DCH News

Driscoll team recognized for conducting clinical trials that improve life for cancer patients

October 17, 2011
Driscoll's oncology team, led by Dr. Cris Johnson,  includes physicians, nurses, child life specialists, social workers, chaplains, rehab therapists, lab workers and a host of other specialists.
Driscoll's oncology team, led by Dr. Cris Johnson, includes physicians, nurses, child life specialists, social workers, chaplains, rehab therapists, lab workers and a host of other specialists.
CORPUS CHRISTI - There's a battle going on to cure childhood cancer and hematologist/oncologist Cris Johnson, MD and her team at Driscoll Children's Hospital are in the trenches. Part of the battle involves clinical trials in which new medications are tested that could reduce unpleasant side effects caused by chemotherapy and radiation treatment. In that effort, Dr. Johnson and her team have earned a certificate of recognition for significantly contributing to enrollments in National Cancer Institute-sponsored clinical trials.

"We're participating in an international effort to cure childhood cancer," said Dr. Johnson, director of hematology/oncology at Driscoll's Cancer and Blood Disorders Center. "We enroll patients in research trials with the goal of improving survival rates while decreasing side effects and late effects of treatment."

Dr. Johnson and her team were recognized by the National Cancer Institute (NCI) and the Community Clinical Oncology Program/Minority-Based Community Clinical Oncology Program (CCOP/MB-CCOP). The CCOP is a network for testing and validating medical interventions against cancer and delivering the benefits of scientific discovery to the public. The Minority-Based CCOP program is a companion group to reach areas with large minority populations, which includes Corpus Christi and the 31 counties that Driscoll serves.

"A great number of our patients are minorities," Dr. Johnson said. "This population is often underserved and their response to treatment can vary from non-minorities. It's important to include all ages and races in clinical trials."

This is the first time the CCOP/MB-CCOP and NCI have recognized physicians for their enrollment efforts, according to Anne-Marie Langevin, MD, professor of pediatrics at the University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and principal investigator of the South Texas Pediatric MB-CCOP (STP MB-CCOP), a consortium of four pediatric oncology programs that includes Driscoll Children's Hospital.

As a consortium, the STP MB-CCOP ranks second in the state of Texas in terms of enrollment of children with cancer in NCI-sponsored clinical trials. Dr. Johnson and her team contributed more than 35 percent of those enrollments in the past year. In 2010, they had 119 enrollments.

"This is a fantastic achievement considering that (Driscoll) is competing with adult oncologists who see a lot more patients," Dr. Langevin said.

An example of a clinical trial that is underway at Driscoll involves a new drug that counteracts hearing loss caused by a chemotherapy medication used to treat tumors.

"We are hoping that this new drug decreases the incidence of hearing loss after chemotherapy," Dr. Johnson said. "To know if the drug is effective, an organized clinical trial needs to be performed."

Results of clinical trials like this are submitted to the Children's Oncology Group, a worldwide clinical trial cooperative group supported by the NCI and dedicated to studying childhood cancers, Dr. Johnson said.

Dr. Johnson said she's honored to receive the recognition from the CCOP/MB-CCOP and NCI, but she's quick to credit her team of fellow physicians, nurses, child life specialists, social workers, chaplains, rehab therapists, lab workers and a host of others.

"Without this team we wouldn't be able to take care of the children the way they need to be taken care of," she said.

Reunion brings once-fragile babies back to see their caregivers

October 14, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - Oftentimes, infants who are brought to Driscoll Children's Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) are there during the most fragile time in their lives. Patients and their families can spend several months in the hospital, day in and day out, so it's no surprise that strong bonds are formed with the physicians, nurses and other members of the healthcare team who not only care for a child, but offer support to a child's family as well.

Because of the relationship that forms between patient and caregiver, Driscoll Children's Hospital holds the NICU Reunion each fall to give patients and families a chance to reconnect with their healthcare team and to celebrate the lives of those babies who have grown to be healthy children.

