January 13, 2015


Renowned tissue engineering expert and Harvard Medical School John Homans Professor of Surgery Dr. Joseph Vacanti will be the featured speaker at this year’s Denton A. Cooley Lectureship in Surgical Innovation Tuesday, February 10.

Beginning at 7:30 a.m. in the fourth-floor Conference Center at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, Vacanti will discuss “Tissue Engineering and The Care of Children,” a burgeoning area of research that has untapped potential for people who need new organs. His talk will be streamed on West Campus in room 150.10 as well as in the auditorium at Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. Please RSVP to Lesa Porterfiled at Ext: 6-5722 or Importer@texaschildrens.org if you plan to attend.

Vacanti’s academic surgical career has included both clinical innovation and basic research related to organ transplantation and tissue engineering, a mission that stems from his long-held interest in solving the problem of organ shortages.

While at Boston Children’s Hospital, he launched the nation’s first liver transplantation program specifically for the pediatric population and instituted New England’s first successful pediatric extracorporeal membrane osygenation, or ECMO, program.

He then began to conceptualize the design of implantable systems that would generate new tissue and replace lost function. Vacanti’s approach to developing tissue involves a scaffold made of an artificial, biodegradable polymer, seeding it with living cells, and bathing it in growth factors. The cells can come from living tissue or stem cells. The cells multiply, filling up the scaffold, and growing into a three-dimensional tissue. Once implanted in the body, the cells recreate their proper tissue functions, blood vessels grow into the new tissue, the scaffold melts away, and lab-grown tissue becomes indistinguishable from its surroundings.

Vacanti earned his Bachelor of Science, summa cum laude, from Creighton University; his medical degree, with high distinction, from University of Nebraska College of Medicine; and a Master of Science from Harvard Medical School. He trained in general surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital, in pediatric surgery at Boston Children’s Hospital, and in transplantation at the University of Pittsburgh.

Since 1974, Vacanti has held academic appointments at Harvard Medical School. He currently holds the following positions at Massachusetts General Hospital: co-director of the Center for Regenerative Medicine, director of the Laboratory for Tissue Engineering and Organ Fabrication, and chief of Pediatric Transplantion.

In addition to being a founding co-president of the Tissue Engineering Regenerative Medicine International Society (TERMIS), which has 4,000 active members from 80 countries worldwide, Vacanti has authored more than 320 original reports, 69 book chapters, 54 reviews, and more than 473 abstracts. He also has 81 patents or patents pending in the United States, Canada, Europe, and Japan, and was elected in 2001 to the Institute of Medicine of the National Academy of Sciences.

Among others, Vacanti has received the Thomas Sheen Award presented by the New Jersey Chapter of the American College of Surgeons and the 2013 William E. Ladd Medal, the highest honor awarded by the Surgical Section of the American Academy of Pediatrics. He now will be one of several distinguished visiting professors to speak at the Denton A. Cooley Lectureship in Surgical Innovation.

Created seven years ago, the lectureship honors Dr. Denton A. Cooley, a living legend in cardiovascular and surgical innovation. Last year, Cooley was named the most innovative surgeon alive for his groundbreaking work in cardiovascular surgery. He ranked No. 1 on the list of 20 surgeons for the accolade given by Healthcare Administration Degree Programs, which is a website that provides free information for those seeking a career in the medical industry.

Cooley might be best known for performing the first successful human heart transplant in the United States in 1968 and the first human implant of a total artificial heart in the world in 1969. However, his many other contributions are even more important, including his techniques for repairing diseased heart valves and aortic and ventricular aneurysms. Cooley also promoted and popularized the use of non-blood prime for the heart-lung machine, sparing patients unnecessary exposure to blood and allowing more operations to be performed.

Before he retired from the operating room, he and his team had performed more than 100,000 open-heart operations at the Texas Heart Institute, which he founded in 1962. Cooley has authored or coauthored 13 books and more than 1,300 scientific papers. He also has won several awards, including Texas Children’s Hospital’s Distinguished Surgeon Award.

Cooley currently is chief of cardiovascular surgery at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital; surgeon-in-chief emeritus at the Texas Heart Institute; consultant in cardiovascular surgery at Texas Children’s Hospital; and clinical professor of surgery at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston.


