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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.

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.

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.

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.

Pediatric hematologist/oncologist joins Driscoll

August 30, 2011
Jose Esquilin, MD
Jose Esquilin, MD
CORPUS CHRISTI - Jose M. Esquilin, MD, has joined Driscoll Children's Hospital as a pediatric hematologist/oncologist. He recently completed a fellowship in hematology/oncology at New York - Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City. Dr. Esquilin received his medical degree in 2005 from Columbia University in New York City and performed his residency at Yale - New Haven Hospital in Connecticut.

Library of specialized toys available to children with disabilities

July 18, 2011
Specialized toys from Driscoll's Toy Tech Lending Library are therapeutic for patients like Emilio, 5, who has tuberous sclerosis and epilepsy. Assisting him are Rachel Garcia, certified occupational therapy assistant (middle) and Amanda Germann, speech pathologist.
Specialized toys from Driscoll's Toy Tech Lending Library are therapeutic for patients like Emilio, 5, who has tuberous sclerosis and epilepsy. Assisting him are Rachel Garcia, certified occupational therapy assistant (middle) and Amanda Germann, speech pathologist.
CORPUS CHRISTI - It has been said that children learn best through play. With this in mind, and with support from the Easter Seals of Greater Houston and the Blanche Moore Foundation, Driscoll Children's Hospital's Rehabilitation Services Department created a unique library that loans specialized toys to children of all ages with all types of disabilities.

According to Susan Fields, director of Rehabilitation Services at Driscoll, children explore their environment through play. "When we can help them play independently, we are helping them become independent learners. This is an important foundation for developing life skills," she says.

The new Toy Tech Lending Library at Driscoll provides a variety of toys adapted for children with varying degrees of motor disabilities. The toys, which are switch activated, can be used at home to practice skills a child has learned in his or her therapy sessions.

Since these toys are adapted especially for children with handicaps, they aren't readily available at a toy store and are often expensive.

A $30 toy, when adapted, can easily cost $100. However, through Driscoll's Lending Library, families are able to check out these adapted toys at no cost.

Just as with a book library, the toys are checked out for two to four weeks at a time. Upon return, another toy can be checked out. About 20 toys are available, and not just to Driscoll patients. All children in the community with disabilities are invited to borrow toys from the Toy Tech Lending Library.

Mary Ann Sosa's granddaughter, Madison, 5, is a patient at Driscoll. She suffers from cerebral palsy and often borrows toys from the Lending Library.

"It's a great thing. It really helps at home," Sosa says. "We are able to work at home on the things her therapists want her to work on. Right now she's learning to use her arms more."

Sosa explains that the toys make Madison want to use her arms more because of the reaction she gets from her grandmother.

"When Madison pushes the button on a toy, she notices it plays music and I cheer her on. She loves the attention she gets!"

Fields hopes more families take advantage of the Lending Library.

"We just started offering toys for check-out in April, so it's a fairly new program," she says. "The more these toys are utilized, the more toys we are able to receive through the grant."

For more information or to set up an orientation to the Toy Tech program, please call Driscoll's Rehabilitation Services Department at (361) 694-5678.

Camp Easy Breathers marks 10 years of helping asthmatic children have fun while coping with their condition

June 10, 2011
CORPUS CHRISTI - There is no cure for asthma, but children with the disease can live a healthy, active life. The 10th annual Camp Easy Breathers, a summer day-camp for children with persistent asthma, is designed to provide physical and social experiences that are fun while increasing a child's understanding of his or her asthma. The camp, sponsored by Driscoll Children's Hospital, the Coastal Bend Community Foundation and the Coastal Bend Asthma Initiative, will be from June 12-15, 2011 at Camp Aranzazu in Rockport.

For its 10th anniversary, Camp Easy Breathers will offer a new, more hands-on approach with more interactive asthma lessons than in years past.

"We wanted to make it more fun for our new campers, and especially for those campers who are returning for a second or even third year," said Shelly Bigelow, camp director and respiratory therapist at Driscoll Children's Hospital. "Our new curriculum was developed in keeping with our goal of improving the lives of children with asthma."

Bigelow said the camp utilizes interactive teaching methods such as open dialogue, various media, activities and game-play that reinforce key lessons to help children:

  • Understand asthma and how it affects them;

  • Recognize and avoid asthma attack triggers;

  • Recognize warning signs to improve asthma management;

  • Know how and when to take medicine;

  • Stay healthy and stay in school.


There will also be a carnival this year with games, obstacle courses and other activities, Bigelow said. Regular activities will include swimming, arts and crafts, outdoor games, sports and an awards show.

Asthma is a chronic disease in which the airways in the lungs become swollen, clogged and overly sensitive to changes in the environment. During an attack, the muscles that surround the airways tighten and the inner lining of the airways swells and pushes inward.

Asthma kills about 5,000 Americans each year and costs the United States more than $10 billion a year in direct and indirect medical expenses. Timely diagnosis, appropriate treatment, partnership with a healthcare professional and reduction of exposure to environmental factors are some of the things that help children living with asthma.


  • What: 10th annual Camp Easy Breathers

  • When: June 12-15, 2011

  • Where: Camp Aranzazu, Rockport

Joyal accepts director position at Driscoll

June 07, 2011
Priscilla Joyal
Priscilla Joyal
CORPUS CHRISTI - Priscilla Joyal, RN, has accepted the position of director of the 6th and 8th floors (towers) at Driscoll Children's Hospital.

Joyal holds a master's degree in nursing and is a certified pediatric nurse. She has been a nurse at Driscoll for more than 14 years, and has served as the ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) clinical coordinator in the Pediatric Intensive Care Unit for the past nine years.

Joyal chairs the Patient Care Quality and Satisfaction Council and will continue to do so in her new role, which began on June 6.

Children become anglers for a day at annual Chemo Kids Fish Off

June 03, 2011
ARANSAS PASS - The much-anticipated Chemo Kids Fish Off, scheduled for June 6 at Hampton's Landing Marina in Aransas Pass, is an annual excursion that allows children with cancer to take their minds off chemotherapy for a day and concentrate on catching fish with their favorite Driscoll staff members.

More than 50 children, ages 5 - 18, will venture out to waters in guide-driven boats in hopes to catch the most fish. When the junior anglers return to dry land, volunteers will be on hand to weigh fish and help patients make a print of the catch of the day. Patients are also treated to a hotdog lunch and each is recognized at an awards ceremony. The Chemo Kids Fish Off has become a tradition that kids look forward to every summer!

What: Driscoll Children's Hospital's Annual Chemo Kids Fish Off

When: Boats return, 11 a.m., June 6

Where: Hampton's Landing Marina, 430 E. Ransom Rd., Aransas Pass