In 1961, Children’s was officially named the pediatric teaching hospital for UT Southwestern. Today, that affiliation means Children’s has access to a medical faculty that has produced five Nobel Laureates since 1985 – more than any other medical school in the world – and transformational research designed to improve children’s care – a far cry from the old baby camp. Among other things, it’s this special relationship with UT Southwestern Medical School that ensures Children’s is cited year after year for excellence in a variety of the 50 pediatric medical specialties we provide.
Since our beginning, when they volunteered their services at the baby camp and later clinics, our associated physicians have led the field of pediatrics, which continues to grow because of their commitment and research. UT Southwestern’s remarkable research programs today help spark the recruitment of the most talented and nationally recognized pediatric physicians to Children’s.
Physician finds joy in giving heartfelt care
One of the joys of working in cardiology is that pediatric heart patients are resilient, according to William Scott, MD, director of Pediatric Cardiology and co-director of the Heart Center at Children’s.
“We have pictures of a little boy with his VAD [ventricular assist device], pedaling on a tricycle with a nurse following behind him. He feels as though his life is returning to normal,” says Dr. Scott. “In other situations, a single intervention makes a dramatic impact, and the child can have a completely normal life. That’s very rewarding.”
Dr. Scott, a professor of pediatric cardiology and director of Pediatric Cardiology at UT Southwestern Medical Center places great emphasis on his professorship. He notes, “UT Southwestern is a premier medical school recognized around the world. As a faculty member at this outstanding institution, tremendous resources are available to improve patient care.”
Concomitant with Children’s becoming one of the largest pediatric health systems, the Heart Center has grown from a single cardiac specialist, Dr. Gladys Fashena, to an integrated multi-disciplinary team whose mission is to be the best. Children’s cardiology division is comprised of multiple subspecialists. “Each excels in a unique aspect of heart disease including catheterization, intensive care, arrhythmia management, imaging, prevention, and transplantation, allowing us to provide a level of care that is unmatched in the region,” says Dr. Scott. “During ICU rounds, there can be as many as 20 care givers, including the heart surgeons, intensivists, cardiology subspecialists, anesthesiologists, nurses, and care coordinators.”
Comprehensive care in the Heart Center includes parents. “You have to develop a relationship and partner with parents to really care for their child. Children going through heart transplantation, for example, are usually the sickest and most complex patients, so parents and doctors interact on a very high level. The parents become experts in their child’s condition,” he says. “Afterward, these kids need constant monitoring and evaluation. Providing ongoing support for the entire family is absolutely critical.
“I was drawn to Dallas to join a team of physicians and institutions committed to all facets of exemplary patient care. I remain here because the commitment remains. Ultimately, I hope to be known for caring enough to ensure the commitment is never lost.”
Taking care of children with cancer his privilege
No parent can wrap their head around the word “cancer” when it comes to their child. All they know is they want the best care possible – and quickly. If there is any calm to be found in the sudden storm of uncertainty and fear when a cancer diagnosis is made, it’s that there is no type of cancer that cannot be treated at Children’s Medical Center.
“We have many national leaders in cancer care and research here who can apply the best known treatment for our patients,” says Stephen X. Skapek, MD, Medical Director of the Pauline Allen Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders at Children’s Medical Center. “Physicians in the Gill Center also provide national leadership for efforts focused on sickle cell disease and other complicated blood disorders.”
The Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders is affiliated with the Harold C. Simmons Cancer Center at UT Southwestern Medical Center – one of only four National Cancer Institute-designated cancer centers in the state. The Gill Center represents the only children’s cancer program in North Texas with such an affiliation.
“What really sets us apart as a pediatric cancer program in North Texas, and perhaps across the country, is the close relationship of the hospital with a university of the caliber of UT Southwestern Medical Center, a truly premier biomedical research institution,” says Dr. Skapek, who is also a Professor of Pediatrics and Director of the Division of Hematology/Oncology in the UT Southwestern Medical Center Department of Pediatrics.
Within the Gill Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, a physician has been identified to lead a program for each of the major childhood cancers. As a result, that physician regularly brings together surgeons, radiation oncologists, pathologists and people from diagnostic imaging to review the care of new and existing patients in different stages of treatment.
The physicians also seek input from other professionals, such as social workers, child life specialists, psychologists and pastors. “They make certain we care for the whole child in both the inpatient and outpatient settings,” says Dr. Skapek.
“Every child I’ve ever seen going through treatment for cancer or serious blood disorders is truly heroic,” he says. “They show remarkable resilience and capacity to get through demanding treatments. I find it a privilege to help take care of these kids.”
Center changing the way urological care is provided
The Pediatric Urology Group at Children’s Medical Center is internationally renowned for its standard of innovative care. Established in 1999, the group today has six physicians and three nurse practitioners making it one of the largest in the U.S.
The Center is best known for its comprehensive surgical care for hypospadias, the second most common birth defect in boys. The program corrects all extents of hypospadias, including reoperations after failed operations. The goal of this life-changing surgery is to create a functional and normal-appearing penis, which otherwise can cause problems with urination and sexual activity.
Boys come from all over the world to have hypospadias repair performed .
The CMC Pediatric Urology group is also well-known for having the most active pediatric robotic surgery program in the U.S. The urology providers have developed new procedures for robotic surgery, including a technique to achieve urinary control in children with spina bifida that replaces earlier operations through abdominal large incisions.
Some girls lack a functional vagina, and options to surgically create a new one from skin grafts or intestine have not been ideal. Dr. Linda Baker in the pediatric urology group applied concepts from the hypospadias program to use grafts from inside the mouth to fashion a new vagina or enlarge a small one. Her experience to date suggests this is the best method to create a functional vagina. She now has the largest series of these patients in the world.
It is not enough to create new surgical approaches, as operations both new and old must also be improved. Therefore, identifying key factors that can be modified to reduce complications and improving both medical and surgical care for patients with a variety of disorders, including hypospadias, urinary tract infection, and vesicoureteral reflux is very important. Dr. Micah Jacobs who has a Master’s Degree in Public Health and Epidemiology is expanding our clinical and research interests in children with spina bifida and bladder exstrophy.
Care for patients transitioning from childhood to adulthood is another huge concern as pediatric treatments improve and patients live longer. Dr Jacobs is also establishing the first CMC pediatric urology transitional clinic to help with this adjustment to independent adult living.
Finally, the center operates a urotherapy clinic to assist children who experience bedwetting, urinary incontinence or recurrent urinary infections. The nurse practitioners working under physician supervision and following evidence-based protocols provide compassionate and child-based treatment for the many children who suffer from these disorders.