Texas Children’s Hospital is excited to announce Dr. Lauren Kane as a new cardiovascular surgeon at Texas Children’s Heart Center. Kane, whose appointment is effective this week, is also an assistant professor of surgery and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Kane join our growing team as she brings with her a great array of clinical and research experience,” said Dr. Charles D. Fraser Jr., chief of congenital heart surgery and surgeon-in-chief at Texas Children’s, as well as professor of pediatrics and chief of congenital heart surgery at Baylor. “Not only will her addition to the team allow for more convenient access for children in need of cardiac surgery, but we’re confident her research will continue to advance the national prominence of our cardiovascular team.”

Kane’s clinical and research interests include the full spectrum of congenital heart surgery, with a particular interest in neonatal palliation and outcomes-based research.

Kane previously served as assistant professor of congenital heart surgery at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio. She earned her bachelor’s degree from The University of Texas at Arlington, and her medical degree from The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. Kane completed her surgical residency at The University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas, a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Emory University and a fellowship in congenital heart surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

Ranked No. 2 nationally in cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report, Texas Children’s Heart Center cares for children of every age, including preterm and low-birth-weight newborns tailoring procedures and treatments to the needs of each individual child and his or her family. Texas Children’s Heart Center is recognized across the globe as a leader in the highly specialized field of pediatric congenital heart surgery and performs more than 800 surgical cardiac procedures each year with outcomes among the best in the nation.

December 9, 2014


Texas Children’s Hospital hosted its second national conference December 4 and 5, addressing a series of fatal conditions known as coronary artery anomalies.

Coronary artery anomalies are a group of rare congenital heart defects that have been associated with coronary ischemia, myocardial infarction, and sudden death. It is the second most common cause of sudden death in young healthy athletes.

Diagnosing this can be challenging because many individuals with the condition have no symptoms. Those who are symptomatic complain of fainting, chest pain, or palpitations, especially with exercise.

How to best treat a child or young adult with cardiac artery anomalies is a subject of debate in the medical community. Most physicians agree that surgery is necessary for patients who show evidence of decreased blood flow to the heart tissue, but how to treat those these patients who have no physical complaints and who show no evidence of reduced blood flow to the heart is unclear.

Such issues were discussed at the Coronary Artery Anomalies Symposium at the Pavilion for Women. Almost 90 people attended the conference and speakers from 16 leading heart institutions provided a dedicated forum to discuss the diagnosis and management of patients with coronary artery anomalies.

A panel discussion with families affected by the condition brought special attention to the psycho-social needs of patients with cardiac anomalies as well as their parents and siblings. Other talks focused on the most appropriate imaging modalities, identification of risk factors, different management strategies based on best available evidence, surgical techniques, and counseling of patients and families regarding treatment and exercise recommendations.

August 12, 2014


Dr. Tamara Todd was 5 months pregnant when she found out her unborn daughter had a heart defect and would most certainly need surgery within her first moments of life. Her maternal fetal medicine specialist in Hilo, Hawaii told Todd and her husband that their baby girl, whom they planned to name Kirana, had Tetralogy of Fallot. Hilo does not have a children’s hospital, and the one in Honolulu does not have regular cardiothoracic surgery services, so they decided the best option was to head to the mainland U.S for delivery and post natal care.

They chose Texas Children’s Hospital for a variety of reasons. At the beginning of her career as a doctor, Todd was a part of Baylor International Pediatric AIDS Initiative (BIPAI) from 2006 to 2008 in Botswana and Lesotho so she was familiar with the reputation of both Baylor and Texas Children’s.

“I knew Texas Children’s would be a great place to get the best care,” says Todd of her choice to move to Houston. “Not only is it ranked as one of the top pediatric hospitals for cardiology and heart surgery, but also my parents live in the Houston area, so it really just felt like home.”

Once the decision was made, Todd connected with Christie Moran, nurse coordinator from the Texas Children’s Fetal Center, and transferred her OB care at 36 weeks of pregnancy, and arranged prenatal consult with pediatric cardiology and pediatric surgery.

