Meet Dr. Alyssa Saiz

CHOC wants its referring physicians to get to know its specialists. Today, meet Dr. Alyssa Saiz, a postdoctoral fellow in pediatric psychology and neuropsychology.

Q: What is your education and training?

A: I attended Pepperdine University to complete my doctorate in clinical psychology. My clinical internship was at the University of Health Science Center San Antonio. I am currently near the completion of my two-year postdoctoral fellowship in pediatric psychology and neuropsychology.

Q: What are your special clinical interests?

A: My clinical interests are working with children and teens with depression and self-harming behaviors, as well as somatic symptom and related disorders. I am also developing my specialty in pediatric neuropsychology. I love being able to help people during the most confused and vulnerable time in their life, and hope to give them a future they can thrive in.

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

A: Three years.

Q: What are some new programs or developments within your specialty?

A: CHOC is in the process of building both an intensive outpatient program and Mental Health Inpatient Center for children and teenagers through the Mental Health Initiative. This is very exciting because the services provided by both of these programs are greatly needed in our community and will help us provide even better comprehensive and intensive mental health care.

Q: What are your most common diagnoses?

A:  Somatic symptom disorders, depression and anxiety.

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

A:  As a department, we are growing and evolving with the community, working on research developments and supporting CHOC’s mental health initiative – all for the happiness of the population here. We are here to serve them, and working hard with them in mind each day. For me personally, I would love for people know how much of a passion this is for me – I’m here doing this work because I truly love it, and admire the courage of my patients and coworkers.

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

A:  The aspiration to always give more and provide better services to the children and families we work with, as well as the commitment to training the future generations of medical and mental health professionals.

Q: Why did you decide to become a doctor?

A: I am insatiably curious and always wondering how to improve a situation. I also love to connect emotionally with people and understand their journey. So naturally, I was always drawn to psychology as an area of study and found myself looking for opportunities to work with children and teenagers who were experiencing hardship or mental health concerns.

Q: If you weren’t a physician, what would you be and why? A: I would be a florist or have a ranch for rescued animals. Both very different paths, but in the end they’re creating beauty to enhance someone else’s life and provide joy.

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

A: I love to cook (usually anything pasta or cheese-filled) and be outside (hiking, walking my family’s dog, and being in the sun). I am also currently learning Spanish, which I am very excited about!

Q: What is the funniest thing a patient has ever told you?

A: When I told a young patient I was going to get her mom from the waiting room, she replied, “Well, she’s probably getting coffee. She can’t live without coffee!” I can relate. Kids hear and take in everything!

 

5 Tips on Connecting with Your Pediatric Patients

In recognition of Child Life Month, we are highlighting the Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department at CHOC, a critical partner to physicians and an essential part of the multidisciplinary team at CHOC ensuring the continuity of care.

We spoke to Brianne Ortiz, child life clinical educator, who shared the following ways in which physicians can better connect with their patients:

  1. Greet the patient first and let them know they are important to you. It’s natural to address the caregiver first, but ultimately you need the patient’s buy-in for compliance and a valued relationship with the family.  After introductions, explain your job in a way that your patient understands. If you are going to listen to your patient’s lungs, show her your stethoscope first.  Let the child touch it and have her practice taking big deep breaths.  Listen to the caregiver’s lungs first and then tell the child it is time to listen to her lungs.  Always tell a child what you are going to do before you approach the patient.  Language and delivery is powerful and giving basic and honest information in a non-threatening manner goes a long way.
  1. Do your homework. Patients will be more cooperative and trusting if you find something in common with them.  Ask non-medical questions to find out what makes them happy.  Be in touch with what various age groups enjoy right now (Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, Minecraft, the Lego Batman movie, Snapchat, Spotify, Taylor Swift and Shawn Mendes, for example). If your patient is more reserved, remember that communication is multifaceted; patients may warm up to you based on your facial expressions, tone of voice, if you’re eye level with them, if you’re friendly and keep them in involved in the exam or check-up.  You may not even speak the same language as your patient, but all children understand the language of play.  At the end of your appointment, take notes about what your patient enjoys, so when you see them again you have something to talk about and they’ll feel special because you remembered what is unique to them!
  1. Offer choices and utilize positioning for comfort. Even young children have preferences and like to feel included. When you are checking a patient’s tympanic temperature, ask the patient which ear she prefers.  The power to choose provides feelings of control and autonomy and allows the child to anticipate what is ahead.  Positioning for comfort helps children feel more secure and less vulnerable.  Sitting in an upright position is always more desirable than lying down.  If a child needs help holding still, ask the caregiver to assist the child during an invasive procedure.  If a patient can sit on her mother’s lap during an IV start, the child will have positive support from a person she trusts rather than a negative restraint from a stranger.  A sense of dignity and respect is earned when patients feel more comfortable and less helpless.
  1. Let your professional guard down. Take off your doctor cap for a few minutes and tell a silly joke, help build a Lego car, make pizza out of Play-Doh or have a lunchtime dance party.  This will foster a safe place for families and make you more approachable.  Your clinical expertise will be apparent by the medical treatment you provide; however, being relatable and understanding will convey a human connection.
  1. Less is more. Unfamiliar faces can be intimidating, so only allow for medical personnel who are absolutely necessary in the patient’s room during an exam. If an invasive procedure is scheduled, designate one person who has a calm tone of voice to speak to the patient. Several people speaking and giving directions at the same time may feel chaotic and can cause more anxiety for the child. Having age appropriate distraction items available can also help decrease anxiety. If you have a toddler who is afraid of the blood pressure cuff, ask her caregiver to blow bubbles while staff obtains her blood pressure. Nursery rhymes, counting and interactive toys with sounds and lights, work well for distracting young children. I Spy books, cell phone apps, belly breathing and conversation are better ways to engage older children during stressful situations.

