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UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital earns national rankings in three medical specialties

A rainbow over UF Health Shands Children's Hospital
A rainbow over UF Health Shands Children's Hospital

University of Florida Health Shands Children’s Hospital is nationally ranked in three pediatric medical specialties as part of U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospital rankings for 2020-21 released today.

The rankings extend a remarkable run of national recognition for the programs. UF Health’s pediatric cardiology, pulmonology and endocrinology programs have been ranked among the nation’s elite by U.S. News & World Report for at least a decade.

The cardiology and heart surgery program now stands at No. 12 in the country. Diabetes and endocrinology earned a No. 22 ranking, and pulmonology was ranked No. 27.

“It is incredibly satisfying to know that our pediatric patients are being cared for by some of the nation’s finest physicians and health care professionals,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., senior vice president for health affairs at UF and president of UF Health. “These rankings are a direct result of the many years of hard work and sustained excellence among of all our caregivers and staff.”

All three UF Health programs are the highest-ranked among Florida pediatric hospitals. The pediatric cardiology and heart surgery program is the highest-rated in Florida for the fifth consecutive year. For pediatric pulmonary and endocrinology, it is the third consecutive year as the state’s top-ranked programs.

Patients from across the country and around the world come to UF Health for its pediatric medical care and to participate in state-of-the-art research programs, said Desmond Schatz, M.D., interim chair of the UF College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics and interim physician-in-chief of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital.

“I’m thrilled that our pediatric programs are nationally and indeed internationally recognized once again. We are committed to improving the lives of our children and doing leading-edge research to prevent and cure childhood diseases. This recognition is testament to the dedication of all members of our pediatric health care team. We are extremely proud of all their efforts,” he said.

In diabetes and endocrinology, patients are benefiting from continual clinical-care improvements and research initiatives, said Michael J. Haller, M.D., chief of pediatric endocrinology. The percentage of Type 1 diabetes patients who use continuous glucose monitors and insulin pumps to promote improved blood-sugar control continues to increase. The division has also strengthened its relationship with UF Health psychologists, ensuring that patients’ emotional care needs are met.

“Every time a patient eats, drinks, exercises or sleeps, they have to think about how it affects their Type 1 diabetes. As such, the mental burdens of living with a chronic disease are considerable. We want to ensure that our patients have access to psychological treatment when needed,” Haller said.

In addition, Haller said he was especially impressed with a diabetes advocacy effort led by endocrinology fellow Brittany Bruggeman, M.D. She successfully lobbied the American Academy of Pediatrics to make insulin access one of its top 10 resolutions. That, Haller said, means the large and influential group is obligated to take action on the issue.

The division has been continually ranked by U.S. News & World Report since 2010, including being in the top 22 programs in the nation this year and last year.

“Our ranking is a reflection of our long-term commitment to excellent clinical care, participating in leading-edge research and training the next generation of physicians,” Haller said.

Cardiology and heart surgery remained UF Health’s highest-ranked pediatric program. It has been ranked for 10 consecutive years, including the most recent five years as a top 25 program nationally. UF Health’s pediatric cardiology program has some of the best outcomes in the nation for children who have heart surgery. The UF Health Congenital Heart Center has a 99.1% survival rate, according to a report from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. During a four-year period through July 2018, it had a 100% survival rate for eight of 10 benchmark heart procedures.

Pulmonology also had another strong showing in the rankings, placing among the nation’s top 30 programs for the third consecutive year. The division has been ranked in the top 40 annually since 2011. It has distinguished itself with multidisciplinary pediatric programs that include severe asthma, neuromuscular diseases and a Cystic Fibrosis Center, said Sreekala Prabhakaran, M.D., interim chief of the pediatric pulmonary division and a clinical associate professor in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics. That multi-disciplinary approach benefits patients through a family-centered approach for most of the clinics, Prabhakaran said. Some patients who require multiple sub-specialty visits can see multiple providers together, saving time and ensuring that entire team is aware of the plan of care at the time of visit.

The many patient-oriented features are one reason why the division gets consistent recognition, according to Prabhakaran. She has expanded the Severe Asthma Program to include a medical-legal team and a nurse asthma educator to help assess barriers to care. As a result, costly emergency room visits and hospitalization rates are down. The lung transplant and cystic fibrosis programs continue to be nationally recognized and the Therapeutic Development Center ensures that care outcomes are consistently being reviewed. UF Health is also among just six pediatric pulmonary centers in the country that offer a training program to support pulmonary fellows, nutritionist and social work students as well as family advocacy and nursing support, Prabhakaran noted.

“As a flagship hospital, the expectations are high with regard to patient care, research and teaching new physicians,” Prabhakaran said. “We are pleased to consistently deliver an excellent level of care and medical education.”

UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez said the rankings are a validation by physicians across the country of UF Health’s consistent excellence in pediatric care.

“When a parent brings their child to UF Health, they trust our teams of caregivers to provide warm care and distinctive medical expertise,” he said. “Solving complex medical cases across a variety of specialties has been the standard at UF Health for many years. We are privileged to have teams of physicians, nurses and staff members who dedicate themselves to that mission every day.”

The U.S. News Best Children’s Hospital rankings are compiled from clinical data and an annual reputational survey of pediatric specialists across the country. In the survey, thousands of physicians were asked where they would send the sickest children. Survival rates after surgery, adequacy of nurse staffing, procedure and patient volume and other information can be found here.

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Doug Bennett
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