“Every single person that we interacted with during outpatient visits, my admission for induction and ultimate c-section, our time in the NICU with Kirana and, of course, the surgical team were all outstanding,” says Todd of her time in Houston. “Texas Children’s quickly felt like a home away from home for my family.”

Kirana was born on December 31, 2013 at the Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and taken immediately to surgery to repair the defect in her heart. Dr. Charles D. Fraser led a team of specialists in surgery, including Dr. Shaine Morris from Cardiology and Dr. Erin Gottlieb from Anesthesiology. The team at the Cardiovascular Intensive Care Unit managed Kirana’s post-surgical care.

“We were very fortunate that Kirana’s tetralogy of fallot was prenatally diagnosed by her doctor in Hawaii. Her family was able to temporarily move to Houston and deliver at the Pavilion for Women,” according to Kirana’s cardiologist, Dr. Morris. “Kirana’s heart condition is one that we treat often at Texas Children’s, and thanks to a multidisciplinary team, led by Dr. Fraser, we were able to provide her with the best care, and Kirana’s prognosis is very good.”

Kirana’s surgery was a success, and now just a few months later, the family is back home in Hawaii with their beautiful, healthy daughter

July 22, 2014


When Kansas native Parker Flax was just three-months-old, he developed a fever, rash, conjunctivitis and cold-like symptoms that prompted his parents, Jessica and Daniel, to take him to the pediatrician. He was quickly diagnosed with measles, but after blood work ruled out the initial diagnosis, he was sent home. Parker then began developing extremely high fevers, which hovered around 106 degrees and would not subside with medication. Following a bigger spike in his temperature, his parents took him to a physician in nearby Kansas City who performed a spinal tap and diagnosed Parker with bacterial meningitis. He was admitted to the hospital and given antibiotics. Following further testing, meningitis was ruled out, but the physicians did not know what was causing Parker’s symptoms.

The usually happy, carefree baby continued to have fevers and was oftentimes inconsolable. On September 18, while at home with Parker and his brother, Jessica had to administer CPR on her young son who had collapsed and wasn’t breathing. She knew in that instant that all of Parker’s previous symptoms contributed to this frightening episode. He was admitted to the hospital and the family finally received a diagnosis – Parker had suffered a heart attack and had Kawasaki disease with 100 percent blockage of the right coronary artery as well as dilation of the left coronary artery. The physician told the family he had never seen a patient so young with this diagnosis and sought advice from cardiologists around the country. When he received twenty-two different answers from twenty-two different cardiologists, the Flax family knew they had to take matters into their own hands and find the best possible treatment for Parker. Jessica went online and found Parker’s pediatric cardiologist, Dr. Carolyn Altman, at Texas Children’s Heart Center.

At the end of May, pediatric cardiologist Dr. Caridad delaUz, implanted the 19-month-old with the Reveal LINQ Insertable Cardiac Monitor.

“Parker was the first pediatric patient in Houston, and among the first in Texas, to receive LINQ cardiac monitoring device,” said delaUz. “I’m so glad we’ve been able to give his parents the peace of mind they’ve desperately yearned for since Parker was a baby.”

The device, released in February, is smaller than a key and wirelessly monitors Parker’s heart rhythm with specific parameters set by Dr. delaUz. The monitoring device inside Parker’s chest stores the information which is wirelessly communicated to a hub at his bedside. The device sends transmissions of any abnormal rhythms automatically to his care team here in Houston. The minimally-invasive procedure took less than ten minutes and allows Jessica and Daniel to sleep easier each night because they know Parker is being monitored by the Texas Children’s Heart Center team 24 hours a day.

July 1, 2014


Texas Children’s Heart Center is adding two new members to its Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program team: pediatric and adult cardiologist, Dr. Peter Ermis, and pediatric and adult cardiologist, Dr. Wilson Lam. Texas Children’s Heart Center is ranked #2 nationally in cardiology and heart surgery by U.S. News & World Report.

“With the arrival of Drs. Ermis and Lam, the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program team is now among the largest in the nation,” says Dr. Wayne Franklin, director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Texas Children’s and assistant professor of medicine and pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “The growth of our program further enables us to provide exceptional care to pediatric and adult patients with congenital heart disease in our community.”