 Learn more about the child life experts and services at CHOC.

CHOC Chief Nursing Officer Honored for Excellence in Leadership

Melanie Patterson, vice president of patient care services and chief nursing officer (CNO) at CHOC Hospital, was recently honored with the Excellence in Leadership award by the Association of California Nurse Leaders.  Given to an inspirational leader committed to providing expert, compassionate care for children and their families, the honor is awarded for making a significant contribution to nursing leadership.

In Patterson’s three years as CNO— within a total of 24 years at CHOC—she has focused on building leadership skills for nurse managers and ensuring the highest level of patient care quality. She supported the Nursing Research Fellowship and Evidence-Based Scholars programs to empower nurses to develop competency in the research process. She helped launch Innovation Beach Day, an off-site summit of registered nurses and other health care professionals, facilitated by innovators including representatives from Google. Melanie is also a strong proponent of CHOC’s nurse residency program, dedicated to training the next generation of pediatric nurses.

“This award is a testament to CHOC’s overall commitment to support our world-class patient care staff as we work to nurture, advance and protect the health and well-being of children in our community,” Patterson says. “I feel honored to have seen CHOC through so much growth, and to be part of caring for the hundreds of thousands of children entrusted to us.”

Patterson originally joined CHOC in a volunteer capacity and has served in various roles through the years: bedside nurse, charge nurse, clinical coordinator, nurse manager, and executive director of neonatology, Heart Institute and the Hyundai Cancer Institute. She also served as executive director of south tower activation when CHOC opened a new state-of-the-art patient care tower in 2013.

Domnic Fernandez Joins CHOC as Director, Hyundai Cancer Institute

Domnic Fernandez has been named director of the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC.  Working closely with hospital and physician leaders, he is responsible for advancing CHOC’s position as a leading destination for innovative pediatric and adolescent cancer treatments.

CHOC Children's

“The Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC has a stellar reputation, including being ranked a top pediatric cancer program by U.S. News & World Report.  Its physicians, researchers and staff are dedicated to changing the future of cancer treatments: finding a cure and securing meaningful survivorship for our patients.  I am honored to be a part of this team, and look forward to helping continue to secure the brightest and healthiest futures for children,” said Domnic.

Fernandez joins CHOC from Adventist Healthcare, where he served as a vice president overseeing outpatient practices at four regional hospitals.  Service lines under his purview included primary care, urgent care, pediatrics, endocrinology, cardiology, oncology, orthopedics, neurology, electrophysiology and obstetrics/gynecology.  In addition to improving productivity and increasing referrals, he created a patient experience team that helped increase patient satisfaction scores by 22 percent.

Previously, Fernandez has worked in a variety of leadership positions at hospitals in Virginia and Minnesota.   His healthcare experience includes practice management, strategic planning, business development, revenue cycle management, physician and patient satisfaction initiatives, regulatory compliance, clinical outcomes and continuous process improvements, and marketing.  In addition to launching new clinics and managing practice acquisitions, he’s assumed responsibility for several electronic health record (EHR) go lives and optimizations.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in physical therapy, Fernandez completed the master’s in health care administration program at St. Xavier University in Chicago.  He is a member of the Medical Group Management Association and American College of Medical Practice Executives.

