April 15, 2019

An experience Charlene James had at Texas Children’s Hospital years ago made a lasting impression, prompting the now veteran volunteer to give back to a place she has come to love.

Decades ago, James’ daughter spent a month at Texas Children’s Hospital due to a case of viral meningitis. During her stay, Texas Children’s doctors, nurses and other staff and clinical personnel cared for her child just as she had hoped – with tender loving care, and for that, James is forever grateful.

“I said then that when I retired, I would give back to the place that took such good care of my daughter,” James said. “I have, and I love it.”

For the past 10 years, James has given her time and much of her heart to Texas Children’s Hospital, primarily holding babies in the Newborn Center and also taking on positions on The Auxiliary to Texas Children’s board, including president and currently financial officer.

James’ service and the contributions of so many like her were celebrated last week during Volunteer Appreciation Week. Filled with various activities, the five-day affair included a social mixer, lunch, and special presentation from Joel Cowley, President and CEO of the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo.

In his role, Cowley is responsible for the efforts of more than 34,000 volunteers and 120 full-time staff in conducting a 23-day event that draws nearly 34,000 livestock show entries and an annual attendance of more than 2.4 million.

During his presentation, Cowley said he has a great appreciation for volunteers and the value they have to an organization. He said the number of volunteers working the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo has doubled in the past 15 years, and that without such a dedicated volunteer force, the event wouldn’t be such a huge success.

“The impact our volunteers have on the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo is immense,” Cowley said. “The fact you are at Texas Children’s providing support and care to patients, families and caregivers is an incredible value as well.”

Director of Volunteer Services Paige Schulz said the more than 1,000 Texas Children’s volunteers who support patients, families and hospital staff through a number of assignments throughout the Texas Children’s system are the heart and soul of the organization and that each and every one of them are deeply appreciated.

“We are so thankful for the time and talent our volunteers dedicate to Texas Children’s,” she said. “Our organization wouldn’t be the same without them.”

According to many volunteers, they wouldn’t be the same without Texas Children’s.

Volunteer Herb LeDee said the two days a week he spends volunteering at the front desk of the Outpatient Building in The Woodlands are some of his best.

“Every day is a fun day,” he said. “When I leave, I feel complete.”

LeDee was named Volunteer of the Year during last week’s festivities. He was one of the first volunteers in The Woodlands and has the most service hours and Caught You Caring awards of any volunteer in that area.

If you are anyone you know is interested in volunteering at Texas Children’s, click here for more information.

A brand-new clinic at Texas Children’s West Campus is empowering children with visual impairment to make the most of the sight they have and live more independent lifestyles.

Texas Children’s Vision Enhancement Center – the only pediatric low vision clinic in Houston and one of only a few in the nation – was started this past January to meet the tremendous need for specialty care for children in Greater Houston living with various forms of visual impairment that can’t be corrected with glasses, contact lenses, surgery or medicine.

The clinic, made possible through a generous gift from Kathy and George Bishop, is spearheaded by Texas Children’s pediatric optometrist Dr. Kelsie Morrison and provides children with tools and techniques to maximize their functional vision so they can perform daily tasks and educational activities.

“The Vision Enhancement Center is the product of a partnership between Dr. Morrison, the Eye Care Department at Texas Children’s and our wonderful hospital administrative partners,” said Dr. David Coats, Texas Children’s chief of Ophthalmology. “This great new service provides promise and hope, and I am very proud to be a part of a team that is so committed to helping children with vision impairment live healthy, happier lives.”

The most common causes of visual impairment, or low vision, in children are inherited or congenital eye diseases, such as oculocutaneous albinism, retinal dystrophies (such as retinitis pigmentosa or Stargardt’s disease), retinopathy of maturity, nystagmus, and optic nerve hypoplasia.

These conditions typically cause one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Loss of ability to see detail (visual acuity)
  • Loss of side or peripheral vision (visual field)
  • Constant double vision (diplopia)
  • Inability to navigate steps or the edge of curbs (contrast sensitivity)
  • Inability to distinguish colors

Children with low vision face special challenges in school, where great emphasis is placed on learning in a visual environment.

“The majority of what we learn as children is absorbed visually,” said Morrison. “The conditions that our patients have make it difficult to take in visual input and process it. Our job is to get a baseline measurement of their functional vision and then test different solutions, such as magnification devices or electronic systems, to find the best fit for each individual patient and to improve their quality of life.”

The Vision Enhancement Center administers a complete assessment of visual function, eye health and the visual demands each patient experiences in educational, home and community settings. This initial exam is a critical step in determining how the child uses their vision to function and whether visual aids and other environmental modifications can make daily tasks – such as reading and writing – more comfortable and manageable. To help gain a clearer picture of the child’s needs, teachers, therapists or other health care workers are encouraged to attend appointments if possible.

