February 18, 2020

On February 13, Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers hosted a special celebration to unveil the new Sky High for Kids Immunotherapy Center that will officially open on 7 West Tower next month.

Texas Children’s Cancer Center staff, physician and nursing leaders, and invited guests attended the unveiling ceremony which began with a special blessing of the new oncology-hematology unit from Texas Children’s Chaplain Pam Krinock followed by remarks from Dr. Susan Blaney, director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers, and Brittany Hebert, Founder/CEO of Sky High for Kids.

“The Sky High for Kids Immunotherapy Center is a tremendous advance, that will be essential to achieving our goal of curing cancer in each and every child,” Blaney said. “We, along with our patients and their families, are grateful for our partnership with Sky High for Kids. This partnership is incredibly strong, because the founders and leaders of Sky High are equally driven and passionate as we are about caring for children who are diagnosed with cancer and eliminating this disease as quickly as possible.”

In 2018, Sky High for Kids committed $20 million over 15 years to Texas Children’s Hospital to establish the Sky High for Kids patient floor and the nation’s first Immunotherapy Center, along with supporting Texas Children’s Global HOPE initiative to improve pediatric cancer treatment in sub-Saharan Africa. This pledge will provide Texas Children’s with the necessary resources to continue our research and application of immunotherapy treatments, impact around the globe and quality of care and comfort for our patients.

“The Sky High for Kids patient floor is poised to serve children across Texas, in the United States, and ultimately around the world,” Hebert said. “We are grateful to be part of the Texas Children’s family and are honored to be a part of leading the charge to eradicate cancer right here in our hometown.”

After the unveiling ceremony, guests had the opportunity to tour the new Sky High for Kids patient floor on 7 West Tower, which will officially open on Wednesday, March 25. The spacious, state-of-the-art patient care floor includes 22 hematology-oncology rooms and 10 bone marrow transplant rooms. The newly renovated spaces also feature a multidisciplinary work area for the health care teams, larger family lounge and respite areas, a laundry room, and a beautiful art studio for patients and their families.

As Texas Children’s Cancer Center continues to pioneer new and emerging therapies for patients with cancer and blood disorders, the need for additional inpatient accommodations was crucial. The new space will allow care teams to better meet the needs of our patients while continuing to provide the highest quality care.

“We are very excited about the opening of our new oncology and hematology unit, and are very fortunate to have the best and brightest minds, dedicated to finding a cure for childhood cancer,” Blaney said. “Everyone in our Cancer Center, including our physician scientists, our research technicians, our clinical researchers, and the entire medical team, feel a tremendous sense of urgency to attaining this goal.”

Click here to learn more about Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers. Click here for more information about our philanthropic partner, Sky High For Kids, and their mission to end pediatric cancer.

November 26, 2019

Tamarah Rodriguez waited in eager anticipation for the November 20 patient move day to arrive. She and her 5-month-old son, Adriel Franco, had spent nearly a week in their hospital room on the seventh floor of the Abercrombie Building.

To ensure that her son received the best care possible, Rodriguez made the six-hour drive from her home in Edinburg, TX to Texas Children’s Hospital. Staying in one of Texas Children’s oldest buildings, she realized how small the room felt – not just for her and little Adriel – but also for her son’s care team.

“It was really hard to feel at home here,” Rodriguez said. “When we found out that we’d be moving in a newly renovated room with more space to walk around, I was very excited. And then, when I saw the room for the first time, it was simply amazing. It’s very spacious, cozy and the views are beautiful.”

On November 20, Texas Children’s reached an historic milestone when acute care services transitioned out of the 65-year-old Abercrombie Building and into 15 West Tower, which was formerly one of Texas Children’s cardiology units, and was renovated to meet the future growth of the hospital’s acute care patient population.

Beginning at 7 a.m., four specially trained clinical teams began safely transporting 33 acute care patients from Abercrombie 6 North and 7 South to their new, spacious, state-of-the-art rooms in 15 West Tower. Nine patients from Abercrombie 5 North relocated to 7 South, until the move to 7 West Tower occurs in February.

More than 50 Texas Children’s staff members were involved in the patient move to 15 West Tower, and the careful transfer of the patients took five hours, which was a lot sooner than originally anticipated due to the efficiency and effectiveness of the Abercrombie and 15 West Tower teams involved on Move Day.

The patient move involved teams from clinical support services, respiratory, facilities, security, nursing, administration, physicians, nurse practitioners, and all members of the acute care team. Patient and family services teams were assigned to each family member to help accompany and escort them from Abercrombie to the hospital’s new acute care unit. Throughout the move, the 15 West Tower Go-Live Support Center was set up in the Nursing Administration Director Workroom comprised of individuals who focused on patient move issue resolution and tracking from Abercrombie to 15 West Tower.

