March 26, 2019

Myra Davis, senior vice president of Information Services at Texas Children’s Hospital, received the 2019 Chief Information Officer (CIO) of the Year ORBIE Awards from the Houston CIO Leadership Association.

The CIO of the Year ORBIE Awards is the premier technology executive recognition program in the United States that is based upon a nominee’s leadership and management effectiveness, technology innovation, size and scope of responsibilities and engagement in industry and community endeavors.

“I am very grateful to receive this honor,” Davis said. “Information Technology, particularly in health care, has the opportunity to enhance, in many ways, how we deliver care to our patients and families. I love what my team and I are able to do and the boundless opportunities IT presents at Texas Children’s.”

Since joining Texas Children’s 15 years ago, Davis has helped Texas Children’s consistently stand out amongst our peers, and it is her visionary leadership and passion for the hospital’s mission that keep Texas Children’s on the leading edge of technology, and perpetually surfing the innovation curve.

While her leadership philosophy centers on cultivating strong partnerships that drive the successful delivery of improved quality, safety and patient outcomes at Texas Children’s, Davis enthusiastically credits her team of more than 400 employees for helping to lead the organization through some major technological transformations, including spearheading the recent integration of Texas Children’s Health Plan systems into the hospital’s electronic medical record.

Davis and her team have been instrumental in other systemwide initiatives including implementing new MyChart enhancements that have significantly improved patient experience and access to care; building the technology infrastructure to support daily operations at our new Texas Children’s Lester and Sue Legacy Tower; upgrading the patient transport system used to document incoming and outgoing transfers; and implementing a stringent cyber security protocol throughout Texas Children’s that employs a layered defense to prevent unauthorized access to organizational assets and patient information.

“Our IS department is truly the village that makes everything happen on a daily basis,” Davis said. “I am grateful to work with such a dedicated and talented team, and look forward to what we can accomplish together to better serve our patients and their families, and our employees and staff at Texas Children’s.”

Beyond her leadership responsibilities at Texas Children’s, Myra also devotes much of her free time serving the community. She has developed a collaboration between local universities (Rice, UT Austin and University of Houston) and Texas Children’s, where students are able see how technology is used in health care and explore the possibility of wanting to work in healthcare technology post-graduation.

In addition to the CIO of the Year ORBIE Award, Davis has been the recipient of the 2017 Houston Business Journal CIO of the Year in addition to Association for Women in Computing Award for Leadership in Technology that recognizes women who are making a difference in their professions, companies and communities through hard work and innovative leadership.

March 25, 2019

Dr. Richard Kellermayer, director of the Pediatric Inflammatory Bowel Disease program at Texas Children’s, has devoted much of his research to improving outcomes for children with chronic intestinal inflammation such as inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), as well as young patients who suffer from recurrent Clostridium difficile (C. diff) infections.

C. diff is a bacterium that causes diarrhea and inflammation of the colon, which can be severe on occasions,” said Kellermayer, associate professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “Some patients are susceptible to C. diff recurrences following repeated treatment with antibiotics. It can be increasingly challenging to successfully treat these patients with conventional methods.”

In a recently published paper in the Journal of Pediatric Gastroenterology and Nutrition, Kellermayer and his colleagues provide guidelines for the safe use of fecal microbiota transplantation to treat children with recurrent C. diff infections who are unresponsive to standard antibiotic treatments. This paper resulted from the collaborative efforts of leading experts in the North American Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (NASPHGAN) and the European Society for Pediatric Gastroenterology, Hepatology and Nutrition (ESPGHAN).

Texas Children’s is among few hospitals across the nation exploring fecal microbiota transplantation (FMT), a nonconventional treatment that delivers stool from healthy donors into the colon of patients with C.diff in an attempt to restore a healthy, diverse bacterial population in the gut. C. diff infection is commonly associated with the microbial imbalance created in the gut due to frequent or prolonged use of antibiotics. This lack of microbial diversity allows the bacterium to grow excessively and produce toxins that cause diarrhea and other symptoms.

FMT has been used to manage recurrent C. diff infections in adult patients, with the cure rates approaching 90 percent. While it is not fully understood how FMT works, it is believed that the transfer of stool from a healthy donor helps repopulate the recipient’s gut with many kinds of beneficial bacteria, which discourages excessive growth of C. diff.

Kellermayer along with leading experts in the field noted in the paper that the incidence of C. diff infection among hospitalized, as well as healthy children in the community, has increased dramatically in the last decade. Pediatric patients can also have recurrent infections, similar to adults while being treated with C. diff directed antibiotics.