A review of visual equipment already in use at home and school, as well as of textbooks and school materials, helps the optometrist make suggestions and offer guidance on what other magnification tools may be needed, such as telescopes, magnifiers, electronic systems (e.g., video displays, virtual reality mountings), or special tools to help patients who have difficulty with contrast or glare. Additional guidance may be offered on potential environmental alterations that can be made at home or in the classroom to help maximize the patient’s vision and improve their daily life.

The response from the community has been tremendous. Volume has been high since the clinic’s opening and there are already plans for expanding clinic space.

“The care and healing provided at this clinic have the ability to transform children’s lives,” said Dr. Allen Milewicz, Texas Children’s chief of Community Surgery and chief surgical officer at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. “These impactful therapies, and the work of dedicated physicians like Dr. Morrison, make me proud to be part of Texas Children’s.”

Learn more about the Vision Enhancement Center and other services provided by Texas Children’s Division of Ophthalmology.

Texas Children’s MyChart has an electronic waitlist that automatically texts and emails families when appointments become available sooner. Over 2,100 patients have accepted an appointment an average 45 days earlier than their previously scheduled appointment.

Since implementing the electronic waitlist on MyChart in 2018, we’ve received positive feedback from our patients and families about the convenience of this new tool.

“My son’s original appointment was scheduled for September 4, but when I got an electronic notice via MyChart asking me if I wanted to accept an appointment in June, I accepted it,” said Monica Blancas. “While we usually go to the medical center for appointments, I didn’t mind driving a little further for my son’s appointment in Katy if it meant that I could get him in to see a doctor a lot sooner than scheduled.”

Click here for more information on how to opt in to receive New Wait List Offer text messages.

About Texas Children’s Patient Access Initiative

Launched in August 2017, Texas Children’s Patient Access Initiative is an on-going, collaborative effort to improve patient access across the organization. Since then, Texas Children’s has made significant progress to ensure patients easily and conveniently get in the door so we can provide the care they need, when they need it.

Click here for a list of other tools and features we’ve implemented across the system to improve access, care coordination and patient experience at Texas Children’s.

On April 2, in celebration of World Autism Awareness Day, representatives from BBVA Compass Stadium, KultureCity and Texas Children’s Health Plan unveiled the Texas Children’s Health Plan Family Suite at a ribbon-cutting ceremony at the stadium.

Located in the northeast corner of the stadium outside of Section 220, the Texas Children’s Health Plan Family Suite includes a Sensory Room and a Mothers Room, making BBVA Compass Stadium the first sensory-inclusive facility in Major League Soccer. The Sensory Room was designed and installed in cooperation with KultureCity and Mothers Room at the BBVA Compass Stadium. KultureCity is the nation’s leading nonprofit dedicated to fight for inclusion and acceptance of all individuals, and advocates for those with sensory challenges such as autism and PTSD, just to name a few. It also provides training and equipment to public and private spaces in order to create an inclusive experience for everyone.

“KultureCity is truly honored to work with BBVA Compass Stadium and the Houston Dynamo to make them the first KultureCity Sensory-Inclusive MLS stadium. By recognizing this growing need and wanting to do something about it, they are truly putting their fans and guests first so that everyone regardless of their disabilities or sensory needs can be accepted and included,” said KultureCity co-founder Julian Maha, M.D. “This is a great day for the City of Houston and a great day for Major League Soccer in general. Thank you to the amazing team at the stadium and the entire Dynamo and Dash organization.”

The Mothers Room provides private space for mothers to nurse or pump while at the stadium and features seating for parent and child, as well as power outlets, a changing station and a television so mothers and children won’t miss a moment of game action.

In addition to the sensory room itself, the stadium will provide sensory bags created by KultureCity to guests who visit the space, and BBVA Compass Stadium and Houston Dynamo and Dash employees participated in sensory awareness training in order to understand how best to serve fans with unique needs and concerns.

“We take great pride in creating the most welcoming and inclusive atmosphere possible for all events at BBVA Compass Stadium, and we’re extremely excited about the addition of the Texas Children’s Health Plan Family Suite,” said Stadium Executive Vice President and General Manager Juan Rodriguez. “The Mothers Room will provide a private and comfortable space for women to care for their young children, and the Sensory Room affords fans with sensory needs the opportunity to step away if the sights and sounds inside the stadium become too much for them. We’re very grateful to the experts at KultureCity for their assistance in creating the space and training our staff.”

Since 2011, Texas Children’s Health Plan has been the official health insurance plan for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) of the Houston Dynamo, Houston Dash and BBVA Compass Stadium. In addition to the new Texas Children’s Health Plan Family Suite, the health plan also sponsors the Texas Children’s Health Plan Family Section, located in Section 201 on the southwest corner of the stadium.

