February 18, 2019

This past fall, Department of Surgery leadership launched the Infinite Leadership Academy, a new initiative aimed at fostering personal and professional development among surgical providers, and preparing the next generation of surgical leaders.

The six-month program embraces one of Texas Children’s cultural cornerstones – leadership – and takes it to a new level, with a curriculum specially developed to help surgeons and APPs recognize their potential and hone their leadership skills. The academy – now in its fourth month – also underscores the Department of Surgery’s ongoing commitment to investing in its people.

“Leadership skills, like technical surgical skills, take practice to master,” said Surgeon-in-Chief Dr. Larry Hollier. “We’ve recognized that early in a career, it’s critical to develop skills that have more to do with how you fit into a team structure, how you involve others in critical decision-making, and how you move the care of the patient forward. To practice those skills effectively, it is helpful to have someone coach you. This is the goal of the leadership academy”

The program kicked off with a personality and behavior assessment to help the 20 inaugural participants more firmly identify their core skills and leadership styles. After initial evaluation, participants began taking part in regular monthly sessions designed to help build on leadership strengths. The curriculum includes lectures, reading assignments, coursework and group projects, developed to help each participant understand their personal vision and function as part of a team that can innovate and improve.

“In the limited time that I’ve been in the program, I already feel it has allowed me to become a better person and an improved leader,” said Dr. Mary Frances Musso, surgical sleep director at Texas Children’s Hospital. “I have a better understanding of my vision for growing the surgical sleep program at Texas Children’s. Leadership to me is about making new discoveries, creating a team, motivating advancement and leading the team to new innovations. It is powerful to stop and reflect how I can now improve my approach to different situations by looking at them from a different point of view and utilizing the new tools I have gained from this program. I feel invigorated to lift others up to become better leaders.”

Another key component of the program is the integration of Texas Children’s Breakthrough Communication, a course facilitated by providers and designed to equip surgeons, physicians and APPs with tools to enhance and better organize patient encounters.

“Communication in a children’s hospital environment is extraordinarily complex,” said Hollier. “We’ve developed a communication course that’s the first of its kind to teach our providers how to compassionately and effectively communicate with the patient – regardless of their age – and the parent or guardian. It will also eventually include strategies for communicating with other providers. This is and will continue to be an essential part of the leadership academy curriculum.”

The response thus far from participants has been tremendous.

“We’ve gotten a lot of interest, and currently there are more people who want to participate than we have slots,” said Hollier. “The intention going forward is to have these on a rolling basis, and to develop ongoing training for people who’ve already availed themselves of these early courses.”

February 15, 2019

Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Director Dr. Susan Blaney recently appointed Dr. Donald Williams “Will” Parsons to the role of deputy director of the Cancer and Hematology Centers.

“Dr. Parsons is an accomplished and skilled researcher in cancer genomics and the use of ‘precision oncology’ approaches for the diagnosis and treatment of pediatric cancer patients,” Blaney said. “He is nationally and internationally recognized for his work in this area and is a true thought leader in the field. He is also a compassionate physician and a dedicated educator.”

Blaney said Parsons is highly collaborative and skilled at bringing together diverse multidisciplinary investigators to achieve a common goal: improving the care of childhood cancer patients through the application of genomics.

“Please join me in congratulating Will,” she said. “I am delighted that he has agreed to assume this new role within Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers.”

In addition to his new role as deputy director of the Cancer and Hematology Centers, Parsons also serves as co-director of the Brain Tumor Program, co-director of the Cancer Genetics and Genomics Program, and director of the Center for Precision Oncology within the Texas Children’s Cancer Center.

After graduating from Princeton University in 1992 with a degree in Chemistry, Parsons earned his Ph.D. in Pathology and his medical degree from The Ohio State University College of Medicine. He completed his pediatric residency at Johns Hopkins University and hematology-oncology and neuro-oncology fellowship training at Johns Hopkins and the National Cancer Institute.

In addition to conducting innovative translational research, Parsons and his team are making important contributions to the clinical care of childhood cancer patients. In 2016 he established the Precision Oncology Consultation Service at Texas Children’s Cancer Center, which provides recommendations on the use and interpretation of genomic testing for pediatric cancer patients nationwide. Parsons plays several leadership roles within the Children’s Oncology Group (COG), the world’s largest organization devoted exclusively to pediatric cancer research, including serving as the study chair for the NCI-COG Pediatric MATCH trial, the first nationwide trial of precision medicine for children with refractory and relapsed cancers.

Parsons mentors diverse trainees at Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine (BCM) and was appointed in 2018 as Co-Director of the Pediatrician-Scientist Training and Development Program, a track of the BCM Pediatrics Residency Program that seeks to mentor future physician-scientists.