“Repeated and prolonged use of antibiotics in children may increase their risk of developing other gastrointestinal disorders later in life,” Kellermayer said. “So, better treatment options are urgently needed to treat children with recurrent C. diff infection, and FMT seems to provide a safe and effective treatment option for these patients at present. The collaboration between our IBD program and the Texas Children’s Microbiome Center, led by Drs. James Versalovic and Tor Savidge, provides an outstanding opportunity for us to advance FMT research. We are very grateful to our benefactors led by the Wagner and Klaasmeyer families, who support our research through the Gutsy Kids Fund.”

New study underway to analyze genetic implications of complicated pediatric Crohn’s disease

In a separate study funded by the Crohn’s and Colitis Foundation, Kellermayer and his research colleagues at Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine will study the genetic background of complicated pediatric Crohn’s disease, a type of chronic, inflammatory bowel disease that can affect any part of the gastrointestinal tract.

“We will conduct high-throughput, genome wide genetic analysis on patients with Crohn’s disease to see if we can find any new genes that shed light on the most aggressive forms of the disorder and what makes certain people prone to developing it,” Kellermayer said. “If we know the genetic associations, we might find new means of prevention and treatment in the future.”

Almost seven years ago, surgeons with Texas Children’s Fetal Center performed their first in-utero neural tube defect repair surgery. Just a few months ago, some of those same surgeons reached a milestone when they completed their 100th neural tube defect repair.

Of the 100 total cases, more than half were performed fetoscopically, an experimental, minimally-invasive surgical approach pioneered at Texas Children’s in 2014 by Obstetrician and Gynecologist-in-Chief Dr. Michael Belfort and Pediatric Neurosurgeon Dr. William Whitehead.

Texas Children’s was the first center in the U.S. to correct neural tube defects, also known as spina bifida defects, fetoscopically and is among just a few centers in the country that offers fetoscopic repair of spina bifida. Texas Children’s continues to offer open fetal surgery for spina bifida, the standard of care since 2012, for patients who do not qualify for or opt not to undergo a fetoscopic repair.

“This milestone shows that we are a mature program, that we have done a lot of these cases, and that our results are equivalent if not better, than anybody else out there doing this,” Belfort said. “We have a level of experience now whereby we can assure patients and families that what we offer is the best in terms of quality and safety.”

Neural tube defect repair surgeries are performed on babies with Myelomeningocele, a developmental defect in which the spine is improperly formed and the spinal cord is open to and fused with the skin. The condition, also known as spina bifida or an open neural tube defect (NTD), occurs in 3.4 out of every 10,000 live births in the U.S. and is the most common permanently disabling birth defect for which there is no known cure.

NTDs are usually associated with motor impairment and hydrocephalus, or the buildup of cerebrospinal fluid in the brain, which requires surgical treatment to drain the fluid via an implanted device called a shunt. It’s common for children with spina bifida to have abnormal function of their bladder, bowels and legs. The goal of fetal surgical repair of spina bifida is to preserve leg function and reduce the need for a postnatal shunt.

The standard of care for spina bifida is neurosurgical closure of the defect in the first days of life, however, advances in fetal surgery and the landmark clinical trial, known as the Management of Myelomeningocele Study (MOMS Trial), proved that a fetal surgical repair leads to decreased rates of hydrocephalus and improved leg function compared to a postnatal repair.

Through their research and outcomes data, Belfort and his team have shown that performing the surgery fetoscopically yields the same outcome for the baby as the open repair, while being significantly less invasive for the mother.

“We are thrilled to offer this innovative and minimally-invasive surgical approach to our patients and their babies,” Belfort said. “We thank the mothers and families who put their trust in our team and have the courage to undergo an experimental procedure.”

First fetoscopic case

The first mother to undergo fetoscopic neural tube repair at Texas Children’s Fetal Center was Althea Canezaro. At 23 weeks pregnant, Althea learned during a routine ultrasound that her son, Grayson, had spina bifida. The Louisiana resident came to Texas Children’s shortly thereafter and met with Belfort and his team.

“After talking with them, it was like, OK, there’s something they can do for us, and if it didn’t work out everyone would be safe,” Althea recalled. “We knew that this was an opportunity to give him the best life that he could have. So, going forward, it was kind of like the ball was in their park. The weight was taken off our shoulders.”