“The patient move was successful and flowed seamlessly,” said Rhonda Wolfe, Director of Nursing for Acute Care. “There was meticulous planning for several months leading up to Move Day which included reviewing patient move logistics, engaging staff, families and partnering with other departments to ensure roles were clearly delineated.”

Collaborating with our Facility Planning and Development partners, the 36-bed unit features larger patient suites (291 square feet), a playroom and two relaxing family rooms that give loved ones a space to gather. Dynamic features include four rooms engineered for the safety of patients with behavioral health needs and a simulation lab to provide state-of-the-art education. With these innovative technologies, 15 West Tower is well equipped to provide exceptional patient care for generations to come.

Impetus for historic patient move

The patient move is part of Texas Children’s West Tower Backfill Project, which involves transitioning patient care services out of Abercrombie. Abercrombie 7 South will remain “patient ready” and will be used as an overflow unit in times of high census. Abercrombie 5 North and 6 North will be decomissioned and designated for administrative use.

The smaller rooms (160 square feet) and limited technological capabilities in the 65-year-old building historically had presented challenges for providers, clinical care teams, patients and their families.

“When our executive steering committee looked at space planning and space management for our clinical programs, one of our guiding principles was to decrease or eliminate care in Abercrombie,” said Assistant Vice President of Nursing Jennifer Sanders. “The patient move from Abercrombie to West Tower, will enable our patient care teams to collaborate more efficiently in these new, enhanced spaces and will improve the experience for our patients and their families during their stay at Texas Children’s.”

The next phase of the West Tower Backfill Project will include moving patients from Abercrombie 7 South to 7 West Tower in February 2020. 7 West Tower will become a new 32-bed hematology and oncology unit.

October 29, 2019

Texas Children’s Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower recently won the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) Design Award sponsored by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the American Institute of Architects Academy on Architecture for Health.

Each year, a panel of judges including physicians, nurses and architects from the sponsoring organizations evaluate adult, pediatric and neonatal ICUs around the world. The award is based on several criteria including functional design, integration of technology, and use of innovative, aesthetic and creative design elements that promote an efficient, safe and healing environment for the delivery of critical care.

“We are grateful to receive the ICU Design award,” said Dr. Lara Shekerdemian, Chief of Critical Care at Texas Children’s. “This award is a culmination of four years of hard work, collaboration, creative thinking and meticulous attention to detail that went into the design of our ICU spaces. The award is for everyone at Texas Children’s who, together with our partners at FKP Cannon Design, Bellows, and our amazing family advisory committee, helped us plan, design and seamlessly transition to our wonderful new home – Legacy Tower.”

To create a safe, efficient, and family-centered environment, Texas Children’s involved patients, families and all disciplines of the health care team from day one of the project through its completion in September 2018. From reviewing workflows to participating in patient care simulations before, during and after construction, design requirements were continuously refined to ensure the final layout would meet patient and staff needs.

As part of the ICU Design Award application process, Texas Children’s created a video highlighting our award-winning Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) and the distinct features that help distinguish our hospital from other pediatric institutions.

The Lester and Sue Smith Legacy Tower has 138 ICU rooms, all with dedicated family space, over seven floors. The new ICU floors include a dedicated subspecialty neuro-ICU, surgical ICU, heart failure ICU and a neonatal cardiac ICU.

Since opening the Legacy Tower PICU in May 2018 and the Legacy Tower Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit (CICU) in September 2018, patients, families, and our critical care team have benefited from the design features that helped the organization achieve this award.

Patient families
  • The overall size of the patient rooms is more than double that of the older ICU rooms, allowing more space for visitors and patient families to remain together comfortably. Each patient room has a spacious private bathroom, complete with a shower for patient and family convenience.
  • Patient rooms have large windows that provide more natural sunlight and beautiful views for patients and their families who aren’t able, or rarely leave the hospital.
  • Large family lounges sponsored by Ronald McDonald House are on each patient floor to provide space for family members to wait, read, eat, and engage in activities outside a patient’s environment. Family laundry spaces on each floor also offer a much-needed convenience for families.
  • Sun-filled respite areas are located throughout the PICU floors to provide families peaceful time to themselves.
  • The configuration of the ICU spaces provides care teams with enhanced visibility and monitoring between patient rooms and into the patient rooms from the nurses’ workstations.
  • Remote monitoring and carefully designed communication panels enable clinicians to respond quickly to emergencies throughout the ICU areas.
  • Patient’s pumps, monitors and ventilators are attached to booms mounted to the ceiling of the room. This allows the patient to be positioned anywhere in the 360-degree circle, and allows medical staff to use high-tech equipment at the bedside while keeping the equipment off the floor.
  • Each ICU bed has an LED examination light that enables the teams to carry out intricate surgical procedures at the bedside on the most unstable patients.
  • A badge-accessible medication “pass-through”, similar to what you see at a pharmacy drive-through, allows pharmacy technicians to drop off medication to patients without having to enter the patient room, providing more privacy for patients and their family.
  • A touch screen safety monitor in each room allows clinicians to call for assistance from the nurse’s station. The technology allows for more efficient communication.