Dr. Peter Ermis
Ermis, who also serves as assistant professor at Baylor, has clinical interests in determining quality improvement measurements in the care of adults with congenital heart disease, transitioning congenital heart disease patients from pediatric to adult congenital based care and stress echocardiography utilization in adults with congenital heart disease. His research interests include resource utilization in adults with congenital heart disease; transition and location of care for adults with congenital heart disease; pulmonary valve replacement in adults with repaired tetralogy of Fallot; long-term follow-up in adults with repaired transposition of the great arteries; stress echocardiography utilization in adults with congenital heart disease; and mechanical support in adults with congenital heart disease.

Ermis is a member of the American Academy of Cardiology, American Academy of Pediatrics and the International Society on Adult Congenital Heart Disease. He is excited to become a part of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program team and work with world class physicians and staff who strive for excellence in patient care, education and research. Ermis looks forward to providing valuable care to a unique group of adults that often fall between the realm of general pediatric and adult cardiology. He will primarily see patients at Texas Children’s Health Centers – The Woodlands as well as the hospital’s main location in the Texas Medical Center.

Ermis received an undergraduate degree at Rice University. He earned his medical degree from the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and went on to complete his residency and pediatric and adult cardiology fellowship at Baylor.

Dr. Wilson Lam
Lam, who also serves as assistant professor at Baylor, has clinical interests in adult congenital heart disease, primarily electrophysiology issues, complex arrhythmia ablation and lead extraction. His research interests include arrhythmias in adult congenital heart disease, medical education and established technology in novel areas.

Lam is a member of the American College of Cardiology, American Academy of Pediatrics and American College of Physicians. He is honored to be a part of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program team which cares for unique patients with complex anatomies and challenging cardiovascular issues. Lam looks forward to joining and contributing to this state-of-the-art program for a medical specialty that is still relatively new nationwide. He will primarily see patients at Texas Children’s Health Centers – Sugar Land as well as the hospital’s main location in the Texas Medical Center.

Lam received an undergraduate degree from Rice University. He earned his medical degree and completed his residencies in combined internal medicine and pediatrics at Baylor with adult cardiovascular diseases and electrophysiology fellowships at Baylor, Texas Children’s and the Texas Heart Institute.

The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program enables patients with congenital heart disease to receive seamless continuation of care from birth to adolescence to adulthood. The multidisciplinary team of experienced congenital heart disease specialists is equipped to treat the entire spectrum of medical and surgical problems throughout life, including health and wellness, family planning, and preventative medicine.

June 10, 2014


Dr. Daniel Penny, chief of Cardiology at Texas Children’s Hospital and section head and professor of Pediatrics-Cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine, was recently presented the 2014 University College Cork (UCC) Medical School Medal. The award ceremony took place at Penny’s alma mater in Ireland on May 28.

The award, established in 2001, was created to honor those who have made exceptional contributions to medicine and society. Penny was chosen as this year’s recipient based on his sustained and excellent track record in pediatrics and pediatric cardiology; in leadership and expertise at an international level in academic medicine; in his support and inspiration for generations of medical students and trainees; and his work in establishing links between UCC and Texas Children’s.

“I am truly honored to receive this year’s UCC Medical School Medal,” said Penny. “It is a privilege to have the opportunity to have worked, and continue to work, in hospitals throughout my career which are leading the way in improving the health and well-being of children and families across the globe.”

Penny was born in Cork, Ireland, where he completed his medical degree at University College Cork, The National University of Ireland. He trained and practiced at top pediatric institutions, such as The Great Ormond Street Hospital in London and The Royal Children’s Hospital in Melbourne, Australia, where he served as chief of Cardiology before joining Texas Children’s. Penny also is a founding director of the Australia and New Zealand Children’s Heart Research Centre, a collaborative network for multicenter research across Australia and New Zealand. His research bridges cardiac physiology and clinical studies of congenital heart disease. In 2010 he was awarded his involvement in developing a Cardiovascular Institute in Hue City, Central Vietnam, for which he received the “For People’s Health” Award from the Vietnamese government.