May 20, 2019

Dr. Sharon Plon, co-director of the Texas Children’s Cancer Center’s Cancer Genetics and Genomics Program, has been appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services to the National Advisory Council for Human Genome Research until 2020. The council advises government agencies on genetics, genomic research, training and programs related to the human genome initiative.

In addition, Plon recently received the 11th annual Niehaus Southworth Weissenbach Award in Clinical Cancer Genetics from the Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center. As part of the award events, she delivered Medical Grand Rounds on “Genetic Predisposition to Childhood Cancer in the Genomic Era” and consulted with genetics clinicians.

We’ve all heard the saying, “Hard work pays off.” That old adage certainly rings true for several nurses at Texas Children’s Hospital. On May 16, nine nursing leaders received their Doctor of Nursing Practice during the Cizik School of Nursing Commencement held at the Smart Financial Center in Sugar Land.

The honorees included:

  • Mary Jo Andre, Chief Nursing Officer
  • Jackie Ward, Associate Chief Nursing Officer
  • Tarra Christopher, Director of Nursing, Emergency Center
  • Kim Clark, Patient Care Manager – Cancer Center
  • Sara Dean, Nurse Practitioner – Pavilion for Women
  • Shannon Holland, Director of Nursing – Critical Care
  • Joy Harrison, Assistant Director – Texas Children’s Pediatrics
  • Vanessa Kastner, Nurse Practitioner – NICU
  • Jennifer Sanders, Assistant Vice President – Nursing

Three years ago, these nurses embarked on a journey together when they enrolled in the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program, a clinical doctoral program that provides advanced education in evidence-based practice, quality improvement, systems leadership and other key areas. Nurses who successfully earn their DNP have completed the highest level of training in nursing practice.

“Texas Children’s Hospital invests heavily in our nurses through various professional advancement and educational opportunities like this one,” said CNO Mary Jo Andre. “I am so grateful to share this journey with my nursing colleagues, and accomplishing this milestone together, made it even more meaningful.”

Next month, Connect will feature an article highlighting our nurses’ DNP journey, the invaluable lessons they learned along the way, and how the support from Texas Children’s made it possible for them to achieve this milestone, which will impact the care and outcomes we deliver to our patients and their families.

Thomas (Tom) Sharon, January 2019 Employee

Your name, title and department. How long have you worked here?
Thomas (Tom) Sharon, Chaplain, Spiritual Care Department with the Heart Center as my primary clinical area of responsibility. I have been at Texas Children’s for four years.

Tell us how you found out you won a super star award.
I found out I won this award at a surprise gathering of my Family Services and Heart Center family. My wife, daughter and grandson also were present and knew about it before I did but “kept the secret!” We had been working for months to complete repairs on our home and one of the last contractors was starting that day. My wife texted to tell me they had to wait and managed to keep the secret and surprise me with my family’s presence. My AD, Norma Shreck, coordinated the surprise presentation, and I was totally shocked. I thought I was having a meeting with her and my PICU chaplain colleague, James Denham, and walked into a large conference room full of people. I was humbled and honored by not only the award but all of the people who took time from their busy schedules to stand in unity, as they always do, to present it to me. This included leadership from the Cameron Watrin and other Heart Center as well as from the directors from the Family Services line including Michelle Lawson and Tabitha Rice and many others. But also present were my colleagues from the full spectrum of my Texas Children’s Hospital family. We enjoyed time from celebration and treats together, but their presence was the biggest treat. Two days later I was surprised again when Cameron Watrin and Tracy Porter recognized me at the Heart Center’s physicians’ rounds in our new conference center.

