The University of Chicago Medicine - Comer Children's Hospital

Department of Pediatrics 2018 Annual Report

Advocate NorthShore Pediatric Partners Collaboration

Collaboration with Advocate NorthShore Pediatric Partners Increases Children's Access to Complex Care

Susan L. Cohn, MD, Luca A. Vricella, MD, and Jessica J. Kandel, MD

A collaborative agreement between the University of Chicago Medicine Comer Children’s Hospital and Advocate NorthShore Pediatric Partners — made up of Advocate Children’s Hospitals and NorthShore University HealthSystem — is increasing access to complex care for children with cancer and blood diseases throughout Chicagoland, as well as those needing cardiology and cardiovascular surgery or general surgery in the region.

"We are excited to bring together the outstanding clinical care offered by Advocate NorthShore Pediatric Partners and our ability to provide complex care closer to patients' homes, while advancing national standards of care,” says John M. Cunningham, MD, George M. Eisenberg Professor of Pediatrics; chair, Department of Pediatrics; and physician-in-chief at Comer Children’s.

Pediatric specialists from Comer Children’s, based in Hyde Park, are available across Advocate Children’s Hospitals and NorthShore University HealthSystem, which have clinics located mostly in the north and northwest suburbs. Likewise, doctors from Advocate Children’s and NorthShore are treating patients at Comer Children’s locations, many of which are on Chicago's South Side, in the south and west suburbs and Northwest Indiana.

Comer Children’s pediatric specialists with strong national reputations in their fields have been tapped to help lead these collective efforts. They include:

  • Cardiology/Cardiovascular SurgeryLuca A. Vricella, MD, director, pediatric cardiac surgery at Advocate Children’s and Comer Children’s. Vricella is an internationally distinguished pediatric cardiac surgeon and former director of the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery and Heart Transplant Program at Johns Hopkins Medicine.
  • General SurgeryJessica J. Kandel, MD, surgeon-in-chief at Comer Children’s and division director of pediatric general surgery at Advocate Children’s. Kandel is a nationally renowned pediatric surgeon and an expert in the development of therapeutics for both pediatric cancers and vascular anomalies in children.
  • Hematology/OncologySusan L. Cohn, MD, chief of pediatric hematology/oncology and dean of clinical research at UChicago Medicine. Cohn is a leading authority in pediatric cancers and blood diseases, particularly in neuroblastoma, the most common type of extracranial solid tumor in children.

Pediatric General Surgery Department Pioneered Program

In winter 2014, Kandel began to embed surgical faculty from Comer Children’s at Advocate Children’s, as well as recruit surgeons and develop a practice structure that would support excellence across the health systems. “We have experienced the blending of cultures and cross-fertilization as very productive, positive and mutually supportive,” Kandel says. “As a result, we have been able to elevate care across the broad geography we serve." One way the team is leveraging service to a large patient population is developing common clinical pathways that will help shape national standards of care.

Kandel is working to build a faculty with a diverse breadth of expertise and interests. While all are based at one geographic site in Hyde Park, they have an opportunity for scholarly work across a wide range of interests that supports their professional development. “We now have a substantial group of 11 pediatric surgeons — all of whom have a deep commitment to improving care through discovery,” she says.

One of Vricella’s goals for the collaboration is the development of a single unit that will focus on all aspects of pediatric cardiac care, from complex neonatal intervention to adults with congenital heart disease. A much-needed addition to the combined program will be the creation of a dedicated pediatric heart failure service, offering mechanical assistance and cardiac transplantation. “Pediatric cardiac care is the quintessential team sport, including imaging, cardiac catheterization, cardiology, surgery and ICU,” he says. “We must bring all the pieces of the puzzle together to deliver seamless care across the network.”

The larger volume of patients allows us to do more clinical research and offer more clinical trials that will help make a difference in the lives of children across the country.

Susan L. Cohn, MD

What most intrigues Vricella is the complementary nature of the collaborating health systems. “We have a phenomenal opportunity to integrate UChicago Medicine Comer Children’s, a traditional academic institution with strong research, innovation and knowledge, and Advocate Children’s, one of the largest clinical networks in the country,” Vricella says.

From Cohn’s perspective, the network will be able to provide services to a full spectrum of pediatric cancer patients — from those requiring standard care to those with more complex disease. “We now have the opportunity to develop large, comprehensive programs for children with cancer and benign blood diseases at all of the partnership hospitals, and families will be able to receive care close to home,” she says. “The larger volume of patients allows us to do more clinical research and offer more clinical trials that will help make a difference in the lives of children across the country.”

Kenneth S. Polonsky, MD, executive vice president of medical affairs at the University of Chicago Medicine, adds: “Through this partnership, Comer Children’s is able to provide a continuum of services in which academic medicine powers community care, fueled by our clinical excellence, research breakthroughs and teaching mission.”

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