May 20, 2019

“I’m excited every day I walk into Legacy Tower,” said Dr. Lara Shekerdemian, service chief of Critical Care Services at Texas Children’s. “It is a wonderful environment to work in. Our patients and their families are very happy with their new spaces, and we are very privileged to be in our new home.”

It’s been one year since Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened its doors for the first time to care for our most critically ill patients at Texas Children’s Medical Center campus. And, in that short period of time, our patients and their families have noticed a positive difference since moving into the new tower.

“The rooms here are very cozy and very spacious,” said Eleonor Caparas, whose daughter is a PICU patient at Texas Children’s. “We have our own space here and we can stay together with my baby. I like it because I experienced the old PICU on the third floor of West Tower, and it is so different now.”

Randy Bowen, a PICU nurse at Texas Children’s for more than 25 years, recalls when critical care moved from the Abercrombie Building to West Tower. He says the move into Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower has been a huge game changer in the delivery of patient care.

“Coming into this space now, supplies us with so much flexibility and the availability of resources to provide the patient care that we’ve always excelled at doing,” Bowen said. “But I think now we’re exceeding that and it’s just been exciting be part of the whole process.”

Since Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened on May 22, 2018, Texas Children’s critical care, cardiology, surgical and radiology teams have been very busy caring for our hospital’s sickest patients.

To date, the new tower has had 3,839 patient admissions in the pediatric and cardiac intensive care units. More than 9,000 patients have received care at Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower’s outpatient Heart Center clinics, and over 700 catheterization and 239 intraoperative MRI procedures have been performed here.

A total of 3,455 surgeries have been completed in the tower’s state-of-the-art surgical and cardiovascular operating rooms, totaling 13,921 surgical hours. Since the tower’s helipad opened last November, Texas Children’s has had 123 landings, allowing for greater access to Texas Children’s for the sickest patients.

“We have everything under one roof to take care of all of the sickest children,” said Texas Children’s Surgeon-in-Chief Larry Hollier. “All of the diagnostic capability, the OR capability, the interventional radiology capability and then the ICU care. After visiting all of the leading children’s hospitals across the country, I can say without a doubt, no other children’s hospital has something like Legacy Tower.”


On May 13, The Department of Patient and Family Engagement hosted their first Family Advisor Appreciation Celebration. The picnic themed event was organized to honor family advisors who have provided their ideas, compassion, and time to Texas Children’s.

Over 20 years ago senior administration and faculty leadership invited a group of families with extensive hospital experience to provide a consumer perspective on expansion plans. This resulted in the establishment of a formal, interdisciplinary Family Advisory Board (FAB), charting the course for continued collaboration on quality, safety and patient experience initiatives.

Years later, Texas Children’s became one of the first pediatric hospital’s to hire a full-time parent Family-Centered Care (FCC) Specialist to support the FAB and facilitate family engagement system-wide. As the program grew, the Department of Patient and Family-Centered Care, was created which included service-specific advisory groups, with extended opportunities created for families to participate.

“Patient and family advisors represent the fabric of our mission. By partnering with advisors directly, we understand how they experience care through the perspective of their very personal and vivid lens,” Director of Patient and Family Services, Katie Kalenda-Daggett said. “They not only inform us, but they also motivate us to remain and grow as an ever improving and evolving organization.”

The celebration began as employees and family advisors mingled in the Pavilion for Women’s fourth floor conference rooms to the DJ’s smooth tunes and the alluring aroma of popcorn and a buffet with a variety of delicious foods. Past the tables with red and white picnic table cloths was a photo booth in the corner of the room. The Texas Children’s ukulele choir opened with 5 beautiful songs, then a small program followed with a welcome from Daggett and the presentation of pins to long-standing family advisors.

Darius and Desiree Bradley were amongst the advisors honored for being a part of the program for more than nine years, and they don’t plan on quitting anytime soon.

“It has been a joyful experience for us. Our daughter is a frequent flyer of Texas Children’s Hospital,” Desiree Bradley said as she briefly touched on their connection to the hospital. “They’re going to have to roll me out of here in my wheelchair. I’ll be hugging babies, holding babies, reading to somebody, waving on the bridge, and advising parents as long as I can.”

