June 11, 2019

Texas Children’s entered FY19 with a renewed focus on improving operational effectiveness and maintaining our financial excellence, goals that allow us to continue developing, expanding and reinvesting in our mission to provide the very best care for our patients and families.

Our recent credit ratings from the nation’s top three credit agencies are proof we’re accomplishing those goals.

The agencies – Moody’s, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch – have once again affirmed Texas Children’s high credit ratings (Aa2, AA and AA respectively), as well as a stable financial outlook. It is the 23rd straight year Texas Children’s has maintained outstanding credit ratings.

“This is fantastic news and it speaks volumes about Texas Children’s,” said President and CEO Mark Wallace. “The agencies’ ratings are certainly a reflection of our consistently strong financial performance, but their analysis goes beyond just the numbers. They also noted our world-class medical staff, our seasoned management team, and our successful expansion efforts, including the completion of the Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower and our growth in Austin. We should all be very proud of this achievement.”

Each year, the agencies analyze financial, operational and strategic data to determine our ratings, which can be compared to a company’s stock price or a person’s credit score. A great rating for Texas Children’s means that we are a financially sturdy organization that can easily meet our financial commitments, which leads to job security for each and every employee.

All three agencies cited Texas Children’s track record of clinical excellence, robust research programs, exceptional reputation, outstanding fundraising capabilities and strong financial position as key reasons for the ratings.

June 3, 2019

Texas Children’s® Health Plan members are now a secure video conference away from connecting with doctors and providers anytime, anywhere.

Through our very own Texas Children’s telehealth platform called Texas Children’s® Anywhere Care that was recently launched on May 22, Health Plan members will have the option of seeking urgent care services for certain conditions – like allergies, fever (in children older than 8 weeks), skin infections, pink eye, sore throat, vomiting, diarrhea and more – via telehealth instead of in the emergency rooms, which will help to alleviate many barriers that our Medicaid patients currently face, like transportation.

“We want to ensure we provide the best care to our pediatric patients and women when they need it,” said Dr. Heidi Schwarzwald, Chief Medical Officer Pediatrics of Texas Children’s Health Plan. “For some of our Health Plan members, physical access to Texas Children’s can be difficult. Telehealth technology will enhance our current operations and allow us to improve the quality and access to care for children and pregnant women, while facilitating more efficient communication with patients and families.”

Health Plan members can register for the platform at www.texaschildrensanywherecare.org. Once the Texas Children’s Anywhere Care app – which will be available in Android and iPhone stores in the next few weeks – is downloaded onto a smart phone, they can connect with one of Texas Children’s telehealth physician partners via video for a consultation. This new telehealth option, available on demand in both English and Spanish, is not intended to replace a patient’s ongoing relationship with their primary care provider, but to supplement care when there are unavoidable gaps.

“Through our partnership with American Well, Texas Children’s Health Plan has access to providers in their Online Care Group which has enabled us to go live with 24/7 coverage for our urgent care visits,” said Laura Laux Higgins, director of Special Projects at Texas Children’s who co-leads the telehealth initiative at Texas Children’s under the supervision of the eHealth Executive Steering Committee. “As we expand our services, our long term goal is to build our own team of Texas Children’s e-health providers who are solely dedicated to telemedicine visits.”

Bringing telehealth services to the Health Plan would not have been possible without the collaboration from multiple departments across the system including Information Services, Legal, Finance, Treasury, Marketing, Texas Children’s Health Plan, Texas Children’s Pediatrics, and our Obstetrics-Gynecology, Quality and Safety teams.

“This project was not just about technology, but having the right vision, strategy and operational support to bring telehealth to Medicaid patients who comprise 85 percent of our Health Plan membership,” said Haley Jackson, senior project manager for Women’s Services and co-lead for the telehealth initiative. “This was a huge team effort across the board, and I am grateful for everyone’s support on this project.”

In September 2018, telehealth was also launched to all Texas Children’s employees and their eligible dependents who are enrolled in a Texas Children’s medical plan via Cigna, our health insurance provider. Employees who have used telehealth describe the service as a welcome addition to their Cigna benefits.

Click here to read a recent Connect article about Cigna Telehealth benefits. Click here for more information on Texas Children’s® Anywhere Care.

About Texas Children’s Health Plan

Texas Children’s Health Plan was founded in 1996 by Texas Children’s Hospital and is the nation’s first health maintenance organization created just for children. Texas Children’s Health Plan cover kids, teens, pregnant women, and adults. If a child is able to get Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Health Plan has a large group of more than 6,250 doctors, 7,811 specialists, 221 hospitals, and health resources to care for their needs. For more information, visit texaschildrenshealthplan.org.

Texas Children’s Hospital recently hosted Congresswoman Lizzie Fletcher for a tour of Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower. It was a first visit for Fletcher, who represents Texas’ Seventh Congressional District, which includes residents of Houston, Bellaire, Bunker Hill Village, Hedwig Village, Hilshire Village, Hunters Creek Village, Jersey Village, Piney Point Village, Southside Place, Spring Valley Village, West University Place, and unincorporated Harris County west to Katy.

After being welcomed by President and CEO Mark Wallace, Fletcher visited Texas Children’s award-winning Mission Control. There she learned from Bert Gumeringer, vice president of Facilities Operations and Support Services; Gail Parazynski, vice president of Nursing; and Deb D’Ambrosio, director of Transport Services and Mission Control how the state-of-the-art operations center uses real-time data and cutting-edge technology to simplify and streamline processes, bringing together security, facilities, code response, critical care admissions, hospital-to-hospital transfers, critical clinical alarm monitoring and room management in one central location.

Next, Fletcher visited our therapy gym on the 23rd floor, where she observed a music therapy session for some of our youngest Texas Children’s Heart Center® patients. Chief of Pediatric Cardiology Dr. Daniel Penny and Chief of Congenital Heart Surgery Dr. Christopher Caldarone then led Fletcher through some of the facilities in our best-in-the-nation Heart Center. These included our outpatient cardiac clinic, the Charles E. Mullins Cardiac Catheterization Labs and our cardiovascular operating rooms.

Following her Heart Center tour, Fletcher concluded her time at Texas Children’s with a visit to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU) and our neurointensive care unit on the ninth floor of Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower. In the PICU, she had an opportunity to meet the parents of 10-month-old Emmy, who recently underwent a liver transplant. She was then guided through the neurointensive care unit by Medical Director of Neurocritical Care Dr. Jennifer Erklauer. This special unit – one of the first of its kind in the country – combines the latest neuro-monitoring techniques with collaborative team-based care for patients with neurologic issues. Fletcher saw firsthand the cutting-edge monitoring technology in our continuous EEG monitoring room, where patient brain wave activity is measured and reviewed in real time, 24/7, and can be used to detect seizure activity or acute changes in the brain that may require additional evaluation or intervention. While in the unit, she met the mother of 11-month-old Kayla, who has a rare seizure disorder.

The parents of both children told Fletcher about the helplessness they’d felt watching their infant children endure such dire health issues. But because of the expertise and care they’d experienced at Texas Children’s, they were filled with confidence that they were in the best possible place to help their children.

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.