October 11, 2016

101216modinside640When Leanne O’Brien glances down at her healthy 18-month-old twins, Remy and Ronan, she knows their lives are nothing short of a miracle. Born nearly 28 weeks premature as a result of severe preeclampsia, her twins spent the first four and a half months of their young lives at Texas Children’s Newborn Center.

“As soon as they were born, the NICU team took care of our babies who each weighed between two and three pounds,” said O’Brien, assistant director of IS Customer Service at Texas Children’s. “They immediately went to NICU 3, then we went to NICU 4 for PDA closures to treat a congenital heart defect and then to NICU 2 until our babies were well enough to come home.”

At the time, O’Brien didn’t know much about the causes and complications of infant prematurity. After her family’s NICU journey, she decided to do something she’d never done before – participate in the March for Babies Walk with her husband and their twins, and her mom and sister on behalf of Texas Children’s to support other NICU families who have encountered similarly challenging situations.

“I wanted to use my voice and share my testimony to help pregnant women and families wherever and however I can,” O’Brien said. “Participating in the walk was a pretty emotional day for me. I thought about all of what my family and my kids went through and how blessed we are to be here today. But I also thought about the families and babies who are currently fighting and all the babies who lost their fight.”

With the generous support from O’Brien and other Texas Children’s employees and their families, Texas Children’s was recently honored as the top corporate team in Houston to raise nearly $180,000 in total funds for the March of Dimes based on corporate sponsorship and employee and team fundraising.

“Of the Top 50 participating teams, we are thrilled to see Texas Children’s Hospital take the number one spot in Houston for the first time,” said Darcie Wells, executive director of the March of Dimes Foundation of Greater Houston. “We thank Texas Children’s leaders and employees for their incredible efforts for moms and babies.”

Several months prior to the March for Babies walk, departments and units from across the organization formed their own teams to help raise money and rally support around this worthy cause. Teams hosted barbecues, designed and sold t-shirts, held bake sales, arranged bike tours and even paid to give their leaders a pie in the face to raise money and awareness. Each of the 63 teams raised an average of $1,476, all of which helped Texas Children’s exceed this year’s fundraising goal of $120,000.

“Since 1984, Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine have received more than $16 million from the March of Dimes to support research to prevent birth defects and prematurity,” said Cris Daskevich, senior vice president at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women. “Our long-term partnership has helped significantly improve outcomes and quality of life for some of our most fragile babies – giving hope to patients and families when there once was none.”

O’Brien encourages everyone thinking about participating in next year’s walk to help support the March of Dimes. “It is such an amazing cause, and by donating or walking, you can help give every baby a fighting chance,” O’Brien said.

The March of Dimes will officially celebrate the Top 10 Teams at a citywide kickoff of its 2017 campaign on February 8, 2017.

Click here to watch the slideshow of the 2016 March for Babies Walk.

September 20, 2016

92116languageservices640For non-English speaking families like Argelia Diaz, she knows that when she comes to Texas Children’s, she can always count on a Spanish-speaking interpreter to help her communicate with her daughter’s medical team.

“I don’t know what I would do without them,” Diaz said through her interpreter. “They give us all the information that the providers want to tell us and help break down the medical terms for us. They are very kind and are always there whenever we need them.”

As an internationally recognized referral center, Texas Children’s cares for many international patients including those here at home who do not speak English. These patient families rely solely on the skills and expertise of Texas Children’s Language Services Department to bridge the communication barrier.

“Language barriers have the potential to adversely impact patient care and outcomes,” said Language Services Manager Alma Sanchez. “Issues like misdiagnosis, lack of compliance, medical errors and readmissions can all be further compounded when a patient has limited English proficiency. Communicating with them in their preferred language ensures everyone is on the same page regarding the care and treatment of the patient.”

Being an interpreter at Texas Children’s is more than just speaking a foreign language fluently. As the primary liaison between the physician and patient, interpreters ensure accurate and seamless communication is delivered to both parties during every phase of the health care process. Specially trained in diverse areas including medical terminology, modes and standards of interpretation, standards of ethics and intercultural communication, interpreters also serve as a cultural broker in the communication of information since there are many factors that may impede a patient or family’s clear understanding of a medical diagnosis or treatment plan.

“While speaking in the family’s native language, we explain their child’s diagnosis and ensure they understand all of the instructions provided by their care team,” said Violeta Riccio, project analyst at Language Services. “We also help the providers understand the patient’s concerns or questions in order to resolve any potential issues.”