Upon being discharged from the NICU years ago, a nurse approached the Bradleys about being a part of the FAB. They began as volunteers for focus groups and proceeded to work tirelessly with the FCC. Darius Bradley says that his experience as a father of a hospitalized child combined with his passion for helping others catapulted his efforts to become a voice for others.

“I know that transitioning into this lifestyle can be overwhelming, so I wanted to become a resource for other parents, Bradley said. “When you’ve been where they are and still continuing on your journey, it brings a sense of relief, and assurance to them. I can see the weight lifted off of their shoulders as I speak with them continuously.”

Formerly known as the Family Centered Care (FCC) program, the Department of Patient & Family Engagement partners with our Patient and Family Advisors (PFAs) to help to promote family-centered care across the System. Over the past year, PFA involvement has expanded beyond the Medical Center campus to West Campus, The Pavilion for Women, The Woodlands, and Austin, with over 250 registered PFAs. Texas Children’s PFAs have also reinforced their impact by participating in many conferences and system committees such as the Nursing Quality Improvement Council, the leader rounding simulations and The CLABSI Prevention Team, just to name a few.

“I just want to thank you all for everything that you do for Texas Children’s,” Assistant Director of Patient and Family Services, Aileen Rago said, as she delivered the final words during the ceremony. “Know that while there’s so much still to be done, we truly appreciate how far we’ve come. We are grateful for all of our Texas Children’s advisors.”

In May of 2018, Texas Children’s reached a historic milestone when the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower opened its doors to care for our most critically ill patients. Four months later, Texas Children’s No. 1 ranked Heart Center moved into Smith Legacy Tower, marking the completion of the project and delivering on our promise to ensure every child receives the right care, at the right time, at the right place. Learn more by visiting our 2018 virtual Annual Report.

May 13, 2019

The world-class orthopedic care Texas Children’s is known for is now even more accessible for patients who need it.

Texas Children’s and the Division of Orthopedics are proud to offer specialized orthopedic care on Saturday mornings at Texas Children’s Specialty Care Upper Kirby, from 8 a.m. to noon.

“This new offering is really about improving access for our patients and families,” said Chief of Orthopedic Surgery Dr. Brian Smith. “This care expansion functions as a musculo-skeletal urgent care center with expert orthopedic care, providing families quick, direct access to treatment without waiting hours in an emergency room (ER). I’m proud of all the work Janai’ Buxton and the team have done to make this service available and predict this model will be a success – and perhaps lead to similar expansions across the Texas Children’s system.”

Expanding orthopedic care became a goal after a team of experts at Texas Children’s noticed a trend in families in need of early-morning and late-evening appointments. Many parents also inquired about weekend availability. Additionally, the growth of the Division of Orthopedic Surgery over the past three to four years has equipped Texas Children’s to meet more patients where they are, when they need us. The team began putting the pieces into place to improve access.

“Making orthopedic care available on Saturday mornings provides a huge benefit for parents who work during the week, for children with busy schedules, and for families with urgent needs,” said Buxton, physician assistant and clinical lead for Orthopedic Surgery advanced practice providers (APPs). “Parents will appreciate that convenience and can rest easy knowing they’re getting care from experts who specialize in pediatric orthopedics. Additionally, this initiative may help alleviate high volume of non-emergent orthopedic injuries at Texas Children’s Urgent Care locations and reduce overall weight times for our emergency centers across the Houston area.”

When a child is sick or injured, parents have to change their schedules to ensure their child gets the care they need. This can mean missing work, often without pay, to take the child to an appointment. Additionally, if a child is injured at a Friday sporting event, families sometimes have to wait hours in the ER or even wait until the beginning of the week for specialty pediatric orthopedic care.

Now, at Texas Children’s Specialty Care Upper Kirby, patients and families can be seen on Saturday mornings by an APP specially trained in orthopedic injuries and conditions. Services provided include:

  • Fracture evaluations, including X-ray
  • Injury evaluations for knees, ankles, arms, wrists, etc.
  • Routine injury or surgical follow-up appointments, at the discretion of the patient’s surgeon or physician

Appointments and walk-ins are welcome. Parents should note that not all conditions will be seen during this clinic.

More information about Orthopedics at Texas Children’s, and about making orthopedic appointments at Upper Kirby and other Texas Children’s locations, is available online.

