May 28, 2019

The latest in cutting-edge research from across Texas Children’s Department of Surgery was recently on display at the 10th annual Edmond T. Gonzales, Jr. Surgical Research Day. The event is an important forum for surgical faculty, post-graduate trainees, nursing personnel and operating room staff to showcase their academic efforts in an encouraging environment.

More than 120 abstracts covering a broad spectrum of research topics, from basic science to clinical and outcomes research, were submitted for consideration. Of those, 14 were chosen for oral presentation.

The day kicked off with a keynote address from Dr. Adil Haider, Dean of Aga Khan University Medical College in Karachi, Pakistan and formerly of Johns Hopkins University and the Boston-based Center for Surgery and Public Health, a joint initiative between Harvard University and the Brigham and Women’s Hospital. He is regarded as one of the foremost experts on healthcare inequities in the United States, with projects focused on describing and mitigating unequal outcomes based on gender, race, sexual orientation, ethnicity, age and socioeconomic status. Dr. Haider spoke to the audience about his groundbreaking work in trauma disparities research, a field that he has helped establish by uncovering racial disparities after traumatic injury.

2019 Awards

Dr. Emily Steen was awarded the 2019 Samuel Stal Research Award. Over the past two years, Dr. Steen has been conducting basic science research in the Laboratory for Regenerative Tissue Repair under Dr. Sundeep Keswani, surgical director of basic science research at Texas Children’s Hospital. Dr. Steen’s work has focused on pediatric and fetal surgery, wound healing and fibrosis.

Texas Children’s Chief of Plastic Surgery Dr. Edward Buchanan received the 2019 Research Mentor Award. He was nominated by Dr. Kelly Schultz, a recent Baylor College of Medicine graduate.

“In addition to showing unparalleled commitment to his patients, Dr. Buchanan has been a strong mentor, sponsor and role model in clinical research throughout the entirety of my and many other students’ and residents’ medical careers,” said Schultz. “I’m grateful for the many hours Dr. Buchanan spent discussing research projects and imparting knowledge that would eventually pay off in the research I accomplished during medical school.”

Additionally, Dr. Yangyang Yu from Pediatric Surgery received the award for Best Poster, titled “Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of the Surgical Management of Infants Under 1 Year of Age with Feeding Difficulties.” And Dr. Candace Style won the award for Best Oral Presentation, titled “Citrulline Effectively Reduces the Rate and Severity of Necrotizing Enterocolitis Compared to Hydrogen Sulfide in the Premature Piglet Model.”

The event’s grand finale was the announcement of the 2019 Clayton Awards. This grant program, funded by the Department of Surgery, allows surgery researchers to generate the preliminary data necessary for National Institutes of Health (NIH) grant applications and other extramural funding. The recipients were:

Dr. Yi-Chun Liu, Otolaryngology
Evaluation of the benefit of bone conduction hearing device in children with unilateral congenital aural atresia

Michelle Roy, PA-C, Plastic Surgery
Cleft care instructional videos and their efficacy in postoperative outcomes

Dr. Guillermo Aldave, Neurosurgery
Pilot study of oncolytic adenovirus DNX-2401 for recurrent pediatric high grade tumors

Dr. Sarah Woodfield, Surgery
Profiling and modeling extracranial malignant rhabdoid tumors

The Woodlands Recognition and Rewards Committee has announced the third quarter Woodlands Shining Star winners. Beth Pali (left), and Dr. Rachel Marek (right) were honored for their hard work and dedication.

Pali is a registered nurse in The Woodlands Outpatient Infectious Disease Clinic and was also instrumental in the opening of the Dermatology Clinic at The Woodlands. She was nominated by several of her co-workers, all of which say she constantly goes above and beyond on a daily basis to ensure patients and families receive the best possible care and attention.

“Beth is an extraordinary human being,” physician in the Department of Infectious Disease, Dr. Ankhi Dutta said. “She takes her job very seriously, and that is what I love most about her.”

Pali’s compassion and flexibility was magnified during a situation that included the transfer of a complicated patient from The Woodlands to the Medical Center Campus following their ultimately passing. During that time she personally traveled to The Medical Center Campus to help provide support for the family.

