Driscoll physician speaks at infectious diseases conference in Taiwan
October 14, 2010
CORPUS CHRISTI - Jaime Fergie, M.D., director of infectious diseases at Driscoll Children's Hospital, spoke recently at the 5th Asian Congress of Pediatric Infectious Diseases in Taipei, Taiwan. The conference attracted more than 1,500 pediatricians and health experts from around Asia who attended the event to work for the betterment of child health in the future. Dr. Fergie gave a presentation on "Prevention of Respiratory Syncytial Virus in High-Risk Babies."
"Respiratory Syncytial Virus infections are present throughout the world and they cause a severe disease in young infants and children with underlying medical conditions such as prematurity and chronic pulmonary and cardiac diseases," Dr. Fergie said. "International research studies that included children at Driscoll Children's Hospital demonstrated the ability of a medication in preventing this infection in the most at-risk infants."
Cure for blindness among premature infants identified
October 13, 2010
CORPUS CHRISTI - A disease that causes blindness in premature infants worldwide and is a scourge to thousands of newborns in underdeveloped countries could soon be wiped out like polio was in the 1950s. Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP), the most common single cause of childhood blindness worldwide, can be eradicated with the injection of a drug into the eyes at the correct time. That's the conclusion of a recent study that was spearheaded by Helen Mintz-Hittner, MD, FACS, professor of pediatric ophthalmology at the University of Texas Health Science Center-Houston Medical School.
Dr. Mintz-Hittner worked closely with Miguel De Leon, M.D., during her Retinopathy of Prematurity study, which included N.I.C.U. patients at Driscoll.
"This is a worldwide game changer for ROP" said Dr. Mintz-Hittner, principal investigator of the study. "This is going to catch on rapidly very shortly."
Dr. Mintz-Hittner will discuss her study in a presentation titled "The Possibility of Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)" during Driscoll Children's Hospital's grand rounds at 12:30 p.m. Oct. 1 in the hospital's auditorium.
ROP is caused by the abnormal development of blood vessels in the retina affecting preterm infants. Among babies, the primary risk factor is prematurity; those that are very sick are most susceptible. Most babies who develop ROP weigh less than 3 lbs. at birth, but in underdeveloped countries they can weigh up to 5 lbs. For example, in India, there are 50,000 to 60,000 children who are blind due to ROP, Dr. Mintz-Hittner said.
"It's a worldwide problem that is growing exponentially," she said. "Cases are increasing because of the increased survival of premature infants with improvements in neonatal intensive care units."
The standard procedure for treating ROP currently is operating on the retina using a laser. This comes with side effects: It obliterates a portion of the peripheral vision, can leave the patient near-sighted and often causes the development of crossed eyes.
In the study led by Dr. Mintz-Hittner, physicians tested a drug called Avastin, which is commonly used to treat cancer and eye disease in adults. Adults whose eyes were treated with Avastin had greatly improved vision. But the drug had never been used in an organized clinical trial to treat ROP in premature infants.
From March 2008 to August 2010, Dr. Mintz-Hittner and her colleagues compared results of Avastin treatment and laser treatment among babies in the first clinical trial of this kind. Fifteen medical centers across the US were involved in the clinical trial, including Driscoll Children's Hospital, where almost 20 percent of the study's babies were being cared for.
The study was the first to use a RetCam, a $100,000 machine at Driscoll that allows close-up examination of the retina, Dr. Mintz-Hittner said.
The study was conclusive: Injecting Avastin into the eyes of preterm infants at the proper time makes the vessels disappear that cause blindness in ROP and leaves the infants with normal vision.
"It's like putting a needle into a grape," Dr. Mintz-Hittner said. "It takes seconds for the eye to be cured. It can be done by anyone who is medically trained, so it has great potential in developing countries especially."
Simply stated, Avastin decreases the chemical signal that stimulates the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the retina and allows them to grow out normally.
"This is a great step in the fight to improve the outcomes of our premature babies," said Miguel De Leon, MD, medical director of Neonatology Consultants of Corpus Christi. "Our hope is that Dr. Mintz-Hittner's research will one day allow us to save these babies without visual impairments due to ROP."
Dr. Mintz-Hittner said she has been active in ROP research throughout her 36-year career. She has travelled all over the world explaining her latest study to audiences, including India, China, Canada, Germany and the Czech Republic. The study will soon be published, she said.
