttles.

“Midday traveling between the Meyer Building and the Medical Center Campus is a very busy time,” Facilities Operations Assistant Director Michael Jackson said. “So, decreasing wait times for midday riders is a very big win.”

Most recently, two loaner shuttles were replaced with two new Texas Children’s-branded shuttles in bright orange and hot pink, which are diesel-fueled and have front entry and rear exits, vinyl seats, and audio-visual monitors. They’re also equipped with Double Map shuttle tracking, which, once active, will allow employees to locate and track the shuttle using a mobile phone app.

“Our goal is to improve the shuttle experience for employees by decreasing wait times and increasing the frequency of shuttles in the rotation to and from destinations,” Jackson said, adding that the number of employees riding the shuttles continues to increase. “The frequency between shuttles is now averaging five minutes with a shuttle round trip averaging 20 minutes. We are receiving no calls of negative effects on ridership at this time.”

Another operational change made was allowing the shuttle supervisor, who has primarily been stationed at the Garage 19 stop, to move to the Feigin stop during peak evening times to monitor shuttle frequency, ridership, and most importantly, communicate to riders when the next shuttle will arrive.

“We believe informing riders of the shuttle arrival status helps ease anxiety and set expectations,” Facilities Operations Manager Samuel Hines said. “With more staff parking at the Meyer South surface lots, we have asked our shuttle drivers to stop there on the return trip back to Garage 19 in the evenings. This will shorten the walk to their vehicles at night and during inclement weather.”

The enhancements Facilities Operations continues to implement for employees also help provide a better experience for patient families. Jackson says that the additional shuttles are expected to improve patient and family experience by opening up parking spaces at the hospital, as staff continue parking in their assigned garages and ride the shuttle.

The Facilities Operations team is excited about the new additions, and they are looking forward to continuing to make employees’ commute throughout the Medical Center a safe and efficient one.

“We ride the shuttles frequently, and we meet with the shuttle transportation company every two weeks to address any issue and pitch ideas,” Jackson said. ”Just being present, available, fostering that communication, and definitely being transparent is going to be the key to improving Texas Children’s transportation and parking as a whole.”

For more information, call the 24/7 shuttle hotline, ext. 4-2666.

Parking update

The Texas Children’s Parking Task Force is listening to your feedback about employee parking and shuttle experiences, and we are trying to create solutions to ease the frustrations that come with working and navigating in the world’s largest medical complex.

What has the Parking Task Force accomplished recently?

We are excited to share with you new developments and improvements made over the past few months. Click here for more details.

Where can I find more parking information?

The Benefits website is the best and most readily available resource for everything employees want to know about parking and commuting at Texas Children’s – one of the last institutions in the Medical Center to offer paid, off-campus parking as a benefit to our employees. Simply click on Parking at the top right corner of the Benefits homepage (next to Important Resources) for direct access to all things parking.

Under the “Locations & Commuter Options” section on the site, we have included new information about TMC parking at Garage 19, Meyer North, Meyer South as well as Smith Lands East and West. You can also find more information online about weekend and after-hours access to different garages, security services and no-cost METRO bus and rail passes.

How can we keep up with what the Parking Task Force is doing?

Communicating with our Texas Children’s employees and leveraging your feedback are major priorities for the Task Force. Be sure to look for future updates about the group’s activities and accomplishments on Connect.

I want to share my comments or concerns with the Parking Task Force. How do I get in touch?

The Parking Task Force maintains and monitors a dedicated email inbox every day to give our employees a place to share their parking and shuttle comments and suggestions directly with the team. Send your thoughts and feedback to

On November 10, nearly 100 people gathered at the Meyer Building for Texas Children’s first ever Microtia Awareness Day, sponsored by the Division of Otolaryngology’s Microtia Clinic.

The event featured educational talks and Q&A sessions offered by experts across numerous Texas Children’s specialties and subspecialties, including Pediatric Otolaryngology, Speech and Language Pathology, Audiology and Anaplastology. There was also a full slate of games and activities for children, such as face-painting, a bean bag toss, Hula-Hooping and mini bowling, as well as a step-and-repeat for photos.

For patients and families alike, it was a wonderful new opportunity to meet with members of the multidisciplinary care team in Texas Children’s Microtia and Atresia Program, and to interact with other families who have been affected by these rare conditions.

“The event was extremely well received,” said Allison Haggerty, senior speech-language pathologist at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. “It was incredible to hear families say how they no longer felt like the ‘only ones,’ as they met so many others in similar situations.”

