December 18, 2018

Standing in a packed auditorium at the University of Houston’s Student Center South on the evening of December 9, Natalie Martinez gripped a white candle and whispered Angelina when the person seated next to her lit her wick. Angelina is Natalie’s 11-month-old daughter who died five years ago of an undiagnosed medical condition.

“I have been looking for a way to formally honor my little girl and this is it,” Natalie said. “I had to bring a friend for support because I might break down, but I’m here and I’m thankful to have such an opportunity.”

Natalie was one of about 700 people who attended Texas Children’s First Annual Candle Lighting Ceremony to remember, honor, mourn and celebrate the lives of children taken from this world too soon. Hosted by Texas Children’s Palliative Care Team (PACT), the first annual Candle Lighting Ceremony was held in conjunction with the Compassionate Friends Worldwide Candle Lighting Day, which unites family and friends around the globe in lighting candles for one hour at 7 p.m. on December 9 in memory of children who have passed away. All families whose children died and were patients at Texas Children’s Hospital were invited to attend the ceremony, which included free parking, refreshments, childcare and access to grief resources.

Dr. Tammy Kang, section chief of Palliative Care at Texas Children’s, and Jackie Ward, associate chief nursing officer, kicked off the ceremony with words of encouragement and hope.

“Together we come together in unity to honor those lost,” Ward said. “We will forever remember them, cherish them and their imprint on this world.”

Kang agreed and said she hoped the ceremony would provide a healthy outlet of remembrance for families grieving the loss of their child, and to begin to heal from the pain and sadness they are going through.

A slide show of those lost brought many people to tears, giving faces and names to those who have died, as did a display of paper hearts hung on trees at the front of the auditorium. Attendees were given the option to write a message to their child on the hearts. Natalie’s heart read: Some people dream of angels. I’ve held one in my arms.

During the ceremony, five candles were lit at the front of the room – one for grief, another for courage and the rest for memories, love and hope. Then, the candles of everyone in the audience were lit as music therapists Alix Brickley and Abi Carlton sang This Little Light of Mine.

“Take a deep breath,” Chaplain James Denham said soothingly. “You are not alone.”

Melissa Lopez, a nurse in the Cancer Center, was both a volunteer and an event participant as her 16-year-old daughter, Natalia, passed away nine years ago after fighting her battle against cancer.

“Texas Children’s needed this type of event,” she said. “People like me need to know and feel like our children have not been forgotten.”

Taryn Schuelke, the grief and bereavement specialist with the Palliative Care team and ceremony chair, said she is pleased so many people attended the first of what will be an annual ceremony for those tied to Texas Children’s who have lost a child.

“We are honored to have known these children and to be able to recognize them,” she said. “We also are thankful to have so many people who are willing to help make such a special remembrance happen.”

Some of those people and organizations include:

  • The Aleksandra Petra Mondlak Palliative Care Endowed Fund
  • Texas Medical Center Orchestra
  • Texas Children’s Hospital Language Services
  • Texas Children’s Art Therapist Ashley Wood created the art used on all ceremony branding and will turn the paper hearts into a display for next year’s ceremony.
  • The Palliative Care Team’s Senior Administrative Assistant Lindsey Gurganious built the ceremony mantle and poured the large ceremony candle.
  • Texas Children’s Spiritual Care Department
  • Texas Children’s music therapists
  • More than 100 Texas Children’s Hospital staff and their families
  • Various local restaurants and florists

The Pediatric Advanced Care Team (PACT) is an interdisciplinary team comprised of attending physicians, physicians in training, advanced practice nurses, a nurse, chaplain, social worker, grief and bereavement specialist, research coordinator and administrators who work together to provide excellent palliative care to patients and their families across the Texas Children’s Institution.

The team is available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year to provide care in either the inpatient or outpatient setting in partnership with other health care providers. The team also supports staff. Just last year, the program earned The Joint Commission’s Gold Seal of Approval for Palliative Care Certification, making Texas Children’s Palliative Care Program the first of its kind in Houston and one of only 90 across the United States to receive such a distinction. To learn more about the team, click here.

December 6, 2018

 

November 26, 2018

When the Houston Texans took the field on Monday night, November 26, they were out to win one in honor of a true Houston legend – Texans owner and philanthropist Bob McNair, who passed away on November 23 at the age of 81.

“I was proud to call Bob my friend, and he was such an important part of the Texas Children’s family,” said President and CEO Mark Wallace. “Because of his generous support, Texas Children’s has become one of the preeminent destinations in the world for pediatric health care and women’s services. All of us at Texas Children’s are sending positive thoughts and uplifting prayers to the entire McNair family during this difficult time.”

McNair and his wife, Janice, first called Houston home in 1960, just six years after Texas Children’s Hospital opened its doors. Initially unlucky in business, McNair finally found success when he started Cogen Technologies, which went on to become the largest privately owned cogeneration (an efficient form of power generation that produces electricity and heat at the same time) company in the world.