Trish Carr, assistant vice president of Patient Care Services says, "The reunion is a great way for our staff to keep in contact with the patients they care for. They are always so excited to see the progress the children have made. It's a great thing, being able to watch [our patients] grow up."

During the fall festival-themed celebration, staff who have cared for Driscoll patients over the years will be on hand to meet with the more than 200 families who are eager to share stories of what their children have been doing since their stay at Driscoll - some possibly many years ago. In addition to dressing up in their Halloween costumes, patients will enjoy games, prizes, pizza and other goodies at the annual event.

Driscoll Children's Hospital's level III NICU cares for newborns and infants for a variety of reasons, including prematurity (carried less than 37 weeks), respiratory distress, infections, birth defects and other illnesses. Staffed by neonatologists 24 hours a day, seven days a week, the 41-bed NICU has cared for more than 20,000 premature and critical infants in South Texas, offering the highest level of care in 31 counties.

  • What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's annual NICU Reunion

  • When: 2 - 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 15

  • Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital, Rehabilitation Services parking lot, 3533 S. Alameda St.

Chavez is new Radiology Services director at Driscoll

October 11, 2011
Ernest Chavez
Ernest Chavez
CORPUS CHRISTI - Ernest Chavez has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as director of Radiology Services. He was formerly the director for medical imaging services, diagnostic imaging outpatient center, radiation oncology and transportation at Danville Regional Medical Center in Danville, Va. Chavez earned a degree in radiologic technology in 1975 at Odessa College and a master's degree in hospital administration in 1987 at Wayland Baptist University in Plainview.

President of American Academy of Pediatrics to give insights into profession

October 06, 2011
WHAT: James Stockman, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, will appear for a Grand Rounds session for pediatricians and healthcare providers in the community. He will give a presentation titled, "Best Articles of the Last Decade." Dr. Stockman will review recent articles and studies of interest to pediatricians, particularly articles that have changed the way they practice medicine. He will also discuss trends that will impact the pediatric workforce in this century and assess how education methodologies can be integrated into cost-effective care.

WHEN: 12:30 p.m. Friday, Oct. 7

WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital auditorium, 3533 S. Alameda St.

Country stars will shine bright tonight at Singer Songwriter Showcase

October 06, 2011
WHAT: Some of country music's biggest singers and songwriters will take the stage tonight at Driscoll Children's Hospital's annual Singer Songwriter Showcase at the Corpus Christi Country Club. That includes country music legend Allen Shamblin, winner of the 2011 Country Music Awards' Song of the Year for "The House that Built Me;" Gary Nicholson, a no. 1 hit songwriter whose songs have been recorded more than 500 times in various genres by artists such as BB King, Garth Brooks, Bonnie Raitt, George Strait, George Jones and Waylon Jennings; and Aaron Barker, who partnered with George Strait to create "Baby Blue" and "Easy Come, Easy Go," among other songs. Proceeds from the event benefit Driscoll Children's Hospital. The concert precedes Driscoll's 16th annual Golf Tournament, which will be held at 11 a.m. Friday, Oct. 7 at the Country Club.

WHEN: Doors open at 6 p.m.; concert begins at 7 p.m.

WHERE: Corpus Christi Country Club, 6300 Everhart Rd.

INFO: (361) 694-6401

Support group offers help for grieving children, their parents

October 04, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - When a loved one dies, adults and children both grieve. However, children grieve differently than adults, according to Nora Besinaiz, child life specialist at Driscoll Children's Hospital. Recognizing that there are few programs in the community to help children through the grieving process, Driscoll Children's Hospital has developed the Lean on Me program.

"Children need a special place where they can go," Besinaiz said. "They need to be around other children experiencing the loss of a loved one. This helps them learn that they're not the only ones grieving. They don't have to grieve alone and wonder about their feelings."

