recognition for CHOC’s cancer program is well-deserved. There’s nowhere else
I’d rather have gone through treatment than CHOC,” says 17-year-old Sydney
Sigafus, CHOC patient and cancer survivor. “Everyone who works at CHOC cares
about you as a person, not just a patient. I was included in every decision and
conversation about my care.”
Children’s Hospitals rankings were introduced by U.S. News in 2007 to help families of children with rare or
life-threatening diseases find the best medical care available. Only the
nation’s top 50 pediatric facilities are distinguished in 10 pediatric
specialties, based on survival rates, nurse staffing, procedure and patient
volumes, reputation and additional outcomes data. The availability of clinical
resources, infection rates and compliance with best practices are also factored
into the rankings.
“We understand how scary it can be for parents whose children are dealing with life-threatening illnesses or injuries. That’s why we are committed to the highest standards of care, safety and service,” says Dr. James Cappon, CHOC’s chief quality officer. “While we are proud of our accolades, including being named a best children’s hospital, we remain focused on preserving the magic of childhood for all kids, whether they are seriously ill or healthy, or somewhere in between.”
Growing up, Tim Hicks fondly remembers seeing his dad come home from work with a smile. Despite his demanding job as physician, his dad, David, always remained positive and shared countless rewarding stories that he witnessed at the hospital.
It was that unwavering dedication that inspired Tim, now a second-year pediatric resident at CHOC Children’s and UC Irvine, to pursue a career in medicine.
“Seeing how happy my dad has been, I wanted to be part of that,” he says.
As long as he can remember, Tim was interested in medicine. He was a curious child and enjoyed science and studying about the human body.
Similarly, his dad, Dr. David Hicks, a pulmonologist and neonatologist at CHOC for more than 40 years, had always been interested in medicine as well. David wanted to become a veterinarian initially, like his father, but eventually went to medical school.
During his long and successful tenure at CHOC, David has enjoyed seeing the hospital’s growth and working alongside such a compassionate and dedicated team.
“What’s most inspiring at CHOC is the desire of our nurses and doctors to treat their patients as if they were their own. That, and when I see the smiles on the parents’ faces when their kids get better, is what inspires me to continue to do this,” says the 74-year-old physician.
It’s that same drive that motivates Tim to follow in his dad’s footsteps. His goal is to become a pediatrician, and he is also exploring a possible subspecialty.
“I really enjoy treating and hanging out with kids. They manage to smile even in a very difficult time. Their light-heartedness and innocent outlook is refreshing in many ways,” Tim says.
Tim’s relationship with CHOC goes back even further, however. His dad recalls the time when Tim, a teen then, was admitted to CHOC to be treated for a splenic fracture.
“Little did we know then that he would be back as a pediatric resident one day,” David says. “It was a few scary days in the PICU. Moments like that teach you that life is precious and things can change very quickly.”
Today, as a resident at CHOC, Tim enjoys meeting colleagues who have worked with his dad. He’s even had the privilege of meeting some of his dad’s former patients.
“We’ve definitely had fun, interesting conversations at the dinner table,” Tim says. “He’s given me great advice and taught me to treat the patient as a person; that it’s important to take care of their unique, individual needs with care and compassion.”
Tim also appreciates his dad’s outlook on the importance of a work-life balance, something he witnessed first-hand growing up. Despite his busy schedule, David always made time for things like attending his kids’ sports games, Tim remembers.
“I’ve always told my kids to find what they really love and follow that path,” David says. “And that family is very important. I owe everything to my wife, Gayle, who has taken on 50 percent of the battle, always supporting me and raising our four wonderful children.”
As Father’s Day nears, Tim – or “Hicks 2.0,” as he jokingly refers to himself – couldn’t be prouder to follow his dad’s path.
“My dad is an incredible role model and friend. I’m not only thankful for his guidance in life but also in medicine,” he says.
As Thanksgiving approaches, CHOC Children’s physicians explain what they’ll consider when giving thanks this holiday.