On average, the Language Services Department receives 12,000 language requests per month – 4,000 are in-person interpretations, 7,000 are telephonic and 1,000 are through a mobile video system called My Accessible Real Time Trusted Interpreter (MARTTI) where an external interpreter can be contacted via live video. These capabilities enable Texas Children’s to provide interpretations in about 170 different languages.

To meet the growing demand for this service, Texas Children’s has 28 interpreters dispersed across several campuses – 17 at Texas Children’s Main Campus, five at Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus, four at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women and two interpreters at Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands. Spanish is the most requested language for interpretation followed by Arabic, Vietnamese and Chinese-Mandarin.

Just like our patient families, Texas Children’s health care teams benefit greatly from this service too.

“Having an interpreter physically present is crucial to effective communication particularly in stressful situations when children are undergoing procedures or when critical information is being conveyed,” said Dr. Larry Hollier, chief of plastic surgery at Texas Children’s. “Having an onsite interpreter in the ambulatory surgery area has been transformative in terms of family satisfaction and the efficient and safe flow of children through the area.”

To learn more about Language Services, drop by their office located on the third floor of West Tower across from the gift shop. Click here to watch a video spotlighting a day in the life of interpreters at Texas Children’s.

July 19, 2016

72016fetalconference640The International Fetal Medicine and Surgery Society (IFMSS) led by co-presidents Doctors Oluyinka and Olutoyin Olutoye, will convene for its annual meeting in Kasane, Botswana from August 2 to 7, 2016. This is the second time the meeting has been held on the African continent in the society’s 35-year history.

The IFMSS is an international gathering of fetal medicine practitioners from all over the world,” said Dr. Oluyinka Olutoye, co-director of Texas Children’s Fetal Center. “The annual meeting is the forum where innovations in fetal therapy are discussed even prior to general dissemination.”

Topics that will be discussed at the meeting include updates on the management of fetuses with spina bifida, innovative therapies for congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), advances in the management of complex twin problems, as well as topics on ethics, anesthesia, genetics, cardiology, diagnostics, neonatal care and long-term outcomes amongst others.

Anesthesiologist-in-Chief Dr. Dean Andropoulos is one of the invited keynote speakers. The other keynote speaker is the Executive Director of the BIPAI Center of Excellence in Botswana, Prof. Gabriel Anabwani. Other Texas Children’s physician attendees include Dr. Darrell Cass, co-director of the Fetal Center, who will present the hospital’s experience with the management of CDH, Texas Children’s neurosurgeon Dr. William Whitehead who will deliver a presentation on the fetal management of spina bifida and Texas Children’s maternal-fetal medicine specialist Dr. Alireza Shamshirsaz who will present on fetal intervention for non-immune hydrops.

Other meeting attendees include Drs. Karolina Adam and Joanie Hare of Houston Perinatal Associates, and research fellows Drs. Stephanie Cruz and Patricio Lau who will also present at the meeting and are two of the seven recipients of the young investigator travel award. Kristen Kaiser, PhD, of Texas Children’s Pediatric Surgery Division together with Adam Gibson and Taylor Napier Earle of Texas Children’s Global Health have graciously provided administrative and logistical support for this international meeting.

In addition to the IFMSS meeting in Kasane, Botswana, a pre-meeting symposium will be held in conjunction with the Botswana Pediatric Association and the University of Botswana in the capital city, Gaborone, Botswana from July 31 to August 1. This symposium, also involving international speakers, will address issues in prenatal diagnosis, pediatric anesthesiology, obstetrics, pediatric surgery, cardiology and critical care, and is targeted at Botswana physicians not involved in fetal therapy.

“Serving as co-presidents of an international society is an honor and privilege,” said Dr. Olutoyin Olutoye, director of the Fetal Anesthesia Service at Texas Children’s. “It acknowledges our participation in the society’s activities over the years, reflects our contributions to the field, and places Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine amongst elite institutions whose faculty have led such a prestigious organization.”

The logo for the 35th IFMSS meeting was designed by Beth Sumner of Texas Children’s Department of Surgery, with inspiration from the co-presidents. The elephant acknowledges the region of Botswana where the meeting will be held, which is home to the largest concentration of elephants in the world. The fetus encased in the elephant trunk acknowledges the care of the fetus that is the focus of the meeting.

July 6, 2016

7616zikaclinic640Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women recently opened a Zika clinic to ensure women, mothers and babies continue to receive the highest quality health care during every important stage of their lives.

Located on the third floor of the Pavilion for Women in the Baylor Ob/Gyn clinic, the Zika clinic focuses on women who have traveled to Zika-affected countries, have shown symptoms of the Zika virus or have partners who have traveled to Zika-affected countries and/or have shown symptoms of the Zika virus.

