Meet Dr. Micaela Thordarson

CHOC Children’s wants its referring physicians to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Micaela Thordarson, lead psychologist, ASPIRE® (After School Program Interventions and Resiliency Education) Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s. 

Q: What is your education and training?

A: I earned my bachelor’s degree in psychobiology from UCLA with a minor in Spanish. I earned my PhD and master’s degree in clinical psychology from Palo Alto University with a specialization in children, adolescents and families. I completed my pre-doctoral internship with Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio, and my post-doctoral fellowship with Geisinger Health Systems in Pennsylvania.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?

A: I am particularly passionate about working with high-risk pediatric patients. I have done a great deal of work with suicidal and self-harming youth and their families. As a bilingual clinician in Spanish and English, I am also very interested in the interactions between mental health and cultural identities, for example, race/ethnicity, gender, religion and age.

Q: How long have you been on staff at CHOC?

A: I joined CHOC in October 2017.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?

A: Depression, anxiety, and major life stressors are the most common difficulties our patients face.

Q: What would you most like community/referring providers to know about the ASPIRE® Intensive Outpatient Program at CHOC Children’s?

A: Our eight-week intensive outpatient mental health treatment program – the only pediatric-dedicated one of its kind in Orange County — is designed to serve a broad range of emotional and behavioral difficulties for high-school aged teens 13-18. It includes individual and family sessions, and crisis support as needed. If the teens and families you serve could possibly benefit from an intensive program, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me. Additionally, we aim to collaborate closely with all the important stakeholders in our patients’ lives. This includes primary care physicians, psychiatrists, therapists, educators and coaches.

Q: What would you most like patients and families to know about ASPIRE®?

A: While our program is hard work, it’s pretty fun to be a part of! The daily after-school programming for teens and their families is all interactive, including art and other expressive therapies, and designed to teach and practice new skills in fun ways.

Q: What excites you most about the program?

A: I am so excited to be able to offer a very important service to teens and families who are in crisis and need extra support. The program we offer is guided by research and has been carefully constructed to generate the best outcomes possible.

Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered at CHOC?

A: I have worked with a number of different organizations and teams since I began my career in the mental health field. The team at CHOC is unparalleled in its enthusiastic dedication to innovation and excellence in the care of children.

Q: Why did you decide to become a psychologist?

A: I fell in love with the field of psychology immediately after taking my first job at a crisis shelter for teens. Getting to witness, and even participate in, the incredible changes these youths made in their lives in a few short weeks was inspirational. I knew that was work I wanted to be a part of for the rest of my career.

Q: If you weren’t a psychologist, what would you be and why?

A: Either a zookeeper, so I could spend time with cool animals every day, or a Disney princess at one of the theme parks so I could wear awesome costumes and play with kids all day.

Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

A: I love spending time with my family, hiking with my dog, and eating delicious food. I have a huge family and we have a lot of fun together!

To contact Dr. Thordarson, or to refer a patient, please call 714-509-8481.

CHOC’s VP of Human Resources Joins Cast of Footloose Follies

One of Orange County’s most popular fundraisers , CHOC Follies, is back March 29-31 with their newest musical production, “Footloose Follies,” benefitting CHOC Children’s. Set against an 80s backdrop, the humorous toe-tapping show, featuring a cast of local social and business leaders, is sure to be fun for the whole family.

We talked to Tom Capizzi, CHOC’s vice president of human resources, about his role in the upcoming show.

Tom Capizzi, CHOC Children’s vice president, human resources

Q: How long have you been at CHOC?

A: I have been with CHOC two and a half fantastic years.

Q: How did you get involved with the show? Why is this important to you?

A: I have been a fan of the Follies for many years. I always felt it would be great to be a part of the production and give back as a senior leader at CHOC. In my role, I am always in front of many associates and love the opportunity to speak to as many people as I can. This year I decided, “Why not; let’s do it!”

Q: Did you have any experience with theater prior to the CHOC Follies?

A: I did some theater while in college, and later when my daughter was in a children’s regional theater group I was asked to participate in several adult parts.

Q: What is your favorite part of the show?

A: The cast brings such energy and passion to the show, which in my opinion is very infectious and speaks to our mission and why we all are aligned – associates, physicians, donors and volunteers – with our mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well being of children.

Q: Why should the community support the show?

A: Join us, it’s a wonderful time, very entertaining. And the dedication, passion and time commitment that the cast makes every year, which is all voluntary, speaks volumes to how important CHOC is to them and how critical philanthropy is to the success of our mission to care for our community’s children and their families.

“Footloose Follies” will be held March 29-30, 8 p.m.; March 31,  2 p.m. and 8 p.m., at the Robert B. Moore Theatre at Orange Coast College, in Costa Mesa. Visit for tickets.