“Beth goes above and beyond to provide exceptional care to our patients, families, and staff,” Outpatient Staff Nurse, Elizabeth Dudgeon said. “She is such a positive influence who naturally promotes all the core values, in all that she does.”

Marek is the Medical Director of Pediatric Hospital Medicine (PHM), and was nominated for her compassion and drive for amplifying unity.

“She has been an integral part of building the hospital inpatient services,” Physician in the Division of Gastroenterology, Hepatology & Nutrition Dr. Andrew Chu explained. “She exemplifies our system values as she continues to lead tirelessly.”

Marek is a natural leader who has helped implement and lead core initiatives such as faculty development workshops and lectures at The Woodlands, co-rounding in which subspecialists and PHM service round together on shared patients, and the multidisciplinary Palliative Care Committee at The Woodlands.

“Dr. Marek believes in teamwork, excellence and has demonstrated outstanding ability as a leader and a physician,” Dutta said. “She has implemented an environment of camaraderie and mutual support when it comes to patient care as well as employee satisfaction.”

Congratulations to both of this quarter’s Woodlands Shining Stars, and thank you for going above and beyond for our patients, families, and employees!

May 20, 2019

Over the next couple of weeks, we will highlight some of this year’s Caught You Caring Award winners and how they go above and beyond for their patients and colleagues.

Carmen Vela began working for Texas Children’s as a hospital operator. She later moved on to central scheduling and is now an Ambulatory Services Representative in the Division of Plastic Surgery. For the past 17 years she has used her compassionate communication skills to assist patients in a variety of situations.

“As a bilingual employee I know that I am able to communicate with many different patients,” Vela said. “I love knowing that I am helping out the community. I love customer service, I love helping people, I love to listen, and if I don’t have to answer I will find it.”

Caught You Caring is a recognition program offered to patients and families, as well as staff, to recognize employees who have gone above and beyond their role to provide compassion and kindness to another person. This could be in the care of a patient, service to a family, or in support of a coworker. Launched in 2015 in ambulatory surgery, the now system-wide program has recognized many employees, including the eight listed below who were honored by the program this year.

Vela was nominated for the award by the Senior Project Manager in the Division of Plastic Surgery, Betty Tung.

“Almost daily, I can hear her talking to the families trying to make appointments, and she’s so nice, helpful and professional when handling the appointments,” Tung said. “I have witnessed situations where she has to go to the clinic upstairs because the parent wants to hug her to thank her for her help. She goes way beyond her job duties to help the parents.”

Vela continues to demonstrate teamwork and compassion towards co-workers. She is known for helping patient’s parents if they call with a situation such as traffic, running late, or with questions about parking.

“Receiving this award is very gratifying,” Vela said. “I think everyone should be recognized because it is such a team effort, but for Betty to notice my hard work and how much I care about the patients, means a lot.”

Texas Children’s wants to continue to recognize those who take great pride in the work they do and encourages patients, families and employees to catch someone who is making a difference. Caught You Caring boxes and cards can be found throughout the Texas Children’s system for patients and families to fill out and recognize staff. Employees can fill out a Caught You Caring form on Connect. Cards and online submissions will be distributed to leaders for staff recognition.

Click here to learn more about the Caught You Caring Program.

Dr. Ken McClain, co-director of Texas Children’s Cancer and Hematology Centers Histiocytosis Program, recently received the 2019 George R. Buchanan Lectureship Award from the American Society of Pediatric Hematology/Oncology (ASPHO). He is the fourth recipient of this national award honoring a significant contributor in the field.

Specifically, the award recognizes McClain as an international expert in pediatric hematology/oncology, an accomplished educator, committed mentor and effective speaker whose significant research, education and clinical expertise is of the caliber of achievements made by Buchanan, who made scientific contributions in many areas of pediatric hematology and oncology, and has been recognized as an outstanding teacher and mentor.

As part of receiving the Buchanan award, McClain was invited to present a 35 minute state-of-the-art lecture describing his research following the award presentation earlier this month. His talk was on the history of Langerhans Cell Histiocytosis.

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.

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.