The Center for Vaccine Development awarded grant to develop therapeutic vaccine for Chagas disease
The Sabin Vaccine Institute and Texas Children’s Hospital Center for Vaccine Development, also known as the Sabin Product Development Partnership (Sabin PDP), received a grant of $1.8 million from the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation. The Sabin PDP is a major research component of the National School of Tropical Medicine at Baylor College of Medicine.
The grant will fund accelerated development of the first therapeutic vaccine for Chagas disease in humans in a development program under the direction of Peter Hotez, MD, PhD, Texas Children’s Hospital endowed chair in Tropical Pediatrics, and Maria Elena Bottazzi, PhD, deputy director of Sabin PDP.
“Chagas has become a serious health issue, especially for the population of South Texas,” Bottazi said. “Thanks to the support and confidence of the Robert J. Kleberg, Jr. and Helen C. Kleberg Foundation, we will be able to speed the research and development needed to create a vaccine for Chagas.”
Chagas disease is considered one of the five neglected parasitic infections in the United States, with tens of thousands of cases in Texas alone. The disease is caused by parasitic microorganisms known as trypanosomes that can destroy heart tissue leading to a condition called Chagasic cardiomyopathy. Insect vectors — triatomines, or blood sucking bugs, which are widespread throughout Texas — transmit the trypanosome parasite.
Of those infected by Chagas, 20 to 30 percent will develop Chagasic cardiomyopathy, which can cause heart failure and sudden death. In addition, a large number of pregnant women also are infected with Chagas disease, causing thousands of cases of congenital infection.
Chagas disease is also a veterinary problem in Texas, especially among dogs in South Texas. The successful development and testing of a therapeutic vaccine will be instrumental in improving thousands of lives and will save Texans hundreds of millions of dollars in health care costs.
Dormans sets sights high for Orthopedics Department
Chief of Orthopedics John Dormans, MD, an eternal optimist, skilled orthopedic surgeon and strategic leader, joined Texas Children’s in May 2015 and immediately began work to make Texas Children’s Orthopedics one of the top programs in the world.
“Texas Children’s is the place to be,” Dormans said. “It’s the largest children’s hospital in North America and is located in one of the fastest growing metropolitan areas in the country. The potential here is just immense.”
Dormans came to Texas Children’s from Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), where he was the hospital’s chief of orthopedic surgery from 1996 to 2014. During his time with CHOP, Dormans focused his clinical work on pediatric spinal deformity and musculoskeletal tumors while providing the leadership to grow the number of specialized and outreach clinics and make CHOP the no. 1 ranked orthopedic program in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. He also was president of CHOP’s medical staff for three years and presided over five international surgical organizations.
“Dr. Dormans comes to us with an incredible track record of success,” said Surgeon-in-Chief Charles D. Fraser, Jr., MD. “His knowledge, leadership and accomplishments make him an exceptional asset to Texas Children’s, and we are confident in his ability to lead Orthopedics into an exciting new chapter.”
Including Dormans, five new people joined the Orthopedics Department last summer. New pediatric orthopedic surgeon Dorothy Harris, MD, has joined the team, along with two clinical fellows and one research fellow. This summer, Dormans anticipates hiring as many as eight new orthosurgeons at the Texas Children’s main campus and corresponding support for Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands and Texas Children’s Hospital West Campus. A more robust staff will allow the Orthopedics Department to accommodate the requests it currently gets from patients and families across the region, throughout the U.S. and across the globe. It also will position the department for tremendous growth in both its general practice and subspecialty areas.
A key element to the department’s growth is gaining more access to existing clinical space and operating rooms on the hospital’s main campus. Completion of Texas Children’s Hospital The Woodlands in 2017 and the new inpatient care tower currently under construction will help.