Meet Dr. Shireen Guide

CHOC Children’s wants its medical staff and patients to get to know its growing team of physicians, including primary and specialty care providers. Today, meet one of our specialists, Dr. Shireen Guide, a pediatric dermatologist.

Dr. Shireen Guide

Q: What is your education and training?

A: I trained at Stanford University Medical Center for both medical school and my internship. Subsequently, I completed my dermatology residency at University of Texas, Southwestern. I then went on to complete a pediatric dermatology fellowship at UC San Diego – Rady Children’s Hospital. I am board certified in both dermatology and pediatric dermatology and have been practicing in Orange County for the last 11 years.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?

A: I have a special interest in birthmarks and genetic conditions that are associated with specific skin manifestations. I also enjoy helping families better control chronic skin conditions such as atopic dermatitis and acne.

Q: What are some new developments within your specialty?

A: Developments in pediatric dermatology developments, such as safer biologics and better lasers for psoriasis, have led to improved treatment outcomes. Using dermatoscopic imaging modalities has provided the ability to better control margins and minimize scaring when we remove abnormal moles.

Q: What would you most like community providers to know about your division at CHOC?

A: Our pediatric dermatology clinic encompasses the evaluation of patient concerns regarding all hair, skin and nail conditions. We perform a variety of minor surgical excisions such as cyst, lipoma and birthmark removals. We also use minimal incision techniques which results in smaller scars while removing larger subcutaneous nodules or lesions.

Q: What inspires you most about the care being delivered at CHOC?

A: Our CHOC clinic allows us to help families with complicated medical conditions, minimal resources and limited access to specialty care.

Q: Why did you decide to get into the medical field?  

A: My father immigrated to America with minimal resources, and through his hard work and dedication, this country allowed him the opportunity to become a highly decorated military officer and a successful doctor. The value of education was instilled in me since childhood and I am very proud to have followed in my father’s medical footsteps.

Q: What have you learned from patients and families?

A: I have learned that patients want their doctors to listen to them and know their names, and involve families  as active partners in their care team.

Q: What are your hobbies/interests outside of work?

A: I enjoy playing the piano and spending time with my husband and three amazing children. We love to visit local zoos, museums and parks.

In the Spotlight: Rahul Bhola, M.D.

An internationally recognized pediatric ophthalmologist with expertise in strabismus, amblyopia, pediatric cataracts and glaucoma has joined CHOC Children’s. Dr. Rahul Bhola is the newest division chief of ophthalmology with CHOC Children’s Specialists.

“The biggest reason I was inspired to join CHOC was the mission of the hospital. I feel that CHOC’s mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children is in close alignment with my personal goals as a physician,” Bhola says. “I seek to nurture the health care of children by delivering state-of-the-art ophthalmology care to our community. CHOC has the resources, reputation and experience to provide excellent care.”

Dr. Bhola comes from a family of physicians. His parents practiced internal medicine for more than 40 years in India, and the empathetic and holistic care they provided to their patients inspired him to pursue a career in medicine.

Dr. Rahul Bhola
Dr. Rahul Bhola is the newest division chief of ophthalmology with CHOC Children’s Specialists.

“Very early on in medical school, I developed a special interest in pediatrics, and the surgical finesse of ophthalmology later cemented my passion for pediatric ophthalmology. The gift of vision is the most important sense a child can have,” Dr. Bhola says. “Giving a ray of light to those who struggle with vision is very gratifying to me. Treating children is important to me because they have their entire lives ahead of them, and improving their vision positively impacts their entire family.”

Dr. Bhola attended medical school and completed an internship at University College of Medical Sciences in Delhi, India. He completed two residencies in ophthalmology at Maulana Azad Medical College in New Delhi, India and the University of Louisville, Kentucky. He pursued fellowships in pediatric ophthalmology at the Jules Stein Eye Institute at the University of California Los Angeles and the University of Iowa.

Dr. Bhola has received numerous awards both nationally and internationally and has extensively published in peer-reviewed journals. He has participated as an investigator in many NIH-sponsored trials and has been named to the “Best Doctors in America” and “America’s Top Ophthalmologists” lists consecutively for many years. Dr. Bhola recently started studying the ocular effect of excessive smart device usage in children. His research includes tear film composition in children who are consistently overexposed to smart devices, thereby establishing a link between dry eyes in children and excessive smart device usage.

At CHOC, Dr. Bhola will provide comprehensive eye care, treating patients with a variety of eye diseases and disorders. In addition to treating refractive errors (the need for glasses), Dr. Bhola will provide more specialized care for diseases like amblyopia (lazy eyes), pediatric and adult strabismus (crossing or drifting of eyes), blocked tear duct, diplopia (double vision), pediatric cataracts, pediatric glaucoma, tearing eyes, retinopathy of prematurity, ptosis (droopy eyelids), traumatic eye injuries and uveitis.