Microtia is a rare congenital malformation of the ear, occurring in about one in 10,000 births. Typically, the condition affects only one ear and the severity of symptoms can vary widely. In less severe cases, the ear might be slightly smaller than normal. However, in the most severe cases, the ear may be completely absent. Because the external and internal structures of the ear are so developmentally linked, children with microtia may also experience atresia – an absence or underdevelopment of the ear canal and middle ear structures. Atresia can potentially cause hearing loss and speech difficulties, which can in turn contribute to poor academic performance.

The effects of these conditions on physical appearance and on speech, hearing and learning, especially during crucial early developmental years, could potentially have a lasting negative impact on self-esteem and overall quality of life.

To meet the complex needs of patients with microtia and atresia, Texas Children’s has built the only comprehensive program in the state that offers the full spectrum of care, from reconstruction of the outer ear, to complex repair of aural atresia, to hearing aids or implants for appropriate candidates.

“With our program, we have created a one-stop shop where families have access to care for children of all ages – and our demand is high,” said Dr. Rodrigo Silva, director of Texas Children’s Ear and Hearing Center. “These conditions may be rare, but because of Houston’s size and diversity we see a very large number of patients each year.”

The Microtia and Atresia Program offers families a multidisciplinary approach to care that includes audiology, with experts trained in age-appropriate hearing testing and solutions; speech and language pathology; and surgical interventions to address cosmetic needs and hearing loss. The event gave Texas Children’s caregivers an opportunity to share the many ways we can help.

“We wanted to highlight our capabilities and let families know that we offer individualized treatment paths for each child we see,” said Texas Children’s pediatric otolaryngologist Dr. Yi-Chun Liu. “Whether the child needs a reconstruction surgery of the ear or ear canal, a hearing aid or implant, speech and language therapy, or some combination of all of these, we’re committed to providing them with the best possible care.”

At the end of the event, parents were given survey cards that asked for suggestions about the kinds of information regarding microtia and atresia that families might find most helpful when starting their care journey. There was also a section for feedback and comments.

Judging by some of the responses …

It was spectacular!”

We absolutely loved the event.”

It was so nice to meet other families with microtia.”

I want to thank you all for everything. I learned a lot.”

… the event was a success.

“We’ve already had requests to make it an annual event,” said Jessie Marcet-Gonzalez, CPNP, with the Division of Otolaryngology. “We had so many volunteers who helped make this day special for our families and in letting them know that we really care.”

Learn more about Texas Children’s Microtia and Atresia Program.

The neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women celebrated babies this past week in recognition of Prematurity Awareness Month. Infants on the unit received superhero capes, created by FirstMemories Texas, an all-volunteer organization dedicated to teaching families whose infants are in the NICU and CVICU at Texas Children’s Hospital how to celebrate, honor and tell their children’s stories through photography and album making.

One family got three capes – one for each of their triplet sons, Barrett, Calvin and Jacob. The brothers were born on November 1 at 34 weeks gestation and have been in the NICU ever since. All three babies are healthy but need some extra attention and care before going home.

Dara Miller, the boys’ mother, said the care she and her boys have received at the Pavilion for Women has been incredible and that everyone they have encountered has been professional, compassionate and kind.

“We have had complete confidence in everyone who has taken care of us,” Miller said. “Everyone has always kept us informed and made us feel like we are in the best possible hands.”

The day her boys received their black and yellow batman capes was icing on the cake and ended up sparking a milestone moment. Until that day, she had never held her boys together, only separately. Joined by her husband, Mason, and 2-year-old daughter, June, Miller held her babies donned in capes big enough to cover almost their entire body and grinned widely.

“In that moment, we all came together as a family,” she said. “Until then, something felt incomplete.”

Kellie Kainer, assistant clinical director of nursing for the NICU, said comments like Miller’s and special events like the one with the capes bring smiles to her and her staff as well. Knowing that patients and their families are comfortable with the care they receive is huge.

“Everyone in the NICU has a passion for what they do,” she said. “We truly love caring for some of Texas Children’s most fragile patients.”

Texas Children’s Hospital, together with Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, house the nation’s largest level IV NICU, the highest level of care available for premature and critically-ill newborns. Babies born prematurely require round-the-clock care and often need access to highly specialized services to have the most optimal outcomes. Complications from premature birth (before 37 weeks gestation) are the #1 cause of death of babies in the United States and 1 in 10 babies in the U.S. are born too soon.

The Annual Medical Staff meeting and Awards ceremony was held on November 6. The event concluded with the announcement of the 2019 Medical Staff officers. The following persons were elected:

  • Dr. Ryan Himes – President Elect
  • Dr. Jennifer Dietrich – Secretary
  • Dr. Chris Glover, MEC rep
  • Dr. Timothy Lee, MEC rep

Be sure to congratulate the new officers and welcome them to their new roles.