Another aspect of operations Dormans is focusing on is technology and getting the latest and greatest tools to aid his staff in doing the best they can to help the patients who seek expertise from his department. One such piece of equipment recently acquired is a device called an EOS system that allows the department to provide state-of-the-art low X-ray dose imaging for patients with scoliosis and leg length issues.
Ultimately, Dormans said he wants Texas Children’s to be the place to go to find answers for all pediatric musculoskeletal problems. With more than 20 physicians and advanced practice providers treating everything from minor fractures to complex disorders, the department is on the right track.
“There are a lot of exciting things coming to fruition and many more to come,” Dormans said. “The sky is the limit.”
State selects Texas Children’s Health Plan to provide better health care coverage, access for children with special needs
On October 1, the Texas Health and Human Services Commission announced Texas Children’s Health Plan had been selected as a health plan provider in the state’s STAR Kids program. STAR Kids is a managed care program that provides health coverage to children and youth with special health care needs.
The STAR Kids program will go into effect November 1, 2016, and will provide benefits such as prescription drugs, hospital care, primary and specialty care, preventive care, personal care services, private duty nursing and durable medical equipment and supplies.
Texas Children’s Health Plan is hiring 400 new employees to help families manage the complex care of children with special needs.
“Selection of the Health Plan for this program is a tremendous tribute to Texas Children’s and our capacity, our ability and our passion to care for all children in Texas,” said Christopher Born, president of Texas Children’s Health Plan. “STAR Kids will advance our efforts to extend care to the special needs patient population with a new and improved paradigm, creating a better model of care. This is a great day for children in Texas.”
Children and youth age 20 or younger who receive Supplemental Security Income Medicaid, are enrolled in the Medically Dependent Children Program, or receive services through 1915(c) waiver programs will receive a variety of services through the STAR Kids program. Children, youth and their families will choose among a handful of STAR Kids health plans with the option to pick one that best suits their needs.
The state’s selection of Texas Children’s Health Plan for STAR Kids is expected to bring about 40,000 new members into the Health Plan. In anticipation, more than 400 new employees will be hired to manage the additional cases.
“Our case managers will help these members through the process and through the system, removing barriers,” said Kristen Cover, marketing director of Texas Children’s Health Plan. “The families will have experienced care managers — many of whom will be nurses — to assist them and be a support system for the whole family. The parents will no longer be alone in managing their children’s cases.”
Texas Children’s Health Plan was founded in 1996 by Texas Children’s Hospital. The Health Plan was the nation’s first health maintenance organization (HMO) created just for children, and it covers kids, teens, pregnant women and adults. There are now nearly 400,000 members in Texas Children’s Health Plan.
Stein elected president of the American Academy of Pediatrics
Fernando Stein, MD, has been elected president of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This is the first time in the AAP’s 85-year history that a pediatrician from Texas has been elected to this post.
As president of the AAP, Stein will represent all pediatricians and subspecialists across the country and ultimately serve as Texas Children’s voice on national issues impacting pediatrics and the health and safety of the millions of patients and families we serve.
“Dr. Stein brings enormous vision, wisdom and experience to the presidency of the American Academy of Pediatrics,” said Texas Children’s Physician-in-Chief Mark W. Kline, MD. “The Texas Children’s family could not be prouder or more pleased to have one of its own in a leadership role for this great organization.”
As a critical care physician at Texas Children’s and a faculty member in the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine for more than 30 years, Stein has dedicated his career to the care of children surviving critical illness and technological dependency. He has been extremely active in global advocacy for children in impoverished regions of the world and in the integrated management of childhood illness. Stein is one of the founding members of the AAP Section on Critical Care and serves on several AAP subcommittees, where he has been recognized for his extraordinary service and commitment to children.
“I am honored for this privilege to serve the AAP in this capacity,” Stein said. “I have a deep understanding and appreciation for the shareholders of this organization, and my message to shareholder members and colleagues is one of a clear commitment to them, to our traditions of scientific inquiry, altruism and to challenge the status quo.”
Continue to U.S. News Rankings