A little more than four years later, Althea and Grayson are thriving. The blonde haired, blue-eyed boy never developed hydrocephalus and was born with full movement of his legs. He is hitting all of his developmental milestones and walks with and without the assistance of crutches.

“He’s a fighter,” Althea said. “You can’t tell him he can’t do anything. He has more determination than you ever want to believe.”

Reaching a milestone

Belfort and his team performed the 100th neural tube defect repair late last year and delivered the healthy little girl, Parker Kate, on March 5. Taylor Avera, the newborn’s mother, said when she and her husband found out their child had spina bifida they were scared to death, but that what they learned at Texas Children’s put them at ease.

“Neither one of us questioned that this was what we needed to do,” Taylor said. “We were excited that we were candidates for the surgery and that we were going to be able to give our baby the best outcome she could have.”

The experimental surgery Althea and Taylor underwent continues to be subject to rigorous oversight by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, was developed by Texas Children’s Fetal Center in partnership with Texas Children’s division of neurosurgery. The teams practiced on a child’s kickball that replicated the mother’s uterus. Inside the kickball, a doll acted as the fetus. By hoisting the ball into the air hung by various levers and pulleys, the team simulated the movement in the womb and practiced closing the spinal cord.

“The multidisciplinary collaboration with the Fetal Center on this surgical effort is an extraordinary example of the innovative spirit at Texas Children’s Hospital,” Whitehead said. “From a medical standpoint, we believe by closing the defect both in-utero and fetoscopically, is a less invasive procedure for the mother, reduces her risk of preterm delivery and reduces the need for shunts.”

View photos of both Grayson and Parker Kate below.

Texas Children’s Fetal Center is among the nation’s leaders in providing high-risk maternal care and the diagnosis and treatment of abnormalities in unborn and newborn infants. For more information, visit

In this month’s episode of Medically Speaking, you’ll hear from Texas Children’s urologist, Dr. Ming-Hsien Wang. In her talk, Wang discusses best practices in the treatment of pediatric urinary tract infections (UTIs) and also shares the differing views between American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines and findings from a recent double-blind study on the use of prophylactic antibiotics to treat UTIs.

Learn more about the services provided and conditions treated by Texas Children’s Division of Urology.

Medically Speaking features some of the brightest minds from several Texas Children’s specialty and subspecialty areas. The series is meant to be a helpful educational resource for parents and a convenient way for physicians and other caregivers to stay up-to-date on the latest in pediatric medicine. Viewers can watch talks on a variety of interesting topics, including advancements in surgery, breakthroughs in research, new clinical trials, and novel and back-practice treatments for specific conditions.

Be on the lookout for more Medically Speaking episodes here on Connect, or view additional episodes now.

This presentation is not intended to present medical advice or individual treatment recommendations, and does not supplant the practitioner’s independent clinical judgment. Practitioners are advised to consider the management of each patient in view of the clinical information. All content is shared for informational purposes only, and reflects the thoughts and opinions of the original author. No physician-patient relationship is being created by the use of this presentation. The presentation sets out recommendations based upon similar circumstances and is provided as an educational tool. The presenters are not attorneys, and to the extent this presentation provides commentary on current laws and regulations affecting health care activities, it is not intended as legal advice.

When Texas Children’s Cancer Center opened its doors in 1954, only one in every 10 children with cancer survived. Today, more than 80 percent of children who are diagnosed with cancer will successfully fight the battle and be cured. However, the war with cancer will not be over until there is a cure for each and every child who is impacted by this disease.

The good news is, tremendous progress has been made. With powerful new weapons in our arsenal and incredible breakthroughs in technology and genetics, every day we uncover more information about what causes cancer and how to beat it, because losing even one child to cancer is still one too many.

To learn more about the history of Texas Children’s Cancer Center, our treatments, programs, staff and research, read “And So We Fight,” a publication dedicated to the mission of the Cancer Center and those it serves. The publication is now online. Click here to view.

Texas Children’s employees enjoyed a spice-filled start to National Nutrition Month® on March 6 with a full menu of original Indian dishes available for lunch at the Fresh Bistro, created by award-winning Compass Celebrity Chef Bal Arneson.

Employee Health & Well-Being partnered with Food and Nutrition Services and Morrison Food Services to bring Arneson to the Medical Center campus to share her cooking tips and recipes, which draw their flavor from carefully selected spices and healthful ingredients rather than cream and salt. Even her spin on classic butter chicken – a well-known dish that originated in Northern India – is made with yogurt instead of butter.

