DCH News

Driscoll welcomes Herbert Stern, M.D.

October 27, 2010
Herbert Stern
Herbert Stern
CORPUS CHRISTI - Driscoll Children's Hospital welcomes Herbert Stern, M.D., pediatric cardiologist. He joins Driscoll Children's Heart Center from The Sanger Clinic and Levine Children's Hospital in North Carolina, where he served as director and chief of Pediatric Cardiology. Dr. Stern earned his medical degree from the Medical University of South Carolina, completed his residency and internship in pediatrics at the University of Maryland Hospital and his fellowship in pediatric cardiology at Duke University Medical Center.

Young weight-loss patients to celebrate, share experiences

October 21, 2010
11 teenagers have had lap band surgery at Driscoll Children's Hospital

CORPUS CHRISTI - Through the highly successful bariatrics program at Driscoll Children's Hospital, eleven teenagers have received lap band surgery to help overcome obesity. To celebrate the success of the program and the positive changes it has brought to the patients' lives, a masquerade-themed party will be held for them in Driscoll's auditorium on Sunday, Oct. 24.

"All of the patients keep asking about the other ones," said Colleen Carrell, bariatrics program coordinator. "All of the kids having surgery want to know what number they are, how many cases have been done and how the others are doing."

Sunday's party will include entertainment by "Dr. Freeze," music, dancing, games, photos, food and lots of door prizes, Carrell said. The occasion will also be used to announce the start of the much-awaited support group for the bariatric patients and their families.

"Nothing helps motivate others like successful, enthusiastic peers," Carrell said.

About 82 patients are on the waiting list to have the surgery performed, Carrell said. Lap band surgery helps a patient lose and control weight by the attachment of an adjustable band around the top of the stomach that decreases sensations of hunger. Driscoll launched its lap band program in August 2009. The first patient, 19-year-old Jennifer Garcia of Portland, was the first patient to receive lap band surgery in a Texas pediatric hospital.

About 18 doctors and experts contribute their expertise to each lap band operation. Pre-operation preparation includes X-rays, laboratory tests, a six-month dietary program and consultation with a psychologist. A post-operation regimen of regular exercise and healthy eating must be followed.

"This isn't a cosmetic surgery," said Mohammad Emran, M.D., the surgeon who leads the team performing the procedure. "It is providing the patient with an effective tool to help control their weight and eliminate their associated health problems."

Significant health problems such as type II diabetes, obstructive sleep apnea, hyperlipidemia and hyperinsulinemia can be completely or significantly resolved with weight loss, Dr. Emran said.

To be considered for lap band surgery, candidates must be at least 14 years old and have exhausted other methods of losing weight, Carrell said. She adds that lap band surgery is not the only solution to obesity.

"The solution to obesity is education, lifestyle changes and exercise," Carrell said. "No bariatric procedures alone will eliminate someone's obese condition entirely without lifestyle changes.
"Some people have the opinion that it's all the parents' fault and they just need to stop feeding the child. Although that is true in some circumstances, many of the adolescents have medical factors that, despite their best efforts with diet and exercise, make them continue to gain weight."

  • What: Celebration for Driscoll lap band recipients

  • When: 2 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 24

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

Driscoll CPR trainers part of team to train members of Gov. Rick Perry's staff

October 20, 2010
Left to right: Matt Metford, governor's staff ; Ricky De La Garza, paramedic program instructor - Victoria College faculty; Edna Jackson, governor's staff; Richard Zimmerman, RRT, Driscoll Children's Hospital transport team; Diana Moser, BS, RRT, NPS, Driscoll Children's Hospital training center coordinator and vice chair, ECC - Texas; Maggie Roberts, Child Protective Services; Lena Trevino, RRT, NPS, Driscoll Children's Hospital respiratory supervisor; Gary Nycum, RN, CPN, Driscoll Children's Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staff nurse, ECC - Texas chair; Daniel Vargas, MS, City of Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Dept. assistant director, area CPR mega-trainer; and Tito Calderon, governor's staff.
Left to right: Matt Metford, governor's staff ; Ricky De La Garza, paramedic program instructor - Victoria College faculty; Edna Jackson, governor's staff; Richard Zimmerman, RRT, Driscoll Children's Hospital transport team; Diana Moser, BS, RRT, NPS, Driscoll Children's Hospital training center coordinator and vice chair, ECC - Texas; Maggie Roberts, Child Protective Services; Lena Trevino, RRT, NPS, Driscoll Children's Hospital respiratory supervisor; Gary Nycum, RN, CPN, Driscoll Children's Hospital Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staff nurse, ECC - Texas chair; Daniel Vargas, MS, City of Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Dept. assistant director, area CPR mega-trainer; and Tito Calderon, governor's staff.
CORPUS CHRISTI - Gary Nycum, RN, CPN, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit staff nurse at Driscoll Children's Hospital and Texas Emergency Cardiovascular Care (ECC) Committee chair for the American Heart Association, recently led a contingent of cardiovascular pulmonary resuscitation (CPR) trainers to the state capitol in Austin to teach CPR to Gov. Rick Perry's staff. The ECC Committee oversees all of the training programs for the American Heart Association in Texas. The team consisted of trainers from Driscoll Children's Hospital, Victoria College, Child Protective Services and the City of Corpus Christi Parks and Recreation Dept.

"They treated us like royalty and we gave them the royal training like they had never had before," Nycum said. "We had the time of our lives and our goal is to become the permanent CPR trainers for the governor's staff."

They will be returning to the capitol soon to train 10 to 15 more staffers before the legislative session begins, Nycum said.

Patients to have Halloween celebration at Driscoll Children's Hospital

October 18, 2010
WHAT: Volunteers with Spirit Halloween's Spirit of Children program are bringing a Halloween celebration for patients at Driscoll's Children Hospital, including costumes, activities and more. Spirit of Children has raised more than $9,000 for Driscoll's Children Hospital to date.

WHEN: 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 19

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

Hundreds of South Texas families expected at Driscoll's annual NICU Reunion

October 15, 2010
WHAT: Children who were treated at Driscoll Children's Hospital's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) and their families look forward every year to reuniting, having fun and visiting with hospital staff. The 32nd Annual NICU Reunion will include games, prizes, moonwalks, pumpkin decorating, face painting, refreshments and more. Between 300 and 400 people are expected to attend from all over South Texas.

WHEN: Saturday, Oct. 16, 2-4 p.m.

WHERE: Driscoll Children's Hospital front parking lot, 3533 S. Alameda

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
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.
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.
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.

"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
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.
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.
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.

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
Jan Cuellar introduces the young artists who's work was used in making the DCH holiday cards.
Jan Cuellar introduces the young artists who's work was used in making the DCH holiday cards.
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.

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