“Our patients and their families are very happy with their new spaces, and we are very excited to be in our new home for critical care in Legacy Tower,” said Gail Parazynski, Vice President of Nursing. “It took several years of planning to get to where we are today. It was a team effort on many different levels to ensure a safe environment of care was cultivated for our critical care staff, patients and their families.”

Texas Children’s will formally receive the ICU Design Award when the Society of Critical Care Medicine convenes for their annual meeting in February 2020.

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.”


The nation’s top medical experts, hospital executives, pediatricians and community health leaders recently convened at Texas Children’s Hospital for U.S. News & World Report’s “Combatting Childhood Obesity” summit, addressing one of the nation’s most critical health issues.

Visiting guests were welcomed by Texas Children’s Physician-in Chief Dr. Mark Kline, who also spoke about the challenges posed by childhood obesity.

“For some time, clinicians have struggled with how to deal with obesity in a holistic and comprehensive manner,” he said. “We hope the work done here will facilitate healthy discussion and help shine light on how best to confront this ever-growing problem.”

The summit was held as part of a two-year commitment by U.S. News to put a spotlight on the nation’s most urgent public health priorities. Obesity has steadily risen as one of the gravest issues in health care: One in five children in the United States is now affected, and nearly one-third are overweight. The estimated annual cost of health care spending directly related to obesity is $149 billion. The purpose of the summit – sponsored by Texas Children’s Hospital – was to raise awareness around childhood obesity and to bring experts together to discuss ways to potentially solve the problem.

Meeting the challenge at Texas Children’s

That Texas Children’s hosted and sponsored a conference around the issue of pediatric obesity is fitting. Currently, around 22,000 children 18 years old or younger who are seen at Texas Children’s are obese, and 8,000 are 5 years old or younger. Obesity is one of the biggest drivers of preventable chronic diseases and in childhood can lead to high blood pressure and cholesterol, increased risk of type 2 diabetes, asthma and sleep apnea, and joint problems, not to mention psychological ramifications such as anxiety and depression.

To directly address the problem of obesity in our patients, as well as some of the underlying causes, such as poverty and food insecurity, Texas Children’s included a system-wide body mass index (BMI) goal as part of our Fiscal Year 2019 care quality objectives. The target was to record BMI for 85 percent of the patient population, ages 2 to 19. In addition to recording BMI, a target was set to refer or implement counseling and/or education for more than 40 percent of patients with BMI greater than the 85th percentile.

“Obesity drives significant health outcomes in our patients, so it was extremely important for us to include this in our FY19 quality goals,” said Dr. Heidi Schwarzwald, chief medical officer of Pediatrics for Texas Children’s Health Plan. “By collaborating across the system, and using the electronic medical record, we can provide children and their families with supportive resources and guidance to combat childhood obesity.”

So far this year, Texas Children’s is exceeding those goals. Through March 2019, we’d recorded BMI for more than 87 percent of our patients, and more than 73 percent of those with BMI in the 85th percentile or higher have been referred to or received the resources they need to combat obesity.

Stay tuned for further updates on Texas Children’s obesity goals and other FY19 organizational goals.

May 14, 2019

Online and direct scheduling have become easier at Texas Children’s with the introduction of MyChart, an online patient portal application launched in 2018. To date, thousands of patients have used the free MyChart feature to schedule and manage their appointments, communicate with their doctor, access medical records, obtain lab results and request prescription refills. Learn more by visiting our 2018 virtual Annual Report.

May 6, 2019

Provider Connect gives referring physicians and their staff direct access to our resource team for questions and concerns about referrals or issues accessing or navigating a Texas Children’s service.

Since its launch in January 2019, Texas Children’s has had more than 400 touch points with providers.

The referral resource team at Texas Children’s is comprised of a director, a senior project manager and two access communication specialists who answer the phone. The team also has four members who intake approximately 5,000 referrals each month, equating to 60,000 physician referrals each year.

The team assists with the referral process, updates referring provider contact information and offers support for connecting to Texas Children’s, including accessing EpicCare Link, a provider portal that gives external providers secure, convenient access to Texas Children’s electronic medical record. This web-based tool is free and providers can sign up online.

Click here for more information about EpicCare Link.