Arneson mingled with employees at the Fresh Bistro before doing a live cooking demonstration in Morrison’s Teaching Kitchen, which was set up in the Pavilion for Women conference rooms.

She also signed copies of her latest cookbook and answered questions about how home chefs can incorporate more spices into their family meals, noting that turmeric, coriander, cardamom, fennel and paprika are among her favorites for health benefits like reduced inflammation and more sound sleep.

The opportunity to bring her passion and love for food to Texas Children’s allowed Arneson to fulfill her ultimate purpose of serving others, she said. It was a special treat to use her knowledge and gifts to feed the people who heal and support our patients and their families.

“I believe the body is our temple and there is an energy inside us that needs to be nourished. You must fuel your body with the right nutrients,” Arneson said. “Food is your medicine and you are exactly what you eat.”

National Nutrition Month® continues

The National Nutrition Month® celebration at Texas Children’s will extend through the end of March with the following events at the Medical Center, The Woodlands and West campuses:

Wednesday, March 20 | 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Cigna Health Education Table
Pavilion for Women, in front of Fresh Bistro
Join Cigna Health Coach Staci Tobolowsky Astrein, MCN, RD/LD from the Employee Health and Well-Being team to learn about available Cigna programs and resources, fun giveaways and nutrition education.

Every Wednesday through March 27 | 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
National Nutrition Month® Table Events
The Woodlands Lobby
Ask our registered dietitians your nutrition questions and learn tips for creating a healthier lifestyle.

March 1 – March 27
5-A-Day Fruit and Vegetable Challenge at West Campus
A month challenge to encourage employees at West Campus to eat more fruits and vegetables on a daily basis with a raffle drawing at the National Nutrition Month® Table on March 28. More information coming soon.

Thursday, March 28 | 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.
Eat a Rainbow Table Event
West Campus Corridor
Our West Campus dietitians will share tips on how to incorporate more fruits and vegetables in your daily routine. Ask your nutrition questions and learn tips for creating a healthier lifestyle.

For more information, visit the Well-Being page on Connect or email

March 19, 2019

Patients along with their family members and even neighbors had the opportunity to enjoy Spring Break at an event hosted by The Center for Children and Women that included tons of family fun open to the community. The Center invited families to take part in over-the-top entertainment all while picking up a few health and wellness tips to get kids through the remainder of the school year.

The Center introduced this event about 5 years ago targeting physical fitness strategies and goals for children. This year they decided to bring this family affair back for Nutrition month.

“We have a lot of tips on nutrition, some on healthy snack options, along with resources that perhaps they would not have known about if they had not attended this event,” Marketing Manager at Texas Children’s Health Plan, Veronica Arzayus said. “We also welcome the opportunity for the community to see the Center and all the wonderful services that it offers while enjoying the festivities. This is definitely something that you would want to take your kids to in a safe and comfortable environment.”

This two-weekday event was held last week at The Center’s Greenspoint location on Wednesday and at the Southwest location on Friday. Despite unexpected rain and thunderstorms on the first day, according to The Health Plan, over 500 attendees flooded The Center as activities were brought inside.

Events such as this are important as one of our system-wide operational goals focuses on childhood obesity. The goal is to help prevent diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol in children, and promote a healthier lifestyle overall.

“It is important to shine a positive spotlight on healthy nutrition, activity, exercise, etc., all while engaging with the community in a meaningful way,” Vice President of Texas Children’s Health Plan, Tangula Taylor said. “I think that’s part of us giving back, helping, assisting, partnering with our community, the families that we serve to share healthy lifestyle options and alternatives that can have an impact on their overall quality of life.”

Along with providing educational material on nutrition, thanks to the corporate sponsors of the event, The Houston Food Bank, the Houston Dynamo, corporate partners, The Children’s Museum of Houston and Boys and Girls Clubs of Greater Houston, and community partner Kids Meals, there were also food and activities for the entire family to encourage exercise and healthy eating habits.

Other activities included, mini Zumba lessons, music and fun performances with a live DJ, face painting, an inflatable obstacle course hula hoop/ jump rope competitions, and a healthy snack tasting challenge.

With a total of over 800 participants for both days this year, The Center is excited to see this event continue annually.

“I’d like to see it grow. When you have an event such as this, you want it to be successful in terms of the number of participants, target audience, and then, once it’s successful, you want it to grow,” Taylor said. “We want to connect with more families, tell them about the Health Plan and the Center and ultimately be a partner for them along their health and wellness journey.”