Zika is transmitted primarily through mosquito bites. In recent months, the virus has heightened concern among pregnant women since the virus may increase the risk of microcephaly, a rare neurological birth defect that causes babies to be born with abnormally small heads.

“It’s very important that we have a Zika clinic here at the Pavilion for Women,” said Dr. Kjersti Aagaard, a Maternal-Fetal Medicine physician and vice chair for Research in the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine. “In an emerging disease, where new evidence arises daily, having a dedicated group of providers who can keep up with large amounts of crucial information, understand what testing to perform, and discern clinically important information and how to readily apply it are critically important.”

In addition to blood, urine and amniotic fluid tests and counseling, the clinic offers a targeted diagnostic ultrasound that can be performed as early as 15 weeks into pregnancy to determine if there are any concerning developmental signs for Zika infection in a fetus. Physicians and staff at the clinic are thoroughly prepared to safely and confidently treat any patient who exhibits symptoms of the Zika virus.

The Zika clinic is a direct outcome of a recently created task force that convened earlier this year. Under the guidance of Texas Children’s Ob/Gyn-in-Chief Dr. Michael Belfort and Maternal Fetal Medicine Division Director Dr. Gary Dildy, a task force of physicians and researchers from Baylor and Texas Children’s have developed management and research strategies based on important screening criteria outlined by the Centers for Disease Control for pregnant women who may have been exposed to the Zika virus. This task force has been led by Aagaard alongside Drs. Carey Eppes and Martha Rac.

The Zika clinic sees patients on Friday mornings from 8 a.m. to noon. The clinic is staffed by one registered nurse, one medical assistant and the physician team includes Drs. Eppes, Aagaard, Rac and Magda Sanz Cortes.

The clinic will initially see patients who are internally referred by either Baylor Ob/Gyn, Partners in Ob/Gyn Care or The Women’s Specialists providers. Patient referrals to the Zika clinic from outside physicians will be accepted and expanded this summer once internal patient volume demands are addressed.

Recent Connect articles related to Zika:
Senator Cornyn visits Texas Children’s to attend roundtable on Zika virus
Zika virus cases surface in Texas, travelers to epidemic regions most at risk

June 28, 2016

62916DrSchutt640Hearing the words, “you’re pregnant” can be an exciting, life-changing moment. But for many couples struggling with infertility, the journey to parenthood can be filled with frustration, stress, and at times, hopelessness.

Dr. Amy Schutt, a reproductive endocrinologist and surgeon who recently joined the Family Fertility Center at Texas Children’s Pavilion for Women, knows these struggles since she faced infertility challenges of her own.

“While in medical school, I was learning how to be a physician, but at the same time – unknown to most family, friends and colleagues – I was also learning how to be a patient,” Schutt said.

After a miscarriage, two surgeries, countless ultrasounds and unsuccessful infertility treatments, Schutt and her husband ultimately conceived their now 7-year-old daughter through in vitro fertilization (IVF).

“My daughter was born in my fourth year of medical school and she is a living, breathing testament to the medical and scientific advances that made her possible,” Schutt said. “What I didn’t know then, but know now, is that facing infertility taught me lessons about caring for women in ways that the classroom could never teach me.”

With her uniquely compassionate approach to care that comes from her own experience as an infertility patient, Schutt combines her clinical knowledge, surgical skills and research to advance the understanding of infertility and subsequently develop innovative treatment approaches to improve successful pregnancy outcomes.

While specializing in the care and treatment of reproductive and hormonal disorders like polycystic ovary syndrome, Schutt has extensive training in groundbreaking surgical techniques to treat the most challenging reproductive and endocrinology cases, including rare congenital anomalies of the reproductive tract. She finds it highly rewarding to provide continuity of care for her patients, helping women achieve conception after successful surgical treatment.

Schutt’s contributions to research has helped advance the treatment and understanding of reproductive and endocrinology disorders, including the influence of maternal health factors such as diet and obesity on a woman’s fertility and the long-term health of her baby. Currently, Schutt is collaborating with colleagues to examine the effects of protein restriction on egg quality before pregnancy to see whether a diet rich in protein optimizes egg health and development. In a separate study, Schutt is also looking at the effects of obesity on female fertility by studying the granulosa cells collected during IVF. These cells feed signals to the egg during the maturation process.

Prior to joining the Family Fertility Center, Schutt received her medical degree from Texas Tech University School of Medicine followed by an OB/GYN residency at the University of Virginia Health System. She recently completed a three-year fellowship in reproductive endocrinology and infertility at Baylor College of Medicine.