“We are proud to be a sponsor of the Houston Dynamo and are very excited to be part of the new Sensory Room and Mother’s Room at BBVA Compass Stadium,” Vice-President of Texas Children’s Health Plan Sherry Vetter said. “This innovative space is consistent with our mission to create a healthier future for children and women throughout our global community. The dedicated Mother’s Room gives nursing moms a private place to care for their infants while staying connected to the match and the Sensory Room provides a sensory-sensitive space for parents and children to enjoy and engage in matches on their terms.”

Don’t miss out on the fun at the third annual Texas Children’s Hospital and Houston Marathon Foundation Family Fun Run at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. Registration for the event ends at 5 p.m. Monday, April 22, so hurry and sign up if you haven’t already. There are only about 500 more slots available, and they’re going fast.

Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands will host the fun run at its campus on Saturday, May 4. The event will offer a 1-mile course and will begin at 9 a.m. Post-race activities will follow until 11 a.m.

Participants – including those who need walkers and wheelchairs – are welcome. There will not be prizes given to top finishers as all participants will receive an award for taking part in an event designed to educate and encourage Houston-area families to adopt active, healthy lifestyles.

Click here to register and learn more about the upcoming event.

Calling all volunteers

Volunteer registration also is open for our Family Fun Run event in The Woodlands! Opportunities are available for bag stuffing, packet pick-up, day before set-up and race day. Requirements include:

  • Volunteers must be registered in advance.
  • If someone volunteers, we ask that they be available for their full shift.
  • They should not bring young children or other family members that are not registered.
  • The minimum age to volunteer is 12.

A T-shirt will be provided to all volunteers to wear during their shift.

Click here for volunteer opportunities.

Thank you, good luck and happy running!

Mere months after opening its doors to patients and families for the first time, Texas Children’s Specialty Care Austin earned recognition from the Austin Chapter of the Associated General Contractors for outstanding construction.

The association selected Specialty Care Austin for its Outstanding Construction Award after considering the difficulty of construction, unusual techniques and the quality and appearance of the completed facility, Jill Pearsall, Vice President of Facilities Planning & Development and Real Estate Services, said. The group also praised how quickly and efficiently Texas Children’s and its partners were able to complete such a complex project – particularly as a new entrant in the Austin market.

The clinic currently comprises 26,000 square feet on the MoPac Expressway in the bustling north-central area of the city, with 30 exam rooms and facilities for subspecialty care including cardiology, ophthalmology, pulmonology, and allergy and immunology.

“We are thrilled to have this recognition as it represents the overall work of the amazing Austin project team and the quality of environment that Texas Children’s is bringing to Austin,” said Allison Muth, facilities project manager. “There is so much construction activity happening in the Austin area, and it’s an honor to have the specialty care project recognized as one of the best interior renovation projects in the area. We couldn’t have accomplished this without the support of our design and construction partners: McCarthy, Page and Transwestern.”

Texas Children’s employees also helped to design Specialty Care Austin by providing input on the functional needs of the space from the front-line perspective. Employee feedback was further incorporated into the construction and occupancy processes along the way.

The opportunity to help introduce Texas Children’s to a new city encouraged the project team to think outside the box while also maintaining the classic brand look and feel. They were intentional about partnering with local companies and vendors on the project to forge positive, new relationships.

“It’s pretty significant to be awarded in both the health care arena and construction arena at a facility in Austin, especially for our first time there,” Pearsall said. “You can walk through the clinic and see it is new and fresh with bright, updated colors and natural light; it stands out. We still have a lot of room to grow, but it’s a great location and setting, and our patients and families are in awe. This recognition from the Austin Associated General Contractors is a sign of our success so far.”

Drs. Muralidhar Premkumar (from left) and Melissa Carbajal, Neonatology faculty, congratulate third-year fellow Dr. Charles Roitsch (center), as the 24th annual Arnold J. Rudolph Memorial Grand Rounds award recipient. The award recognizes third-year fellows in neonatal-perinatal medicine for outstanding teaching, patient care, scientific inquiry and professional integrity. Dr. Patrick McNamara, a staff neonatologist and director of the Division of Neonatology at the University of Iowa Stead Family Children’s Hospital, and professor of Pediatrics and Internal Medicine, University of Iowa, was this year’s invited speaker at the recent grand rounds. Dr. McNamara also is the current chair of the PanAmerican Hemodynamic Collaborative and Paediatric Academic Society Neonatal Hemodynamics Advisory.

The Arnold J. Rudolph Memorial Grand Rounds was established in 1996 by the Section of Neonatology, in the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine, in memory of its late Section Chief, Dr. Arnold J. Rudolph, who died in 1995. Dr. Rudolph was a well-respected clinician and educator, recognized internationally as a leader of neonatology.