What does it mean to be recognized for the hard work you do? How has the organization helped you achieve your personal and professional goals?
I was shocked, honored, humbled, and moved deeply to be recognized for my work. I was shocked because I do not function with the idea of personal recognition or reward beyond what I receive in doing my job each day. There is such reward in working beside the level of physicians and staff with whom I am honored to work each day. But even more so the honor of standing on the hallowed ground of our patients’ rooms as tireless, dedicated care is provided day-after-day and seeing not only the physical healing that this brings but an inexplicable emotional and spiritual wholeness. For these patients and families to know and experience the greatest pediatric physicians, nurses, therapists, social workers, child life specialists, … providing world class care is to be expected from a medical institution of our caliber. But the way it is provided with such compassion and passion, dedication and determination, … and yes, love; this is what leaves me shocked and honored more deeply than words can say that I would receive this recognition from within the midst of this amazing team. But it is also what makes it not so much of a shock as an affirmation of how special my team is. This organization has helped me achieve my goals of providing the best care I can for the patients and families at Texas Children’s by fostering an environment in which I am embraced and encouraged to do just that. By holistically embracing our greatest assets as an institution which is the human factor. Our patients and families are human beings with minds, bodies, emotions and spirits; all of which are challenged in our pediatric care setting. But so are we as an institution and we perform at our best human abilities when we function holistically. We have assembled the greatest minds on earth and work as a unified body to provide care on unparalleled levels. But what places Texas Children’s on a higher level is that this is done while also embracing the emotional and spiritual aspects of our human-being. This is what I feel was recognized by my receiving this honor. And it is the kind of support that I feel lived out and that I am able to live into every day as a professional and human being. This, above, all else, is what has helped me achieve my personal and professional goals at Texas Children’s.

What do you think makes someone at Texas Children’s a super star?
As a further reflection on this I feel that what makes a person a super star at Texas Children’s is not simply doing but being. Being a part of the larger human factor at Texas Children’s which embraces freedom for our patients and families and for each other; leads tirelessly in providing for that freedom to do our best so we can be our best; that lives compassionately by embracing and supporting our patients, families, and each other in all the ways they and we need it right where we find ourselves day-after-day; and amplifying a unity that makes providing care holistically not just what we do but who we are.

What is your motivation for going above and beyond every day at work?
I never think about “going above and beyond at work” as this award recognizes. My focus is on being with our patients, families, physicians and staff where they are each day. My motivation is to somehow make their moments, hours and days the best they can be given the circumstances in which they find themselves. This involves constantly assessing and reflecting on the needs of my patients and families and embracing them as my own family. And my motivation from this comes from being a part of the Texas Children’s family and working together to address the circumstances on hand and those that may be on the horizon. It is the outcome of that level of care that motivates me each day. And that outcomes is that I have somehow touched fellow human being. Helped them know how truly precious and beloved they are and helping them live into the very most of their potential today and in the days to come. The reward of standing back and seeing joy restored to mended bodies and once broken or shattered spirits is my true reward and motivation. What motivates me is that I am not only free but encouraged to celebrate our victories and grieve our losses with some of the most amazing people on earth every day.

What is the best thing about working at Texas Children’s?
The best part of Texas Children’s is, hands down, the people. All of you!!

What does it mean to you that everyone at Texas Children’s is considered a leader? What is your leadership definition?
It means everything to me that “everyone at Texas Children’s is considered a leader” and that these are not just words but who we are and how we live. A leader to me is a person who is empowered and encouraged to contribute all that they can to make us as an institution the best that we can be. We can have amazing leadership skills of being able to motivate and manage people, equipment, and facilities but unless we are powered and encouraged (set free) to act to the fullest of our abilities we are lacking in leadership. So leadership is about every individual in our institution acting in unity as a whole. And this includes our patients and families.

Anything else you want to share?
I would like to repeat my sincerest thanks for this award and for the honor of working at Texas Children’s each and every day. Thank you to my whole team because I could not have achieved it without every one of you. And I receive it on behalf of all of those with whom I am blessed to work every day. I will remember and cherish it and each of you always.

May 14, 2019

The stars were out and all-smiles at the Smile Train 20th Anniversary Gala on May 2 in New York City.

The event, sponsored in part by Texas Children’s Hospital, honored the memory of Smile Train founder Charles B. Wang and served as the launch for a year of celebrations of impact across the globe. It featured a performance by Alexa Ray Joel and appearances by many special guests, including NBA legend, former Houston Rocket and Smile Train partner, Dikembe Mutumbo.

Smile Train also recognized three exceptional honorees for their support of the organization and its mission. These were Graham Elliot, the award-winning chef, restaurateur and television personality; Paula Shugart, President of The Miss Universe Organization; and the Chairman of Smile Train’s Medical Advisory Board, Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier.

“I would like to thank Charles Wang for the confidence he placed in me by naming me chair of the Medical Advisory Board,” Hollier said in his remarks. “It has been one of the biggest honors of my professional life.”