“CHOC has provided me with lifelong blessings. I am grateful to have grown up at and with this hospital, from the initial CHOC Tower to the current Bill Holmes Tower, through pediatric residency training and beyond. To now be a member of such a remarkable team of providers — including our nurses and support staff — is both humbling and inspiring. Every day, I am especially thankful for the families who cross our threshold, and entrust the care of their most precious children to us. With continued commitment and dedication toward the health and well-being of our children, the future will be brighter than any of us can imagine.” – Dr. Neda Zadeh, genetics
“I am thankful to be working for an organization that creates an environment where our patients become our family. I am also grateful that CHOC Children’s has the foresight to invest in the innovative ideas we have to improve the health care we provide.” – Dr. Kenneth Grant, gastroenterology
“I am thankful for the opportunity with be partnered with an excellent children’s hospital. I am also thankful for the pleasure of working with other positive people who provide outstanding care to the children of Orange County. Together, we work to improve the care and services we deliver to our most important resource — our children.” – Dr. Daniel Mackey, pediatrics
“I am grateful for the incredible team we have in oncology, inlcuding doctors, nurse practitioners, physician assistants, nurses, the research team, members of ancillary services, our inpatient, clinic and OPI staff, administrative support, and other subspecialists, who all have great minds and compassionate hearts, and walk the difficult cancer journey with our patients and their families. I am humbled to be with such great company here at CHOC, who care deeply for children.” – Dr. Lilibeth Torno, oncology
“I am most grateful to the people behind the scenes at the hospital who do all the invisible jobs that are so important to keep CHOC Children’s running: the housekeepers, lab and x-ray technologists, bio-medical engineers, pharmacy technicians, scrub technicians, security guards and maintenance staff that work tirelessly, 24-hours a day.” – Dr. Gary Goodman, critical care
“I am most thankful for the ability to practice alongside of the caring and professional staff and physicians at CHOC, who all share the common goal of caring for children. Working together, we are able to tackle incredibly complex and varied problems that present in the amazingly diverse population of children that we serve.”
“I am thankful for so many things here at CHOC. I feel truly blessed every day to have found a professional community of like-minded caregivers who share a passion and dedication for continued improvement in the care we provide. I am also so grateful for the opportunity to meet and care for such incredibly courageous patients and to become a part of their families. Finally, I am thankful to my teams within the pulmonary division, the Cystic Fibrosis Center and the muscular dystrophy clinics for their selfless care of our patients. I wish our entire community a healthy and happy holiday season.” – Dr. Amy Harrison, pulmonology
“I’m thankful for the opportunity to serve my patients and families, and to help them secure bright futures through CHOC’s world-class care. I am also so grateful to work among a team that is steadfastly committed to the health and well-being of children in our community and beyond. “
A: Cystic fibrosis (CF), muscle weakness (muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy), asthma and general pulmonary health, chronic disease.
Q: Are you working on any current research?
A: Our CF program was awarded the CF Fundamentals Learning and Leadership Collaborative in June 2015, which has allowed us to improve our CF care processes and clinical outcomes for people with cystic fibrosis. We are currently studying ways to improve our patients’ knowledge of, and adherence to, prescribed pulmonary therapies.
Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?
A: 5 years.
Q: Are there any new programs or developments within your specialty?
A: Our CF program was awarded a mental health grant through the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to develop and implement a depression and anxiety screening program for patients with CF and their caregivers. Funds will enable the team to expand its social worker’s availability and have a designated psychologist to help patients and caregivers. They will provide screenings, evidence-based guidelines and follow-up care for depression and anxiety, as well as develop a community referral network of mental health providers. CHOC’s CF model, if successful, could be replicated in other specialty clinics.
In addition, we are excited to offer many cutting-edge therapies for CF patients including Orkambi and Kalydeco, medications that help the defective protein in CF function more normally, thus treating the underlying cause of CF.
Q: What are your most common diagnoses?
A: I see patients with a range of conditions, including asthma, chronic cough, recurrent pneumonia, cystic fibrosis, muscular dystrophy and spinal muscular atrophy.
Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about you/your division at CHOC?
A: The pulmonary division at CHOC offers comprehensive care for all patients with lung disease and sleep disorders from extensive lung function testing to sleep studies and diagnostic procedures such as bronchoscopy. We also have comprehensive services for patients with sleep apnea, sleep breathing disorders including apnea monitors and BIPAP data analysis for clinical management. In addition, we also offer services in Huntington Beach, Mission Viejo, Corona and Pomona Valley.
Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered here at CHOC?
