The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio — Changing the Landscape of Pediatric Care

By Valerie Lauer
Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Since beginning its transformation journey in 2012, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio has ushered in a new era of pediatric care in the country’s seventh largest city.

Today, specialty care for children and adolescents is more readily available than ever in San Antonio. New providers call the Alamo City home and The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio has established itself as a regional hub of pediatric medical excellence.

“From the beginning, our mission has been one of service, both to the patients we care for and their families,” says Elias J. Neujahr, President of The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. “Putting their concerns first has allowed us to create a hospital that truly belongs to the community and serves its needs. It’s taken just a few short years to establish ourselves as a leading provider of pediatric care. Because we’re a teaching and research hospital, we are not content to rest on our laurels. There is more to come.”

Additions and Expansions

To be the home of world-class pediatric care, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio’s leadership felt it was important to create a space that was both inviting and a beacon of hope. One of the first initiatives undertaken at the children’s hospital was an extensive $135 million renovation and expansion.

The Goldsbury Foundation Lobby at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

The CHEF Teaching Kitchen

A new patient room at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio is part of the CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Health System, and the building where the freestanding children’s hospital sits is the former site of CHRISTUS Santa Rosa’s downtown location. The recently completed two-story lobby made possible by the support of the Goldsbury Foundation is a key example of how this facility has been transformed into one where pediatric care is at the heart of every space.

“Our spectacular new lobby is now home to a café, the chapel, the Child Life Center and our teaching kitchen, which is part of our Culinary Health Education for Families, or CHEF, program,” says Mark Gilger, MD, Pediatrician-in-chief for The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio and Professor and Vice Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. “It’s a beautiful entryway to the hospital and sets the tone of welcome and caring that we’ve worked hard to reproduce throughout the facility.”

Work will continue through the fall on the 2.4-acre culinary garden, play garden and prayer garden, which will surround the hospital and benefit patients, staff and visitors. A 16-room on-site Ronald McDonald House, which serves as a “home-away-from-home” and allows families to stay nearby while their children are being treated in the hospital, will open soon.

Focus on Service Line Growth

Campus renovations and the hospital’s partnerships have allowed The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio to add more than 170 new pediatric care providers to the hospital’s network and expand the availability of more than 45 specialties. Those areas include pediatric otolaryngology, oncology, orthopedics and traumatic surgical intervention.

President, Elias Neujahr pictured with Section Chiefs at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Growth has occurred throughout the hospital and its community-based network. For example, the hospital was able to bring on Mark Gorelik, MD, the first board-certified pediatric rheumatologist in the city. Some areas of development that stand out include:

Neurology. The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio employs six neurologists who specialize in a wide variety of pediatric services, including neuromuscular, sleep and neurodevelopmental care. They have helped drastically shorten the time young patients wait to see a neurologist and established more local services, including a comprehensive autism program to help meet community needs.

Perhaps the crown jewel of the neurology program is the epilepsy center. This program is under the direction of Yu-Tze Ng, MD, FRACP, FAAN, FAAP, Section Chief of Neurology and The Gary Dudley and Charlie Amato Endowed Chair Holder in Pediatric Neurology at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, and a Professor of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Ng is one of the world’s leading experts in Lennox-Gastaut syndrome — a type of refractory epilepsy. He says he was drawn to The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio because of the opportunity to help establish a true academic center for pediatric neurology.

“This summer, we were able to establish an epilepsy monitoring unit,” Dr. Ng says. “This will help us diagnose and ultimately treat cases that may be difficult to understand. We also participate in clinical trials in a variety of neurological fields and recently acquired a neurological laser for advanced procedures. The team is comprised of experts in their areas. This program is a game changer for area children in need of neurological care.”

Maternal and fetal medicine. The new Center for Maternal and Fetal Care at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio will cater to the needs of women experiencing high-risk pregnancies and the care of infants born with congenital health concerns or other issues. This new Center is expected to open its doors in October.

“Throughout the community, we work with pediatricians who are part of our children’s hospital network. We’ve created a unique system that connects them to us via shared electronic medical records and scheduling systems. That makes patient care seamless, eliminating unnecessary steps and connecting them to results and expert care.”
— Mark Gilger, Pediatrician-in-chief, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, Professor and Vice Chair, Department of Pediatrics, Baylor College of Medicine

At the helm of this high-risk obstetrics program is Peter Nielsen, MD, who joined the hospital in July as Obstetrician-in-Chief and serves as Vice Chair of the Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology at Baylor College of Medicine.

Dr. Nielsen recently retired from the U.S. Army, where he served as a physician for 29 years. His background includes directing medical education and working as CEO for a 65-bed hospital in Missouri. Dr. Nielsen, who graduated from the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio, is pleased to bring the decades of experience he has gained back to the area.

“The Center for Maternal and Fetal Care is the first step in the creation of a comprehensive women’s health service line here at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio,” Dr. Nielsen says. “We’re creating an obstetrics hospitalist program that will help support complex OB patients who often need around-the-clock care. Our program will work closely with area physicians when pregnant women, new mothers and infants require advanced support at any phase of the pregnancy, delivery or early life.”

Dr. Nielsen will be joined by three additional maternal-fetal medicine specialists by the first quarter of 2017. Their team will include a genetic counselor as well as ultrasound technicians and nursing staff who specialize in maternal and fetal care. They will work closely with other groups at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, including the oncology and cardiology teams, to provide highly specialized gynecologic care and obstetric and neonatal surgical interventions.

The Heart Center. Advanced cardiology services that meet the specific needs of pediatric patients are the hallmark of The Heart Center at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. The program includes a dedicated cardiac operating room, around-the-clock support for young patients in need of transport, a catheterization laboratory outfitted specifically for children and cardiac surgery areas in a Pediatric Intensive Care Unit.

“In health care, particularly academic health care, it’s important that we continue to be on the leading edge of medical knowledge. We’re able to do that because we have continued support of the community and because we’ve developed a successful network with the outstanding private practice pediatricians in the area. We’ve created an accountable, engaged, driven culture that allows us to put patient interests first. There are bright days ahead at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio.”
— Elias J. Neujahr, President, The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio

Team members include five physicians, two surgeons and a cadre of mid-level providers specializing in pediatric cardiology. This group is also poised to expand, as administration continues an ongoing search for additional providers in this high-demand field.

“The goal of the heart program and our heart team is to provide world-class, patient-centered care in an academic environment,” says Jillian Stewart, Practice Administrator for Cardiology and Cardiothoracic Surgery for The Heart Center. “Our wonderful team of professionals truly committed to the care of the community’s children and focused on the family experience. That means offering the latest advances such as new ways to use MRI technology to study the pediatric heart, collaborating with our maternal-fetal medicine experts before children take their first breaths and supporting them the rest of their lives through offerings such as our support program for adults who were born with congenital heart disease.”

Blood and bone marrow transplant. In February, the children’s hospital announced the creation of the Harvey E. Najim Blood & Marrow Transplant Center. This dedicated inpatient and outpatient unit will facilitate care for children with a variety of blood disorders and conditions such as cancer in a safe, controlled environment that minimizes their exposure to outside contaminants.

The program’s director is Veronica Jude, MD, a pediatric hematologist with an extensive background in pediatric cancer treatment. She plans on performing the first on-site bone marrow transplant later this year and will be joined by additional support staff over the course of the coming months.

To learn more, visit For 24/7 physician-to-physician consultations and transports, call 877-ALL-KIDZ (255-5439).