Lean on Me is a structured, six-week program for children ages 6 years and older that begins on Oct. 6. It includes bereavement curriculum specially designed for children, and each session builds on the previous one. With the guidance of Driscoll's chaplains and child life specialists, children will be encouraged during meetings to express their feelings by discussion or through art or writing.

Parents and caregivers are also included in the Lean on Me program because the death of a loved one affects the whole family, Besinaiz said. Adults will meet for bereavement sessions with Driscoll's social workers and chaplains while the children's group meets.

"Our goal is to give the family tools and ways to help them talk to each other and support each other when they're not with us in the one-hour sessions," Besinaiz said.

Besinaiz said the fall session of Lean on Me was planned before the holidays because for many families it may be the first holiday season without their loved one, and holidays typically are the toughest times for those who are grieving.

There is no charge to participate in the Lean on Me program. Driscoll only asks that families - children and their parents or caregivers - commit to attend the six-week program. Babysitting will not be available during the program.

  • What: Lean on Me program for children ages 6 years and older and their parents or caregivers

  • When: 6 to 7 p.m. Thursdays, Oct. 6 through Nov. 10

  • Where: Driscoll Children's Hospital, fifth floor, 3533 S. Alameda St.

  • Information/registration: Nora Besinaiz, (361) 694-5763

Pulmonologist comes to Driscoll from New York

October 04, 2011
Jon Roberts, MD
Jon Roberts, MD
CORPUS CHRISTI - Pediatric pulmonologist Jon Roberts, MD, FCCP, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital after practicing in New York. He completed his pediatric residency and pulmonary fellowship training at Winthrop-University Hospital in Mineola in 2006. Dr. Roberts earned his medical degree from New York Medical College School of Medicine in Valhalla in 2000, and he is certified by the American Board of Pediatrics.

National Weather Service Employees to deliver gifts to cancer patient

September 27, 2011
WHAT: Employees at the National Weather Service's Corpus Christi and Brownsville offices will present gifts they collected to a Driscoll cancer patient whose story they read on Driscoll's web site (www.driscollchildrens.org). Matthew Carroll, 8, of Brownsville, had to have his lower left leg amputated last March due to osteosarcoma, a malignant tumor of the bone. He now receives care at Driscoll Children's Hospital and Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville.

WHEN: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Sept. 28

WHERE: Driscoll Children's Specialty Center - Brownsville, 5500 N. Expressway

Wilson retires as chairman of Driscoll's governing board

September 26, 2011
C. Ivan Wilson has long been a champion of high-quality healthcare for the children of South Texas.
C. Ivan Wilson has long been a champion of high-quality healthcare for the children of South Texas.
CORPUS CHRISTI - It was announced today that C. Ivan Wilson is retiring from his position as chairman of Driscoll Children's Hospital's governing board. He had been the board chairman for 10 years and will remain a member of the board. Wilson became a trustee of the Robert Driscoll and Julia Driscoll and Robert Driscoll Jr. Foundation in 1982 and a member of the governing board in 1983. He has long been a champion of high-quality healthcare for the children of South Texas, and his dedication to Driscoll has inspired all who interacted with him. Nueces County Judge Loyd Neal will replace Wilson as chairman of Driscoll's governing board.

Perinatologist joins Driscoll Children's Hospital

September 26, 2011
Ryan Loftin, MD
Ryan Loftin, MD
CORPUS CHRISTI - Perinatologist Ryan Loftin, MD, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital and Maternal Fetal Medicine of South Texas. Dr. Loftin comes to South Texas after completing a three-year fellowship in maternal-fetal medicine at the University of Cincinnati. He earned his medical doctorate in 2003 at the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston. From 2003 to 2004 he trained as a Paul Ambrose Fellow at the New Hampshire - Dartmouth Family Practice and Leadership-Preventive Medicine residencies in Concord, NH. He then began a residency in obstetrics and gynecology at Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center in El Paso, which he completed in 2008.