Of course, many will remember McNair as the man who tirelessly championed the cause to bring football back to Houston after the Oilers left in 1996. He was devoted to Texans fans and desperately wanted to bring a championship home for the people of Houston.

The same determination McNair put into building the Texans into a great team he also put into helping make a difference in the lives of others.

For nearly six decades, the McNairs used their resources as a force for positive change in Houston and across the United States. Through The Robert and Janice McNair Foundation, they gave more than half a billion dollars to support education, advance medical research, train future business leaders, and encourage civic engagement. They set up scholarship programs at several universities, including Rice in Houston, that have made it possible for countless young people to attend college and earn their degrees.

Texas Children’s and our academic partner, Baylor College of Medicine, owe so much to McNair’s legacy and generosity.

The McNair Medical Institute has provided crucial funding that has supported the development of several research initiatives, and has also enabled Texas Children’s and Baylor to recruit some of the most brilliant minds in health care and medical research through the McNair Scholar program. And Texas Children’s partnership with the Texans has helped us encourage children throughout Greater Houston to make healthy choices and inspired them through community activities and school events throughout the year, like our upcoming mini PLAY 60 event.

These are just a few examples of the selflessness McNair exhibited on a daily basis. His towering legacy will live on for years to come in Houston, in Texans football and in the care that we provide at Texas Children’s.

November 13, 2018

On November 9, a memorial service was held to celebrate the legacy of Dr. William T. Shearer, an internationally respected leader, clinician, investigator and mentor in pediatric immunology and HIV/AIDS.

More than 100 attendees – including members of Shearer’s family and several of his trainees and colleagues who worked with him for many years – shared memories of Shearer, who was the founder and former chief of the Allergy and Immunology Service at Texas Children’s Hospital for 34 years and a professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine for 40 years.

For many who knew him, Shearer was described by his colleagues as an incredibly compassionate mentor. Throughout his career, he mentored 117 trainees as the Program Director of the Allergy and Immunology Fellowship Training Program at Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine.

One of his trainees was Dr. Carla Davis, chief of Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Service at Texas Children’s, who met Shearer as a pediatric resident. After attending a program he founded – Texas Allergy Asthma and Immunology Society’s Primary Care Residence Conference – her interest in the field began.

“As a resident, I was captivated by his unique blue coat, his enthusiasm for patients, and the field of immunology,” said Davis, who delivered the opening remarks at the ceremony. “I was fascinated by his teaching ability and the fact that he thought I would be a great allergist immunologist. I am honored to carry on the legacy.”

Texas Children’s Physician-in-Chief Dr. Mark W. Kline also shared memorable and humorous anecdotes of Shearer. On one rare occasion, he recalled dropping by the office on a Sunday morning, and saw Shearer dressed up in his suit and tie, either working on a grant or writing textbook chapters for the world’s premier textbook of clinical immunology for which he was co-editor for over 20 years. It wasn’t long after they met that Shearer told him, “I’m here in the office 364 days each year. I usually take Christmas day off.”

“No one worked harder or was more dedicated to his patients and trainees than Dr. Shearer,” Kline said. “His passion was always around making life better for the patients and the families that he served. I learned an enormous amount from him during the formative stages of my career development. He was a mentor and friend for nearly 30 years, and I will miss him tremendously.”

Shearer’s illustrious career became widely known when he assumed the role as the primary physician for Texas Children’s most famous patient, David “The Bubble Boy” Vetter, which led to revolutionary immunologic discoveries. His mother, Carol Ann Demaret, delivered a heartfelt tribute to Shearer.

“Many families such as mine who have been so intensely affected by the science he dedicated his life’s work to will never forget Dr. Shearer,” Demaret said. “Lives exist because of him, and a whole world of happiness. I know, because I have embraced many of the children and young adults myself. Dr. Shearer, we will keep and protect your memories forever in our hearts and in our souls.”

Guest speakers who delivered touching tributes to Shearer included Drs. Tom Fleisher, Morey Haymond, Celine Hanson, Jennifer Pate and Kristy Murray.

After the memorial service, guests attended a reception where pictures, awards and memorabilia with Shearer were displayed including a booklet that contained many tributes his colleagues and trainees had written to him over the years. Following the reception, a ribbon cutting and tour officially opened the William T. Shearer Center for Human Immunobiology located on the third floor of Feigin Tower.

Click here to watch a video tribute of Shearer in his own words.

November 6, 2018

On Friday, November 9, Texas Children’s will celebrate the legacy of Dr. William T. Shearer, an internationally respected leader, clinician, investigator and mentor in pediatric immunology and HIV/AIDS.

Dr. Shearer was the founder and former chief of the Allergy and Immunology Service at Texas Children’s Hospital and served as a leader of this section for 34 years. Shearer also served as a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine for 40 years.

Shearer is recognized as a legend in the field of allergy and immunology. One of the things he is best known for was providing innovative care to Texas Children’s most famous patient – David “The Bubble Boy” Vetter – which led to numerous revolutionary immunologic discoveries.