Parsons has published more than 60 scientific papers in peer-reviewed journals, including Science, Nature, the Journal of Clinical Oncology, the New England Journal of Medicine, JAMA Oncology, and Genome Medicine. He has been awarded numerous honors for his research, such as the Peter A. Steck Memorial Award for Brain Tumor Research (2009). Dr. Parsons is a Graham Cancer Research Scholar at Texas Children’s Cancer Center and has received funding from multiple sources to support his research program, including the Cancer Prevention and Research Institute of Texas (CPRIT), the National Human Genome Research Institute, and the National Cancer Institute. He serves on advisory boards of multiple pediatric cancer foundations, including the Alex’s Lemonade Stand Foundation.

To learn more about Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, click here.

February 11, 2019


It’s Heart Month, which is always a special time at Texas Children’s as we celebrate our patients and families, the care we provide at our No. 1-ranked Heart Center and our many milestones. This year, we’re kicking off Heart Month celebrating yet another momentous first.

A team of experts at Texas Children’s Heart Center®, led by congenital heart surgeon Dr. Iki Adachi, became the first in the United States – and only the second in the world – to implant the Jarvik 2015 ventricular assist device (VAD), a groundbreaking new technology Adachi helped develop.

“Dr. Adachi is truly a pioneer and a world-renowned authority on mechanical heart support,” said Dr. Christopher Caldarone, Texas Children’s chief of Congenital Heart Surgery. “His work in the development of the Jarvik 2015 VAD has been tremendous and is a great example of the power of Texas Children’s in bringing new technologies to benefit our patients.”

Bridge to transplant

For patients with heart failure, a VAD can buy valuable time until they match an organ. In some rare cases, a VAD can be used as a permanent therapy for heart failure or can even improve heart function to such a degree that it makes a transplant unnecessary. VADs can either simulate heart function with pulsing action or allow a continuous stream of blood to flow through the heart. Continuous-flow VADs tend to be smaller and quieter but also more durable, and in recent years have yielded improved results in adult heart failure patients.

The Jarvik 2015 is the first and only implantable continuous-flow VAD designed specifically for small children. Development took more than a decade and was not without setbacks. After the previous prototype failed to gain FDA approval, the team of engineers enlisted Adachi to assist with crucial design modifications to the VAD’s pump while keeping the size of the device small – about the size of a AA battery. Following extensive testing in the Texas Medical Center, the FDA approved the Jarvik 2015 for clinical trial.

A chance at life

One of the most significant benefits of this new technology is that it allows the patient to become stronger, making them a better candidate for transplant. Such was the case with Katlyen Hickman.

You would never know by looking at Katlyen today that the smiling, energetic four-year-old needed multiple surgeries to save her life only a few months ago. She was born with complex congenital heart disease, including ventricular septal defects and small left heart structures, and despite numerous procedures and surgeries during her first years of life, her condition was rapidly deteriorating this past fall.

“It was clear she was moving in the direction of needing heart transplantation,” Adachi said. “She was admitted to the ICU and her heart was just getting worse and worse.”

Though the Jarvik 2015 had been cleared for clinical trials, it hadn’t been approved for commercialization. But because Katlyen’s case was so dire, and because she was too small to receive an adult-size VAD, Adachi and Texas Children’s were able to obtain expanded access from the FDA to implant the device. The fact that the team was already very familiar with the Jarvik 2015, following their extensive laboratory testing, helped facilitate the process with the FDA.

The results couldn’t have been better. Not only did the device keep Katlyen alive, but it also improved her blood flow, which helped her organs recover. This success paved the way for the next critical step in her journey – a heart transplant, which she received on November 23, 2018. It was the day after Thanksgiving. Only a month later she was discharged and spent Christmas at home with her family.

Adachi anticipates the Jarvik 2015 will do well in the upcoming multi-institutional clinical trial and hopes its availability may further accelerate the trend toward the use continuous-flow devices in children.

“Pediatric VAD support will continue to evolve as the pediatric mechanical circulatory support area matures,” he said. “The popularization of continuous-flow devices could be a landmark event that represents a paradigm shift in the field. And Texas Children continues to lead that shift.”

Learn more about Texas Children’s Heart Center and the Jarvik 2015 VAD clinical trial.

February 5, 2019

In response to an increased demand for short-term, non-chronic care, Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands has expanded its Acute Care Unit from 32 beds to 45.

The need for the 14-bed expansion was evident shortly after the hospital opened its doors two years ago, said the unit’s assistant clinical director Roxanne Vara.

“We were at capacity several times last year,” Vara said. “This expansion will allow us to admit more of our patients closer to home.”