Driscoll Children's Hospital is currently using Avastin to treat premature newborns. Dr. Mintz-Hittner anticipates that soon "everyone will start using it," she said.
- What: Grand rounds featuring Dr. Helen Mintz-Hittner and her presentation, "The Possibility of Anti-Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) for Retinopathy of Prematurity (ROP)"
- When: 12:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 1
- Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.
- Information: (361) 694-5335
Driscoll designated child abuse Center of Excellence
October 13, 2010
CORPUS CHRISTI - The Child Abuse Resource and Evaluation (CARE) Team at Driscoll Children's Hospital has long been valued in the region for diagnosing and treating children who are suffering from physical and sexual abuse as well as neglect. Texas lawmakers at the last legislative session recognized the epidemic of child abuse in the state and made recommendations to identify Centers of Excellence for the care of victims of child abuse. Driscoll has been recognized as one of only eight centers in Texas to receive this designation, and the only one south of San Antonio.
"The designation of Center of Excellence is the first step in building a network of medical providers to recognize, diagnose and treat the children in Texas who have been abused," said Sonja Eddleman, RN, CA/CP SANE, SANE-A, CMI-III, CFN, clinical coordinator for Driscoll's CARE Team.
Eddleman also stated that a key component of the designation is that the CARE Team's medical director, Dr. Nancy Harper, is one of only 12 board certified child abuse pediatricians in the State of Texas.
Driscoll's CARE Team evaluates approximately 1,700 children each year who have been suspected of being abused, Eddleman said. She encourages anyone who suspects a child has been or may be abused to immediately call the Child Protective Services hotline at 1-800-252-5400 and help protect the small voices in our region.
Driscoll patients to benefit from Pharr Sunrise Kiwanis Club donation
October 12, 2010
McALLEN - The Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital at Driscoll Children's Medical Plaza - McAllen recently received a generous donation of $5,000 from the Pharr Sunrise Kiwanis Club. Members of the Kiwanis Club have been dedicated to serving the children of the world and have been loyal supporters of Driscoll's patients throughout South Texas for several years.
Pictured, front row, left to right: Aida Escobar, Auxiliary secretary; Esteban Garcia, Kiwanis Club vice president; Jose Espinoza, Kiwanis Club secretary; Mercedita Lomas, Kiwanis Club president; Lile Briones, Auxiliary member; back row, left to right: Ignacio Almaguer, Kiwanis Club member and board president, Food Bank RGV; Manuel Rivera, Jr., Kiwanis Club treasurer; and Elena Garza, Auxiliary member.
The Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital accepts donations throughout the year to help make a difference in children's lives. To donate, please call (956) 688-1235 or (956) 289-3170.
Celebration at Driscoll honors patients who designed holiday cards and gifts
October 07, 2010
A Celebrity Celebration will be held Sept. 22 to mark the release of Driscoll Children's Hospital's 2010 Holiday Card collection, special holiday gifts and 2011 calendar. Celebrities at the party will be past and present patients who created the designs for the cards and gifts. Each will have a poignant story to tell. The media is invited for interviews and photos. Following the party, the children will be treated to a limo ride to Gattitown for more food and fun.
Jan Cuellar introduces the young artists who's work was used in making the DCH holiday cards.
In what has become an annual tradition, young Driscoll patients from throughout South Texas created the designs for six unique holiday cards and gifts including a sterling silver angel charm, a decorative cookie plate, a long-sleeve t-shirt and an apron. A group of community members selected the artwork for the items. This year's patient artists are:
- Javier Duran, 17, of Corpus Christi
- Joe R. Martinez, 11, of Corpus Christi
- Maira Guerra, 9, of Mathis
- Asa Matis, 13, of Corpus Christi
- Mikayla M. Soliz, 6, of Ingleside
- Lucas Chavez, 5, of Bishop
- Christian Trejo, 12, of Alamo
Driscoll's 2011 calendar was creatively designed to resemble a scrapbook and features numerous happy photos of children who have been treated at Driscoll.
"This is one of my favorite annual volunteer events," said Lizette Saenz, director of Volunteer Services at Driscoll Children's Hospital. "We look forward to celebrating with our 'little holiday stars' and rolling out the red carpet for them."
Proceeds from the holiday cards and calendars will go toward scholarships sponsored by the Auxiliary to Driscoll Children's Hospital. The items can be purchased at the hospital gift shop or ordered online at www.driscollchildrens.org. For more information, call (361) 694-5011 or 1-800-DCH-LOVE.