In memory of Shearer’s life and notable accomplishments, employees and staff are invited to attend a memorial service this Friday from 10 a.m. to 12 p.m. in the first-floor conference room at Feigin Tower.

The ceremony will include several tributes from Shearer’s colleagues at Texas Children’s and Baylor, including remarks from Carol Ann Demaret, the mother of David Vetter. A special video tribute also will be presented to honor the late Shearer who passed away last month at the age of 81. After the memorial service, there will be a reception and tour of the William T. Shearer Center for Human Immunobiology at Feigin Tower.

Click here for more details on the memorial service.

Please note: The Feigin driveway will be closed to traffic during the memorial service. Employees are encouraged to use the second-floor bridge to access Feigin Tower.

October 10, 2018

The medical community lost a legend on October 9, 2018, with the death of Dr. William T. Shearer, founder and former chief of the Allergy and Immunology Service at Texas Children’s Hospital and professor of Pediatrics and Immunology at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Shearer was 81.

Shearer was an internationally-respected leader in the field of allergy and immunology. One of the things he is best known for was providing innovative care to Texas Children’s most famous patient – David “The Bubble Boy” Vetter – which led to revolutionary immunologic discoveries.

Throughout his lengthy career, Shearer pursued his passions in basic and clinical research in primary and secondary immunodeficiency with continuous funding from the National Institutes of Health during his 40-year tenure at Texas Children’s. He authored over 500 journal articles and textbook chapters, and was the editor-in-chief of the world’s premier textbook of clinical immunology for more than 20 years.

Shearer served in leadership positions with virtually every major professional organization concerned with patient care, training and research in pediatric immunology and HIV/AIDS. He was active in clinical research for children with HIV infection and participated in numerous pioneering studies in the prevention and treatment of the disease and its complications. Shearer was passionate about this work and continuously pursued research in this area until his passing.

For many who knew him, Shearer was described by his colleagues as an incredibly compassionate mentor. Throughout his career, he mentored 117 trainees as the Program Director of the Allergy and Immunology Fellowship Training Program at Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine.

“It was my good fortune to work side-by-side with Dr. Shearer for many years,” said Texas Children’s Physician-in-Chief Dr. Mark W. Kline. “No one worked harder or was more dedicated to his patients and trainees than Bill. I learned an enormous amount from him during the formative stages of my career development. He was a mentor and friend for nearly 30 years, and I will miss him tremendously.”

Shearer received many prestigious awards for his work as a clinician, researcher and mentor including a Research Scholar Award from the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, a Faculty Research Award from the American Cancer Society, and the Arnold J. Rudolph – Baylor Pediatric Award for Lifetime Excellence in Teaching. In addition to these accolades, Shearer received the 2017 Clinical Immunology Society Distinguished Service Award.

“It is truly an honor to be able to witness the incredible passion and productivity of this international leader, eminent immunologist, superlative teacher and incredibly compassionate mentor,” said Dr. Carla Davis, chief of Immunology, Allergy and Rheumatology Service at Texas Children’s. “We will all miss him dearly.”

Because of Shearer’s care of David Vetter, he and the late Dr. Ralph D. Feigin wanted to create a lasting tribute in David’s memory, the David Vetter Memorial Fund. The David’s Dream Run was founded by the David Elementary School and the Parent Teacher Organization to support this Memorial Fund.

Click here to make a donation to the David Vetter Memorial Fund in memory of Dr. Shearer. Donations made in memory of Dr. Shearer will benefit the Memorial Fund which is dedicated to research, diagnosis and treatment of immune deficiencies.

February 20, 2018

Elizabeth Ellen “Betsy” Parish, journalist and author of Texas Children’s history book, Legacy: 50 Years of Loving Care, Texas Children’s Hospital, 1954-2004, died at her home on Tuesday, February 13. At 71, she left behind a legacy of her own with her passion for documenting and preserving the history of health care in Houston.

Parish is a native Houstonian, earning a college degree in Journalism from the University of Houston. She used her journalistic skills to become a newspaper columnist and public relations executive, eventually being acknowledged as “Houston’s hot media personality.”

Upon writing Legacy for our hospital, she was given the opportunity to produce historic literature for other medical institutions. She co-authored Houston Hearts: A History of Cardiovascular Surgery and Medicine and The Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center, published in 2014, as well as, Reflections – Houston Methodist Hospital, published in 2016.

Most recently, she edited Tributes, a compilation of previously published articles regarding Dr. Michael DeBakey, which was published in 2017.

Texas Children’s is appreciative of her contribution to the documentation of our hospital’s story, and we will continue to remember her as her name lives on the cover and throughout our history book.

A memorial service in celebration of the life of Elizabeth Ellen Parish is to be conducted at eleven o’clock in the morning on Friday, the 23rd of March, at St. Martin’s Episcopal Church, 717 Sage Road in Houston.

In lieu of flowers and customary remembrances, memorial contributions may be directed to The Betsy Parish Fund, c/o The Parish School, 11001 Hammerly Blvd., Houston, TX 77043.