Stanford Medicine Newsletter Updates For the Local Community


A children’s hospital grows up

Milestone year marks two decades of innovation and family-centered care

Innovation and personal attention have been the hallmarks of care at Packard Children’s for the past 20 years.


It’s a big milestone: This year, Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital turns 20. Babies born in the hospital in 1991 are now attending college, and many of the first patients have kids of their own.

Packard Children’s has grown up, too. Since David and Lucile Packard made the $40 million donation that enabled the hospital to open its doors on June 9, 1991, the institution has become a national leader in innovative pediatric and obstetric care.

“We have a history of combining superb translated science and medical care with the first-order value of service to children and their families,” said David Stevenson, MD, director of the hospital’s Johnson Center for Pregnancy and Newborn Services, and vice dean of Stanford Uni-versity School of Medicine. Early in his career, Stevenson helped plan Packard Children’s, traveling with Lucile Packard and Irving Schulman, MD, then chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Stanford, to learn what the community needed in the new hospital.

Both Lucile Packard, who died before the hospital opened, and the late Dr. Schulman, who served as the hospital’s first chief of staff, placed high value on meeting the health-care needs of children in Palo Alto and throughout the region, he noted.

“Our primary goal was to become a hospital that served the communities around us,” Stevenson said, “and we have done that.”

Changing needs

But the hospital has achieved much more. Its research, programs and services now attract pa-tients from around the world. Its clinical care is consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as among the nation’s best. And its affiliation with Stanford University School of Medicine makes it a top training ground for tomorrow’s pediatricians and obstetricians.

These distinctions have been achieved during a radical shift in American pediatric care. A generation ago, children were hospitalized primarily for acute, infectious diseases; now, thanks to vaccines and greater understanding of childhood infections, most pediatric hospitalizations are for chronic conditions.

“We have a different responsibility toward our patients,” said Christy Sandborg, MD, chief of staff at Packard Children’s, explaining how the shift from acute to chronic care has changed pediatric hospital medicine. “What we are developing now is a more comprehensive approach for total management of chronically ill children.”

Innovations in technology, surgery and clinical services have forged new frontiers for Packard Children’s young patients and their families.


Designed for innovation

It all began with an innovative hospital design. The building’s plans incorporated labor and delivery suites, newborn nurseries and neonatal intensive care units—a result of Lucile Packard’s desire to have children of all ages together in the new building. This approach made Packard Children’s one of the first pediatric hospitals in the country to care for new moms and their newborns, most of whom had previously been patients at adult hospitals.

“This part of our history allowed us to become one of the pre-eminent academic programs in neonatology and perinatology in the country,” Stevenson said.

Still growing

Recent milestones in the hospital’s growth include building the state-of-the-art Ford Family Sur-gery Center, the Bass Center for Childhood Cancer and Blood Diseases, and a new cardiovascular intensive care unit. An expansion scheduled for completion in 2017 will add 521,000 square feet and 104 new beds to the current 311 beds. The growth will allow Packard Children’s to meet increasing demand for its programs and to maintain its service-oriented approach to medicine.

That approach includes family-centered care—helping parents and caregivers make informed decisions about their children’s health—and forming strong relationships with pediatricians who refer patients to Packard Children’s.

It also involves creating opportunities for kids to be kids—for instance, by encouraging growth and development through Recreation Therapy & Child Life activities and by supporting patient education through the Palo Alto Unified School District’s hospital school.

“We tell patients, ‘You are not your disease. You are a person who happens to have an illness that you have to integrate into your life,’” Sandborg said.

Almost 100 years ago, children were brought to Palo Alto to convalesce.


Bench-to-bedside science

In the next 20 years, physician scientists at Packard Children’s are expected to create stronger connections between clinical care and scientific research. They’ll also build on Packard Children’s record of landmark advances in areas such as the following:

• Solid-organ transplant: Packard Children’s physicians developed ways to avoid steroids—and their undesirable side- effects—for post-transplant patients. Next up: developing less-invasive methods for monitoring transplanted organs.

• Cardiovascular care: The Children’s Heart Center has refined pediatric heart transplants and advanced cardiovascular surgery for tiny preemies. Now the team is researching ways to grow personalized replacement heart valves for babies.

• Cancer: The hospital’s oncologists developed a protocol to reduce graft-versus-host disease, a potentially fatal complication of the stem cell transplants used to treat hematologic cancers. As more children survive cancer, physicians are studying how to minimize the long-term effects of cancer treatments.

• Neonatology: Packard Children’s neonatologists invented now-standard LED (light-emitting diode) phototherapy units to treat jaundice in newborns. Today they are advancing care for mothers and babies with complex prenatal diagnoses in the new Center for Fetal and Maternal Health.

Ongoing growth

“We’ve seen amazing advancements and growth since day one,” said Christopher Dawes, Packard Children’s president and CEO. “We’ve increased access and breadth, seen quality and expertise improve, and expanded our education and research programs.”

And for the future? “We will continue to be a hospital of innovation,” Dawes said. “The importance of our work creates passion among people, and in the end, that’s what makes us so successful.”


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