Smile Train is an international children’s charity and the largest surgical non-governmental organization in the world. Through its sustainable model, Smile Train empowers local medical professionals with training, funding and resources to provide free cleft lip and palate surgery and comprehensive care to children around the world.

A cleft occurs when certain body parts and structures do not fuse together during fetal development. Clefts can involve the lip and/or the roof of the mouth, which is made up of both hard and soft palate. If left untreated, the conditions can cause children to have difficulty eating, breathing, hearing and speaking. Many children with clefts live in isolation, and too many will never receive the reconstructive surgery they need.

Smile Train supervises the quality and safety of surgery on approximately 130,000 children every year and has provided surgery for approximately 1.6 million children in 85 countries over the past 20 years.

Cleft lip and palate care at Texas Children’s

Cleft repair surgery is safe, and the transformation is immediate. Texas Children’s Hospital specializes in the comprehensive care of patients born with these conditions at our Cleft Lip and Palate Clinic. Our multidisciplinary team has over 40 years of experience treating these particular issues, and each patient’s care is tailored to their specific needs.

The team consists of:

  • Pediatrician
  • Plastic surgeon
  • Pediatric dentist
  • Craniofacial orthodontist
  • Otolaryngologist or ear, nose and throat specialist (ENT)
  • Speech pathologist
  • Audiologist
  • Craniofacial nurse
  • Genetic counselor
  • Social worker
  • Nutritionist

Hear more about Texas Children’s world-class cleft lip and palate care from Chief of Plastic Surgery Dr. Edward Buchanan in this month’s featured “Medically Speaking” episode on Connect.

Not too long ago a child with hepatocellular carcinoma – a rare liver cancer – would have few options for treatment and even fewer chances of long term survival.

In most cases, these tumors are discovered so late that surgery and transplant are not viable options to save a young child’s life. Families could hope for recovery, but the odds would not support their optimism.

The good news is that today is a new day.

A multidisciplinary team, led by Dr. Kamlesh Kukreja, expert in Interventional Radiology; is successfully performing the Trans-Arterial Radioembolization procedure – called TARE – on children who have this rare disease.

“There are only three hospitals in the country performing TARE and we are one of them,” Kukreja said. “We are the only one in the state of Texas.”

He added that TARE has the potential to regress tumors and help patients live with their own liver or keep the tumor in control until a liver transplant is available. An additional advantage is that TARE is an outpatient procedure, which allows the child to recover at home.

How it all works

TARE is administered in two steps. Step one involves identifying the angiographic anatomy of the tumor mapping the vascular supply of the cancer to assess how much radiation it can handle, while still keeping the patient safe.

“Two to four weeks after this mapping, the patient returns for the radioactive chemical agent – called Yttrium-90 (Y90) – to be administered directly to the artery supplying the tumor,” Kukreja said. “This administration is targeted and direct, which allows for higher doses of radiation to be administered with minimal side effects; unlike systemic chemotherapy, which has been found to not work well in these cases.”

Record of Success

Kukreja has successfully performed TARE on two patients to date with one patient showing a clear regression in the growth of the tumor allowing complete surgical resection.

Although Texas Children’s is one of the pioneers of TARE in pediatrics, it’s important to note that TARE is a frontline therapy at adult hospitals for patients with the most common type of liver cancer. Accumulating evidence from studies with adult liver cancer suggests that TARE is a promising strategy which may benefit children as well.

The people that make It possible

“We are very proud of what we have been able to accomplish so far and the way we have raised the standard of care for our patient families,” Dr. Kukreja added. “We are also proud that a multidisciplinary team has made this possible.”

The decision to use this approach is first made by a multidisciplinary team involving:

Dr. Prakash Masand, Radiology
Dr. Andras Heczey, Oncology
Dr. Sanjeev Vasudevan, Pediatric Surgery
Dr. John Goss, Transplant surgery

The hands-on clinical teams at Texas Children’s include interventional radiology, nuclear medicine, radiation safety, anesthesia and Dr. Armeen Mahvash, associate professor at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center.