A: I enjoy caring for children with chronic conditions and helping them to find ways of living normal fulfilling lives. I take great pride in my patient’s accomplishments and find their stories inspiring. I most enjoy creating a true partnership with my patients and their families to find ways to improve their care.
Q: Why did you decide to become a pediatric pulmonologist?
A: I was always interested in science from a very young age and pursued a medical education due to my own fascination with learning more about how our bodies work. During my training, I developed asthma myself and found my strong relationships with my own medical professionals enormously helpful in empowering me to deal with a chronic disease.
Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why?
A: I would probably set up my own Etsy shop and sell things I create! I often make homemade gifts for friends and family members for birthdays and holidays. I also love to travel and exposing my children to new cultures.
Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?
A: I love spending time with my family and my three children, ages 2, 6 and 10. In addition, I enjoy reading, visiting museums and traveling.
Q: What have you learned from your patients?
A: I am continuously amazed by how strong and resilient my patients can be. I learn so much from them, and I have now had three patients tell me they were inspired to pursue a career in medicine because of our relationship and their disease.
A recent study of over 6,000 cystic fibrosis patients 12 years through adulthood, and over 4,000 parents, found that depression and anxiety were two to three times more elevated in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) and in parents of children with CF. Although depression and anxiety are common in CF, the stigma associated with mental health issues often make people less likely to talk to about them.
To address this issue, the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation (CF Foundation) announced newly developed guidelines for screening and treating depression and anxiety. These guidelines are not a mandate from the CF Foundation to care centers, and they recognize that it will take time and effort for care center teams to adopt the recommendations.
CHOC Children’s — one of only a few affiliated care centers of the CF Foundation in Southern California and the only CF treatment center in Orange County — is one of the first care centers to adopt the recommended guidelines. At CHOC, we understand that living with CF and other chronic diseases can be emotionally challenging. We also know that depression and anxiety can have negative effects on physical health and the ability to follow a recommended treatment plan.
“The psychology component of our cystic fibrosis program really makes CHOC stand out,” said Amy Harrison, pulmonologist and CF specialist at CHOC. “Our multidisciplinary approach allows our care team to manage all aspects of CF from diagnosis to physical and mental health.”
CHOC is committed to ensure that every child in Orange County has access to mental health treatment without stigma or barriers, and we are pleased to be a recipient of the CF Foundation’s grant, Implementation of the Depression and Anxiety Guidelines: Award for a Mental Health Coordinator. The grant was offered to qualified care centers and allows the CF Foundation to collect best practices and disseminate them among all care centers.
The grant provides CHOC the opportunity to have a psychologist at every CF clinic to help patients and families. They will provide annual screenings, evidence-based interventions and follow-up care for depression and anxiety, as well as develop a community referral network of mental health providers.
The guidelines propose that just as measuring height, weight and PFTs are part of CF care, screening and treating depression and anxiety should become a routine part of CF care too. The screening consists of completing a couple of short questionnaires and is completely voluntary.
All patients 12 years and older should receive annual screening for depression and anxiety.
Parents of caregivers of patients aged 0-17 years should be offered annual screening for depression and anxiety.
A stepped process for prevention, screening, assessment and intervention. This can include talk therapy, medication or a combination of the two.
Referral to the CHOC Cystic Fibrosis Center
When a child is diagnosed or is suspected to have CF, a referral to an accredited CF care center can ensure that the child gets diagnosed properly, lives a long and healthy life, and receives treatment based on the most advanced research available. With access to a full range of CHOC pediatric subspecialists, the CHOC Cystic Fibrosis Center offers a number of life-enhancing technologies and treatments.
Our multidisciplinary CF clinic includes a board-certified pulmonologist and gastroenterologist, respiratory and physical therapist, nutritionist, nurse specialists, social worker and a psychologist. An endocrinologist and other specialists are also available to attend the appointment, if needed. Genetic testing and counseling can also be provided.
If you have a patient diagnosed with CF, or who has symptoms of CF, a pre-referral sweat test can be ordered at CHOC to confirm the diagnosis and refer for treatment. (CF Foundation guidelines recommend diagnosis confirmation by an approved CF Foundation care center.)
For appointments, please call the Patient Access Center at 888-770-2462 (888-770-CHOC).