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Pediatric Surgery Program Stepping Up Specialized Care
Medical School - Hospital partnership will expand roster of specialists and enhance research
The University of Texas Medical School at Houston is stepping forward to improve surgical care for Houston children by forming the Pediatric Surgery Program.
Traditionally, pediatric surgeons have been part of adult surgery departments. The new program is expected to expand to at least 25 pediatric surgery specialists. It will bring together those specialists at the Medical School and Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital, a 178-bed teaching hospital well-known for its multidisciplinary care, including a
Level 1 trauma center.
Kevin P. Lally, M.D., professor and holder of the A.G. McNeese Chair in Pediatric Surgery, has been named director of the Pediatric Surgery Program and surgeon-in-chief at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital.
“Across the country, there is anywhere from a shortage to a critical shortage of pediatric surgical specialists,” said Lally, who has directed the Division of Pediatric Surgery at the UT Medical School for 12 years. “I don’t have the answer for the country as a whole, but my hope is to be able to at least have the answer for Houston.”
The Pediatric Surgery Program will work closely with Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital Physician-in-Chief Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D., professor and chair of the Department of Pediatrics, and a Governance Committee that includes senior leadership at the UT Medical School and Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center.
“We have an exceptional team of pediatric surgeons at Children’s Memorial Hermann,” Colasurdo said. “Their knowledge and expertise encompass a variety of disorders in infants, children and adolescents – including trauma, cancer and even congenital abnormalities diagnosed during pregnancy through the Texas Center for Fetal Assessment and Treatment. Our partnership and the expansion of the medical subspecialties will further enhance our ability to provide first-class multidisciplinary care in a strong academic environment.”
Craig Cordola, CEO of Children’s Memorial Hermann, added, “This joint endeavor between UT Medical School and Children’s Memorial Hermann will provide crucial growth for pediatric surgical subspecialties, allowing us to offer the best available pediatric surgery, clinical programs and research.”
Lally said children’s services have become increasingly more specialized and more multidisciplinary, leading to a need to organize pediatric surgery specialists into a single program.
“The new program will allow us to work closely with Children’s Memorial Hermann on recruiting and retaining these surgical specialists,” Lally said. “The goal is to create a high-quality group of surgeons to deliver the best possible surgical care to Houston-area children.”
First Areas of Expansion
Lally has targeted cardiovascular surgery and neurosciences as the first two areas of expansion. Two new specialists will join the program this summer: pediatric cardiovascular surgeon William I. Douglas, M.D., and general surgeon KuoJen Tsao, M.D.
Douglas comes from the University of Kentucky Chandler Medical Center, where he was associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery and pediatrics, as well as chief of pediatric cardiac surgery. His interests include congenital heart disease, medical devices and adult extracorporeal life support.
“He will be in charge of the expanding program in congenital heart surgery and also will facilitate development of pediatric and adult extracorporeal membrane oxygenation,” Lally said.
Tsao will be leaving a position as clinical instructor at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Medicine and finishing his fellowship in pediatric surgery at Children’s Mercy Hospital of Kansas City. His interests include prospective clinical research trials, advanced minimally invasive surgery, and angiogenesis and liver development/regeneration.
“Tsao brings a wealth of new skills to our program,” Lally said. “His research years were with the fetal intervention team at the University of California, San Francisco School of Medicine, and he will interact with our growing maternal fetal medicine division.” In collaboration with the team in the Department of Surgery, he also will further develop minimally invasive surgery in children.
Pediatric surgeons in the new group will retain their academic titles in the medical school’s adult divisions. Specialty surgery fields include general surgery, plastic surgery, orthopaedic surgery, otolaryngology, urology, neurosurgery and cardiovascular surgery. The group eventually will have three or more specialists in each field.
“These physicians are true champions in the approach to the diagnosis and management of complex disorders in children and are nationally recognized for their scientific contributions to pediatric surgery,” Colasurdo said.
Lally said a strategic vision for the surgery program is to develop and grow a children’s research institute with the Department of Pediatrics.
“Clearly, one of the long-term research projects will be regenerative medicine and stem cells,” Lally said. “Because reconstructive surgery is one of the things we do, we’re hoping to develop research programs where we can, to grow new tissue and organs and then utilize them in the clinical arena. That’s where the ability to be in an academic environment is important – so we can take the things that are occurring in the lab and translate them to the clinical situation. If we have the right group – it will take a while – we can do that.”
Lally will remain as the chief of pediatric surgery at the UT M. D. Anderson Children’s Cancer Hospital. The UT Medical School’s close collaboration with that institution will continue, he said.
By Deborah Mann Lake, Institutional Advancement
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