The additional beds in the Acute Care Unit are located on the third floor of the hospital. By mid-February, the expansion will include a playroom equipped with a section dedicated to patients 12 and older. This section will house a PAC-MAN video game donated by The Woodlands facilities team among other age-appropriate games.

“We always want to be able to say yes if a child needs a bed at our campus, and this expansion is how we are able to continue to do that,” said Assistant Vice President Ketrese White. “We are continuously strategizing about how and where to expand and move forward.”

January 29, 2019

The countdown clock is ticking. In less than 24 hours, Texas Children’s Nursing will host its sixth virtual town hall from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m. this Wednesday, January 30, at the Pavilion for Women Conference Center.

Nursing has partnered with the Corporate Communications team to organize this event to engage our team of more than 3,000 dedicated nurses that make up Texas Children’s largest employee population.

Hosted by Chief Nursing Officer Mary Jo Andre’, the town hall will include an overview of the nursing strategic plan, facility updates, as well as time for Q&A.

“By leveraging new technology at our town halls, we are able to engage with more of our nursing team members – near and far,” Andre’ said. “As our team continues to grow, it will be increasingly important for us to leverage technology and continue to identify innovative ways to enhance communication.”

For nurses who cannot attend the live event, there will be several gathering locations to view the live stream:

  • Wallace Tower – D.1200.31
  • West Campus – WC.150.20
  • Health Centers – Sugar Land, Cy-Fair, The Woodlands, Kingwood, Clear Lake, Bellaire
  • The Centers for Women and Children – Greenspoint, Southwest
  • The Woodlands Hospital – Conference Room A

Click here for instructions on how to access the livestream.

Forming your own huddles? Please submit sign-in sheet to jcchilds@texaschildrens.org.

January 22, 2019

As a Texas Children’s employee, you have the privilege and the responsibility of representing yourself, your department, and most importantly the Texas Children’s brand consistently and professionally through each and every interaction – including your emails.

The messages we send via email create important lines of communication and touch points with co-workers, business contacts, community representatives, patients and their families, and many others.

To help you better refine this communication channel, a new email signature generator tool has been developed that allows employees of every Texas Children’s entity to create a branded email signature.

Signature instructions and guidelines and a link to the email signature generator tool can be found here. You also can find step-by-step details on how to set up a new signature in the email signature generator tool and how to save the signature in Outlook.

Please note the following email signature guidelines when developing your signature:

  • The tool features an option to include the Baylor College of Medicine logo, if you are affiliated with Baylor.
  • Do not include unapproved elements in your signature such as colored text, irregular fonts or formatting, pictures, or quotes.
  • If you work for two or more hospital entities or for a department that serves multiple areas of the Texas Children’s system, please use the Texas Children’s Hospital logo in your email signature. You can reference both entities in text, for example:

John Smith

Project Manger, Texas Children’s® Pediatrics and

Texas Children’s® Urgent Care

  • You are not required to use a Texas Children’s logo or social media links in the signature of your Texas Children’s email. However, if you choose to use a logo or social media link, you can only use approved Texas Children’s logos found in the email signature generator tool.

Note: When pasting the signature into the Outlook “Signature and Stationery” setting, the formatting might appear altered. However, if you click “Save” then “OK” in the Outlook Mail tab as noted in the instructions, the signature should display correctly in any new emails.

For more information or if you have any questions, please contact brand@texaschildrens.org. And, thank you for participating in something aimed at making us all better communicators on behalf of Texas Children’s.

January 15, 2019

On January 11, University Pediatric Association, became Texas Children’s Pediatrics’ latest addition.

Last year Texas Children’s Pediatrics expanded outside of the Houston area opening its first primary care site in Austin, today that expansion has made its way to College Station, marking yet another milestone in Texas Children’s path toward creating a network of quality pediatric care for children and families throughout the state of Texas.

Located at 1602 Rock Prairie Road, Suite 1100 College Station, Texas, Texas Children’s Pediatrics University Pediatric Association has seven board certified physicians, two nurse practitioners, and a host of other employees dedicated to meeting the healthcare needs of infants to teenagers. Our expert physicians offer full-service pediatric care including:

  • Prenatal consultations
  • Well-child visits
  • Care of illnesses
  • Care and treatment of minor injuries
  • Vaccinations and immunizations
  • Preventative health care
  • School and sports physicals
  • Hearing and vision screening
  • Health care and nutrition education

“This is the largest practice that we will have acquired in a long time,” President of Texas Children’s Pediatrics, Kay Tittle said. “We are very excited about moving into a new city and providing quality primary pediatric care to children and their families in the College Station area.”

Click here for more information about Texas Children’s Pediatrics University Pediatric Association.