“We are excited to have Dr. Schutt join our team,” said Dr. William Gibbons, director of the Family Fertility Center and chief of reproductive endocrinology services at Texas Children’s. “She brings compassion, ability, enthusiasm and a diverse skill set to our Family Fertility Center family. I can’t wait to watch where she takes us.”

For Schutt, there’s one thing that fuels her passion more than anything – helping her patients achieve their dreams.

“I look forward to calling my patients with positive pregnancy tests, to celebrating pregnancy ultrasounds and to receiving birth announcements,” Schutt said. “My personal and educational experiences have taken me full circle and I look forward to being part of this incredible team at the Family Fertility Center.”

Click here to watch a video tour of the Family Fertility Center. If you have questions, want to schedule an appointment with the Family Fertility Center team of Drs. William Gibbons, Amy Schutt, Terri Woodard and Paul Zarutskie, or learn more about the benefits available to full-time Texas Children’s employees, call Ext. 6-7500.

June 1, 2016

6116TCHAPPConference640Texas Children’s Hospital recently hosted the third annual Texas Children’s Hospital Advanced Practice Provider (TCHAPP) Conference at the Pavilion for Women Conference Center. The event was well attended with more than 130 registrants. Many of Texas Children’s own advanced practice providers as well as nurse practitioners and physician assistants from across the nation attended this three-day event.

The conference provided attendees with a broad view of pediatric care from a subspecialty and acute care perspective, and opportunities to connect with experts and colleagues. A panel of guest speakers delivered presentations on evidence-based and innovative approaches to the diagnosis and treatment of various pediatric medical and surgical conditions. The event also provided attendees the opportunity to learn more about pharmacology and improve skills such as suturing and lumbar punctures.

The committee would like to thank the speakers and attendees who helped make this year a success. Click here to view the names of the presenters and specific topics discussed at the conference.

Planning is currently underway for the fourth TCHAPP conference to be held in 2017.

May 3, 2016

When was the last time you helped patients navigate our hallways? Did you look them in the eye when you talked to them? Did you greet them with a smile and a friendly handshake?

Patient and family experience at Texas Children’s is more than the medical care we provide at the bedside. It’s a reflection of how we treat our patients and their families from the moment they call us to schedule an appointment to the moment they leave our care.

Recently, Texas Children’s employees and staff at the Pavilion for Women got a chance to put themselves in the shoes of their patients by walking into the Galleries of Parallel Truths. Two rooms, named Gallery A and Gallery B, were decked out with posters, statistics and compelling stories, one showing the positives and one the negatives of patient experience at Texas Children’s.

“The galleries were organized by our nursing leadership in collaboration with Ambulatory Services,” said Kim Holt, assistant director of nursing at Texas Children’s Cancer Center The Woodlands campus and the project’s team leader. “We felt it was necessary to re-engage our staff around the importance of consistently creating a positive patient experience, which will help to improve our Press Ganey patient satisfaction scores at Texas Children’s.”

When staff entered Gallery A, the atmosphere was cold and uninviting. The walls were plastered with shocking statistics and disturbing complaints from patient families and employees who had left the organization.

“It looked like we were walking into a dungeon of the unknown,” Felicia Cruise said. ”There was trash everywhere and employee badges were scattered on the floor. It was dark and a place that I didn’t want to be in.”

“The phone was ringing constantly,” Delores Metoyer recalled. “I wanted to say, “Somebody get the phone! Get the phone!”

Next door in Gallery B, the atmosphere was bright and inviting. A red carpet was rolled out onto the floor symbolizing superior customer service we deliver to our patients and their families. The walls were decorated with pictures of happy employees and volumes of awards, recognitions and stories showcasing outstanding employee achievements in patient care and patient experience.

“The purpose of the galleries was for employees to remember the impact and the experience they felt going through the negative and the positive room,” said Oluwakemi Orogbemi, one of the nurses who helped organize the event. “Employee engagement is very important to positive patient experience. We want our employees to know their happiness, their positive experience here at Texas Children’s will translate into a positive experience for our patients and their families.”

The employee feedback gathered from these sessions will be sent to the Patient Experience Committee where staff will collaborate on strategies to resolve the issues raised by employees and patient families.

The Galleries of Parallel Truths started in January 2016 and has been presented to employees at the Pavilion for Women, West Campus, and several of the health centers in the community.

To find out when the next Galleries of Parallel Truths will be presented, contact Kim Holt at Ext. 8-9265 or kpholt@texaschildrens.org.

Patient Experience Week

Employees, patients and their families will also get a chance this week to learn more about Texas Children’s efforts to make the patient and family experience here the best it can be. Events will be held at Main and West campuses. Click here for a schedule of events.