Cutting edge children's treatments, medical research and LEED certification putSeton Healthcare Family on the map
Cynthia Short is alive today and able to hold her newborn baby, thanks to a new life-saving technology at Seton Medical Center Austin.
The Central Texas mother of three contracted swine flu in her last month of pregnancy, and doctors were forced to deliver her baby early. She was then transferred to Seton Austin’s intensive care unit, where she was put on a newly acquired machine called ECMO (extra corporeal membrane oxygenation) that is used as a last-ditch treatment for severe pneumonia and other life-threatening lung failure. After 17 days connected to ECMO and two weeks of rehabilitation, Cynthia returned home with her family and new baby.
"I didn't realize how much pregnancy would compromise my immune system," Cynthia said. "ECMO saved my life. I wouldn't be here with my three kids if doctors hadn't put me on it."
Seton Austin is the only Central Texas hospital with this technology. The Seton Healthcare Family’s safety program related to births and newborn care has earned national acclaim. By adopting evidence-based practices, such as restricting elective inductions prior to 39 weeks gestation, Seton has raised the bar in patient safety for its tiniest patients, resulting in one of the lowest birth-trauma rates in the nation.
The opening of Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas in June 2007 put Austin on the map as one of the leading providers of world-class pediatric care. Since then, Seton has also expanded into Hays, Bastrop and Williamson counties and now operates a total of twelve facilities from Highland Lakes to Luling. Both Dell Children's and University Medical Center Brackenridge have been elevated to Level I Trauma Centers, the highest possible level of trauma care.
Dell Children's has received widespread acclaim for combining cutting-edge medical technology with a collection of healing art and green building design, becoming the first hospital in the world to receive a platinum designation from LEED (Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design). The entire atmosphere is constructed around the belief that a patient's surroundings can have a profound healing effect on both the mind and body.
"Being a green hospital has a profound, measurable effect on healing," says Robert Bonar, president and CEO of Dell Children's. "Children are being hospitalized in a building that by its very design is far less likely to cause various forms of 'sick building' syndrome. This translates into a better experience for patients and families."
Children like Than Hien Vo, a one-year-old girl who seems like a perfectly happy, healthy tot—unless you see the scars on her chest. Than suffered from heart disease that strikes one in 2,000 children; basically a hole in her heart and an obstruction that prevented blood from reaching her lungs. When she was three months old, Dr. Kenneth Fox of Dell Children’s Regional Heart Program operated on Than, an incredibly difficult surgery due to the infant's tiny operating field.
Dell Children's has also been at the forefront of less dramatic issues that are having a huge impact on children's health, such as childhood obesity. Last year a clinic called Activating Children Empowering Success (ACES) opened at Dell, to advocate for the prevention and treatment of childhood obesity and to arm health care providers with much-needed training and resources to care for the increasing population of obese children. 66.7 percent of Texan adults are overweight or obese today—and unfortunately, many of our kids are following that trajectory.
Since April 2010, the ACES clinic has served approximately 200 children and their families. The team sees patients two half days per week and typical appointments last two or three hours, as patients and their families meet with a pediatrician, a dietician, a social worker, a physical therapist and a nurse. Services are targeted to the patients most ready and able to engage with the center's resources.
"One of the greatest threats to our children’s future is the growing trend of childhood obesity," says State Comptroller Susan Combs. "The fight to curb obesity has important implications for all Texans, from their wallets to their personal health. Our efforts will require us to consider and challenge the way we live, and the importance we place on a healthy lifestyle. This is a battle we cannot afford to lose."
Another exciting change at Seton is the increase in physician residents and medical research through the affiliation with UT Southwestern Medical Center. “By training more residents in Central Texas, Seton and UT Southwestern hope to address the local doctor shortage," says Dr. Susan M. Cox, regional dean of UT Southwestern Medical Center who oversees the Seton partnership in Austin. "Many physicians eventually establish permanent practices in the communities where they train. Emergency medicine is a big draw for medical students," Dr. Cox added.
In fact, data shows that 90 percent of medical residents open their own practices within 50 miles of where they do their residencies. More medical residents will lead to a much-needed influx of new doctors to Central Texas, where the need is expected to grow to more than 5,200 physicians by 2020.
The economic impact of academic medicine on Central Texas is also significant. It could translate into more than $360 million in annual economic activity and as many as 5,363 permanent jobs, according to TXP, Inc. Ultimately, the focus on academic medicine and medical research could lead to a new medical school in Austin.
Seton spokesperson Steven Taylor says, “This is a huge opportunity to create a lot of positive changes in our community.”