By Joan Richardson
The Children’s Hospital is reopening at UTMB— in a new location, in newly renovated space and with a new name. The new UTMB Health Children’s Hospital is a hospital inside a hospital.
Located on the 10th floor of the John Sealy Hospital, this new area has 24 beds and includes a six-bed pediatric intensive care unit and an 18-bed pediatric inpatient unit.
This facility represents UTMB’s most recent resource dedicated to the care of children. Long before pediatrics was recognized as a medical specialty, UTMB provided care to children.
When the first John Sealy Hospital opened in 1890, there was a Children’s Ward, and in 1891, when the Medical Department of the University of Texas opened, Dr. Henry Pendleton Cook was appointed lecturer on diseases of children and pediatrician to the John Sealy Hospital.
At the turn of the 20th century, not more than 50 physicians in the United States took a particular interest in the care of children, and no more than five or six actually devoted their entire practice exclusively to pediatrics.
In 1915, the state of Texas appropriated $13,000 to build a Children’s Hospital. The building was between the original John Sealy Hospital and the Ashbel Smith Building (Old Red). In 1924, a separate department of pediatrics was established at UTMB under the leadership of Dr. Boyd Reading. This was the first in Texas and one of the first departments of pediatrics in the nation. Reading served as chairman for 20 years, and during his term, a new Children’s Hospital was constructed in 1936.
The appointment of Dr. Arild Hansen in 1944 as the first full-time chairman of pediatrics signaled the beginning of the modern era of pediatrics at UTMB. The clinical service outgrew the 1936 Children’s Hospital, and when the second John Sealy Hospital was dedicated in 1953, pediatrics expanded its complement of inpatient beds to the entire ninth floor of the new facility.
In 1960, Dr. C. William Daeschner replaced Hansen as chairman of the department, and in 1977, a third children’s hospital, the Child Health Center, opened its doors. The Child Health Center was rededicated as the Children’s Hospital in 1992.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Ike, however, the Children’s Hospital was closed for patient care, and for the past three and half years, children have been cared for in the John Sealy Hospital in patient-care areas designed for adults.
Countless times we have heard the saying that children are not small adults. Indeed, they are not. Children are different. They need a different kind of health care facility that focuses on their unique needs, involves their parents from start to finish, and is provided in a place designed to be child-sized and kid-friendly.
They require extra time, extra monitoring, specialized medications, specialized laboratory and diagnostic tests, and specially trained caregivers with the knowledge, skills and compassion to understand their unique and special needs. Simply stated, all children need Children’s Hospitals.
In the 121 years since the founding of UTMB, there has been phenomenal medical progress in the care of children.
Outstanding pediatricians, pediatric surgical specialists and medical researchers have all left their mark on our child health programs and continue to do so. Across many decades, we all have shared the dream of better tomorrows for children and the profound understanding that, although children are a third of our population, they are all of our future.
Dr. Joan Richardson is chairwoman of the department of pediatrics at UTMB.