Dr. Bhola is among the very few surgeons nationally skilled in treating pediatric glaucoma surgically using the illuminated microcatheter. This highly-specialized, minimally-invasive approach of canaloplasty has been used for treating pediatric glaucoma only within the last few years. Childhood glaucoma, though uncommon, can be a blinding disease causing severe visual impairment if not detected early and treated promptly. The onset of juvenile glaucoma often occurs between the ages of 10 and 20 and can be multifactorial. Glaucoma in pediatric population can also be secondary to trauma occurring from any form of injury including sports injuries.

As a Level II pediatric trauma center, and the only one in Orange County dedicated exclusively for kids, CHOC’s trauma team treats a variety of critically injured children from across the region. This includes children who have sustained sports injuries, during which damage to the structure of the eye can cause glaucoma.

Dr. Bhola is very passionate about educating primary care physicians on the need for regular pediatric vision screenings. For example, children complaining of headaches may be taken to a neurologist. However, eye problems such as refractive errors, convergence insufficiency and strabismus can result in headache from excessive straining of the eyes, which may affect school performance and even social withdrawal in some children. These conditions are likely to be identified at regular vision screenings.

Dr. Bhola’s philosophy of care is to treat his patients as if they were his own children.

“My main philosophy is to deliver patient-centered care with compassion and excellence. I remember their life events and celebrate their achievements with them. It’s important that a patient remembers you in order to start to build trust with them. I love when my patients send me holiday cards and copies of their school photos and let me know how they are doing. They became part of my family. I always treat every patient like they are my own child,” Bhola says.

He also focuses on treating the whole person rather than the disease, and involving patients in their care.

“I don’t treat the disease, I treat the individual. Healing is more than treating the disease. I want to be at their level so I always talk to them directly and not only talk to their parents. I involve their entire group during treatment,” he says.

At CHOC, Dr. Bhola is eager to provide holistic eye care for his patients.

“My practice will offer complete comprehensive vision care to all patients, which includes both medical as well as surgical care. Our patients come to us for glasses, contacts, regular ocular screenings, and we also provide more specialized care like glaucoma, cataract and strabismus surgeries,” Bhola says. “A lot of systemic disorders such as diabetes, sickle cell anemia, juvenile rheumatic disease and lupus, have co-occurring eye issues that may go undetected if children aren’t seen for regular eye screenings. CHOC patients with systemic disorders such as diabetes now have better access to holistic care.”

As division chief for CHOC Children’s Specialists ophthalmology, Dr. Bhola is passionate about providing state-of-the-art care to patients and training the next generation of pediatric ophthalmologists.

My main goal is to build a leading ophthalmology division, not only delivering excellent patient care but also engaging in cutting-edge research and disseminating education to the next generation of ophthalmologists and referring providers,” Bhola says.

When not treating patients, Dr. Bhola enjoys cooking, practicing yoga and meditation, and spending time with his wife and two daughters.

To contact Dr. Bhola or refer a patient, please call 888-770-2462.

Learn more about ophthalmology at CHOC Children’s.

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John Henderson Joins CHOC as Vice President and Chief Information Officer

CHOC Children’s new vice president and chief information officer, John Henderson, brings decades of information technology (IT) experience in the healthcare setting to his role.  Most recently, John served as an assistant vice president at Texas Children’s Hospital, where he was responsible for IT operations, including business and clinical application delivery, business intelligence and analytics, and infrastructure technology.  We recently asked him to share a few details of CHOC’s upcoming investments in technology.  Here’s what he had to say.

What support will be provided to our population health efforts?

We will continue to expand our population health and pediatric system of care capabilities with new registries, real time information and analytic technologies to improve care coordination, management of patient population, and as well as improve the patient experience.

Will CHOC be investing in telemedicine technology?

We are undergoing a strategic review of telemedicine to position CHOC for broader reach, helping improve across the continuum of care and enhance the patient experience.

What are a few other IT projects you think our physicians should know about?

We are continuing with the roll out of Cerner’s PowerChart Touch for the iPad to bring more mobility and efficiency to our physician community.  We will also place a heavy emphasis on expanding our Enterprise Data Warehouse platform to increase access to clinical, administrative and operational information via web-based dashboards, key performance indicators and scorecards.  I am particularly interested in communications platforms for clinicians and shared services departments that improve efficiencies and eliminate the number of devices, so we will be exploring solutions in support of this.  We are also looking to enable a content and collaboration platform that allows for secure document sharing using Microsoft’s OneDrive and leverages Skype for Business, including instant messaging and web conferencing.