“The Hyundai Cancer Institute is a gem in our community, and I look forward to working with our subspecialists and referring community physicians to ensure children get the excellent care they need close to home,” stated Domnic.

Domnic can be reached at dfernandez@choc.org.

CHOC Employee Gives Back Through CHOC Walk

For Devin Hugie, director of facilities, a tiny patient close to his heart makes it extra special to participate in the CHOC Walk in the Park.

Devin’s participation in the CHOC Walk began more than a decade ago – long before he was an employee. His wife was looking for a community event in which their family could get involved. Their daughter Ashlie, in junior high at the time, would voluntarily go door to door to raise funds, he recalls. The family was well aware of everything the hospital did for children in the community and they continued to support the CHOC Walk throughout the years.

Devin Hugie

In 2012, when an opportunity opened up to work for CHOC, Devin jumped at the chance to become part of the CHOC family. As an employee, he became even more involved with the CHOC Walk and formed “Team Hope.” The 50-member team, including Devin’s family, as well as friends and partners of the facilities department, has raised $9,340 this year. They hope to reach their goal of raising $10,000. Devin has personally raised $4,250, making him one of the top fundraising walkers.

Proceeds from the CHOC Walk help to fund education, research, and advance the health and well-being of children. More than 15,000 people are expected to attend this year.

“I’m blessed to be at CHOC. It really is about the kids and I can’t think of a more awesome cause,” Devin says.

In March 2014, this important cause hit even closer to home. Devin’s grandson, Noah, was unexpectedly admitted to CHOC’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for an infection in his lung. It was a scary time for Devin’s daughter, Ashlie — Noah’s mom — and the rest of the family. Today, Noah is a happy and healthy toddler, and the family is even more inspired to give back through the CHOC Walk.

“I’ve always known the great work that we do, but when a loved one becomes a patient it becomes more real. The care that my grandson received made it even more amazing to be a part of CHOC. I am so grateful,” Devin says.

The dedicated, fun-loving grandfather hopes his story will inspire others to get involved and give back.

“The morning of the Walk is filled with excitement,” he says. “You see all the various teams and the pictures of the many kids whose lives CHOC has touched; you feel grateful to be part of the bigger picture.”

The CHOC Walk in the Park presented by Disneyland Resort will be held October 30, 2016. Register and learn more. 

Ryan Hansen Named Director, CHOC Heart Institute

Following a nationwide search, Ryan Hansen has been named director of the CHOC Heart Institute. In his new role, Ryan will work closely with hospital and physician leaders to advance strategies designed to make the Heart Institute a leading destination for pediatric and adolescent cardiovascular care.

“CHOC is clearly an organization on the rise with a talented medical staff, engaged employees and a very supportive executive leadership team dedicated to the hospital’s mission and vision. I look forward to bolstering CHOC’s excellent cardiovascular services, including embracing innovation and new technologies to better serve the children and families in our community and beyond,” said Ryan.

Ryan joins CHOC from Texas-based Memorial Hermann Health System, where he served as director, hospital operations, Heart & Vascular Institute.  During his six-year tenure there, he launched the Advanced Heart Failure, Heart Transplant and Lung Transplant Program, which has become the second largest transplant program in Texas and 13th largest in the nation.  Under Ryan’s leadership, the program developed into the top implanting center in Texas for transcatheter aortic valve replacements (TAVR) and total artificial hearts (TAH), while maintaining quality with clinical outcomes superior to national averages.  Additionally, Ryan was instrumental with the construction of the flagship, multidisciplinary advanced heart failure clinic and network of five cardiology clinics.

Prior to Memorial Hermann Health System, Ryan was the administrative director for the division of cardiology and heart failure at Baylor College of Medicine in the Texas Medical Center with responsibilities for the academic, research and clinical missions.  Ryan also served as a project manager in the institution with a focus on physician revenue cycle optimization and new EMR implementation.  He bridged the practice of medicine and the business of medicine to increase practice profitability and efficiency for the college.

After earning his bachelor’s degree in biology from The University of Texas at Austin, Ryan completed the dual master’s degree program (MBA/MHA) at University of Houston Clear Lake.  He currently resides in south Orange County with his wife and three young children.

“I am very excited to be in Southern California and to have the opportunity to partner with CHOC’s talented and highly-skilled medical staff to advance education, research and evidence-based medicine practices for the Heart Institute.  In addition to playing a vital role in preventive cardiology and improving the cardiovascular health of Orange County children, CHOC will be the healthcare provider of choice for advanced cardiac therapies,” stated Ryan.

Ryan can be reached at rhansen@choc.org.