- What: Driscoll Children's Hospital Celebrity Celebration
- When: 3:00 - 4:00 p.m. Wednesday, Sept. 22
- Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda
Driscoll residents win awards
August 27, 2010
Two residents at Driscoll Children's Hospital recently won awards for their research projects from the Texas Pediatric Society. They will be officially recognized at the society's annual meeting in San Antonio on November 6th. Karen Yulo, M.D., won first prize for best hypothesis-driven research project, titled "The Relationship Between Residence Near Sources of Petrochemical Pollution and Worsening Respiratory Outcomes in Children of Nueces and San Patricio Counties," and Ranjana Sarma, M.D., won honorable mention for her case presentation in the resident category, titled "Improving Quality of Care: Role of Rapid Response Team and Quick Assessment Unit."
Ernest Buck, M.D., wins Award of Merit
August 11, 2010
CORPUS CHRISTI - Ernest Buck, M.D., of ABC Pediatrics, has been selected by the Texas Pediatric Society (TPS) Awards Committee to receive the 2010 Texas Pediatric Society Sidney Kaliski Award of Merit for his outstanding contributions to the TPS, pediatrics and his community.
"It's a very humbling experience," Dr. Buck said. "It's the type of award that is the pinnacle of a career. Previous recipients are wonderful and inspiring pediatricians who are the backbone of pediatrics in the state of Texas. I wasn't even considering myself as a candidate. It took me totally by surprise."
Dr. Buck was nominated by Skip Brown, M.D., immediate past president of the TPS, and supported by Driscoll Children's Hospital's William Dirksen, M.D., and Mary Dale Peterson, M.D., M.H.A.
The award will be presented to Dr. Buck at the TPS annual meeting awards luncheon on Saturday, November 6, 2010 at the Westin La Cantera Resort in San Antonio.
Allen graduates from Spanish Bilingual Assistant class
July 14, 2010
William Allen, M.D. was one of 15 bilingual staff at Driscoll Children's Hospital to graduate from a 60-hour Spanish Bilingual Assistant (SBA) class on July 14. The class included a comprehensive language screening process and was conducted over six weeks. The SBA program is supported by the National Medical Interpreter Project, which is dedicated to supporting language access for non-English-speaking families. This was the third SBA class offered at Driscoll; the last one was offered in McAllen last year.
Johnson, Cortes receive awards
June 18, 2010
During the 2010 Residency Graduation Program held at the Omni Marina Hotel on June 18, Cris Johnson, M.D. was the recipient of the "Best Subspecialty Teacher Award" and Richard Cortes, M.D. received the "Best General Pediatrician Teacher Award" from the graduating Driscoll pediatric residents. Both physicians received a plaque in appreciation of their efforts.
Ramakrishna appointed to Regional Advisory Committee
June 18, 2010
Mulukutla Ramakrishna, M.D. of South Padre Island Pediatric Center has been appointed as a physician member from Corpus Christi to the board of CHIP and Medicaid for Region 11, stretching from Victoria to the Rio Grande Valley (the state is divided into 11 regions). The Regional Advisory Committee (RAC) is an advocacy forum for matters related to CHIP and Medicaid to improve access to care, quality of care and managed care issues. The RAC also responds to questions, suggestions and recommendations from various community partners and the public. RACs are also provided information regarding updates and upcoming changes at the federal and state level. In turn, each RAC sends recommendations from the regional level to the Texas Dept. of Health & Human Services Commission for enhancement and improvement of care. If any physicians or hospital staff have any issues regarding improvement or enhancement of care in this area or issues relating to managed care, contact him at 361-854-4626.
Dr. Ramakrishna is a former chief of staff at Driscoll Children's Hospital and a former chief of pediatrics. He is a former board member of Head Start for Nueces County and the Child Advocacy Center. Presently he serves on the Driscoll Medical Executive Committee and chairs the Driscoll Children's Health Plan Credentials Committee. He is board certified in Pediatric Emergency Medicine and currently serves on the boards of Coastal Bend Emergency Services and 501Primary Care Pediatrics.
In addition, Dr. Ramakrishna was recognized June 18 during the 2010 Residency Graduation Program held at the Omni Marina Hotel for his contributions to resident education with the "Best Teaching Attending Award." He received a plaque in appreciation of his efforts.