Last month, Texas Children’s Department of Surgery leadership announced that Dr. Paul Austin was named Texas Children’s new chief of Urology, the third Urology chief in the hospital’s 65-year history.

“I’m excited that Dr. Austin has accepted the position of chief of Urology at Texas Children’s,” said Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier. “His clinical experience, combined with a successful research program, provides a wonderful foundation for the future of Pediatric Urology at Texas Children’s.”

Austin assumes the helm of the division from Dr. David Roth, who has served as chief of Urology for the past seven years and helped recruit Austin nearly two years ago. Under Roth’s leadership, Texas Children’s Division of Urology grew from three physicians and an advanced practice provider (APP) to one of the largest programs in the country, with 10 urologists, two research PhDs and six APPs. During this time, the division of Urology’s national status steadily improved and the program is currently ranked No. 4 in country according to U.S. News & World Report.

“I have enjoyed the growth of our division and appreciate the support of our leadership and administration,” Roth said. “I am excited that Dr. Austin is continuing the tradition of leadership for the Division of Urology that began with Dr. Edmond Gonzales over 40 years ago. He is an internationally recognized leader in pediatric pelvic health and is the right person to lead our division for years to come.”

Austin currently serves as Director of Texas Children’s Complex Urologic Reconstruction Program and Director of the Pediatric Urology Basic Science Research Program. He has co-authored more than a hundred articles and 25 book chapters, has edited four textbooks, and has three grants totaling more than $2.5 million in National Institutes of Health R01 funding.

Austin is also the current president of the American Association of Pediatric Urologists (AAPU) – one of the best-respected and most important societies for pediatric urologists in the United States – an organization that Roth co-founded more than 30 years ago.

“Since I first attended AAPU with a mentor of mine in 1996, it has been my favorite conference of the year,” Austin said. “It’s always a special time of learning, networking and collaboration. The sheer variety of talks and topics is always amazing, and the way these experts challenge each other, but in a respectful way, has always been a hallmark of the event. That is thanks to Dr. Roth’s vision, and it’s my honor to serve as AAPU president this year.”

Austin brings a bright and multifaceted vision for the future to the Division of Urology. In addition to keeping our clinical care at the forefront of pediatric urology on a national level, he wants to enhance the division’s capabilities in the treatment of complex urologic conditions and in research.

“Everyone has their niche, and you have to be aware of your team members’ passions and think about how you can help them grow and develop their talents, whether that be in patient care, education and teaching, or research,” Austin said. “My main goals are to grow our basic and clinical research enterprise, to provide encouragement, motivation and support that will lead our people to continued excellence and achievement in patient care, basic and clinical research, in competition for research prizes, and in leadership roles in the greater field of pediatric urology, and to foster multidisciplinary collaboration between Urology and other divisions and services across the Texas Children’s system.”

About Pediatric Urology at Texas Children’s

The Division of Urology at Texas Children’s Hospital offers the most advanced surgical care for routine urological needs as well as genitourinary problems related to congenital birth defects, trauma and a range of other medical conditions.

The division provides specialized, multidisciplinary care and expertise in fetal medicine, spina bifida, renal stone disease, gender medicine and complex urologic care. The division has also established a transition urologic care process that allows adolescent patients to transfer care to adult care providers.

We work closely with child-life specialists, who provide support to help patients and their families cope with the challenges frequently presented by urological disorders. Transitional follow-up care is provided for adolescent patients as they progress to adult care.

Learn more about Urology at Texas Children’s.

May 6, 2019

Choose one of Mark Wallace’s first five Leadership Maxims:

  1. Leadership always influences or determines outcomes – not some of the time, but all of the time.
  2. Leadership applies to everyone.
  3. We lead in our professional lives and in our personal lives.
  4. We all should have our personal definition of leadership.
  5. The key characteristics to look for when selecting people are a winning attitude and a strong work ethic.

If you’d like a refresher on Mr. Wallace’s Leadership Maxims before writing your submission, watch his short Maxims videos here on the blog.
Write about how that maxim applies to you and your job at Texas Children’s. Please keep your stories between 350 and 500 words.
Click here to read Mr. Wallace’s blog about this year’s maxim leadership challenge.

Please email your submissions to Texas Children’s News at

April 30, 2019

On his blog this week, Mark Wallace invites you to share your leadership story with him and how it relates to his leadership maxims. Read more