To Learn More

If you know a patient who could benefit from this treatment, please reach out to the department of Interventional Radiology at 832-824-5565 or liver tumor team at Dr. Kukreja can be reached at


It’s hard to contain the celebration of nursing to just one week at Texas Children’s. Every day there are inspirational stories that demonstrate how our nurses go above and beyond to advance patient care and enhance patient experience and outcomes.

Their endless compassion, comfort and support can be seen and felt across the organization. A nurse clutching the hands of a parent who just received tough news about their child. A nurse giving up family time during holidays and weekends to spend time with families in the hospital. A nurse calming a mother’s fear as she prepares to give birth to her first child. Our nurses leave a lasting impression on every patient they encounter, and they are at the core of the experience patients and families have while in our care.

Each year, as we salute nurses across the country from May 6 to 12, Texas Children’s celebrates our amazing team of more than 3,500 nurses. The theme for Nurses Week this year was 4 Million Reasons to Celebrate – and at Texas Children’s – there are many reasons to celebrate our nurses.

This video spotlights our nurses’ many successes, accomplishments and the daily contributions they make to our patients and families at Texas Children’s.

Nurses Week activities

Texas Children’s Nursing Retention Council organized several fun activities throughout the week that included cookie deliveries to the units, blessing of hands and photo opportunities with our therapy dogs, Pinto and Bailey. Chair massages and other activities during Nurses Week centered on health and wellness to remind our nurses how important it is to take care of themselves so they can provide the best and safest care to their patients.

On May 8, Texas Children’s leadership hosted the Nursing Excellence Awards honoring seven recipients for their commitment to improving nursing care and patient outcomes.

The award honorees included:

Staff Nurse of the year: Anita Hadley
Preceptor of the year: Sherri Forschler
Rookie of the year: Jennifer Nguyen
Leader of the year: Sondra Morris
APRN of the year: Gina Santucci
Advanced degree of the year: Sharon Staton
Friend of Nursing: Dr. Matt Musick

Sandra Diaz and Erika Ramirez received the 2019 David and Polly Roth Nursing Education Scholarship Fund. This education fund will provide tuition assistance for Texas Children’s employees who have worked in the organization for at least three years and are interested in pursuing a professional nursing degree.

Faith Williams, Melissa Yu, and Lisa Carr received the Molly Mae LeBlanc Nursing Education Scholarship. The scholarship was named in memory of Molly Mae, daughter of Texas Children’s employees Jill and Andy LeBlanc, who passed away at Texas Children’s on May 6, 2017. The purpose of the scholarship is to perpetuate Molly Mae’s memory and recognize nursing staff members for going above and beyond their required job duties to enhance the quality of life for Texas Children’s patients and their families.

Priscila Reid, a nurse practitioner at Texas Children’s Heart Center, was among the top 15 award recipients from the Houston Chronicle Salute to Nurses, and 22 Texas Children’s nurses were recognized as being among the top 150 in the Greater Houston area:

Sheena Antimo
Nakeisha Archer
Angela Baldonado
Megan Beach
Janet DeJean
Nicole Dumas
Corey Gates
Jason Giangrosso
Nicole Harris
Josh Hearne
Lastenia Holton
Barbara Levy
Paul Longoria
Mona Lisa Macapagal
Tammy Myers
Virginia Plumlee
Priscila Reid
Esmeralda Reyna
Lisa Rohaly
Melissa Silvera
Kenya Starks
Elizabeth Watson

Congratulations to our nurses!

To learn more about Nursing at Texas Children’s, click here to view By the Numbers.

EpicCare Link is a web-based provider portal for Texas Children’s that gives referring physicians and their staff secure and convenient access to the hospital’s electronic medical record (EMR).

Texas Children’s EpicCare Link can be used by:

  • Staff at practices that are not part of Texas Children’s but whose providers are active, courtesy or consulting members of the Texas Children’s Hospital medical staff.
    Community providers, including Texas Children’s adjunct medical staff and their staff.

Once registered and logged in to Texas Children’s EpicCare Link, referring physicians can access important information about their patient’s care at Texas Children’s, including discharge, consult and operative reports, imaging reports, lab results, medication use, and family history of their patient.

EpicCare Link users can also receive correspondence and messages from Texas Children’s physicians and can view and receive notifications about inpatient admissions, discharges, emergency room encounters, urgent care visits, and view upcoming appointments at the touch of a button.

For more information on EpicCare Link, click here.