UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital makes big gains nationally in three specialties
By Doug Bennett
University of Florida Health Shands Children’s Hospital has been nationally ranked in five medical specialties, making significant gains in three areas — pediatric cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, and diabetes/endocrinology, according to the 2019-20 Best Children’s Hospitals rankings by the U.S. News & World Report.
UF Health’s pediatric cardiology and heart surgery program achieved a historically high ranking, moving up eight places to 11th in the nation. Two other UF Health pediatric specialties also made signifi cant jumps: Diabetes and endocrinology is now ranked No. 19 (up from 27th), and cancer rose to No. 25 (up 24 spots from a year ago). Two more pediatric specialties — neurology and neurosurgery (42nd, up from 50th) and pulmonology (22nd, same as last year) — are also ranked among the nation’s elite programs.
“Parents of our young patients trust us with their children’s treatment. It is particularly gratifying to know that the care they receive across five specialties is
among the very best in the country,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., UF senior vice president for health affairs and president of UF Health.
The hospital’s pediatric cardiology and heart surgery program was the highest rated in Florida for the fourth consecutive year. Also ranked highest in Florida were cancer, diabetes and endocrinology, and pulmonology. The neurology and is the first program of its kind in the state.
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 percent survival rate, according to a report from the Society of Thoracic Surgeons. During a four-year period through July 2018, it had a 100
percent survival rate for eight of 10 benchmark heart procedures.
Mark Bleiweis, M.D., director of the UF Health Congenital Heart Center, said it is a privilege to lead a team that continues to achieve higher rankings and improved outcomes. The center has recently seen an increase in the number of complex cases and a higher percentage of small infants, Bleiweis said, which makes the strong patient outcome figures even more impressive. The results for heart transplants as well as complicated procedures to correct the underdeveloped left sides of patients’ hearts has been particularly satisfying for Bleiweis.
“We have great specialists taking care of heart disease. We have outstanding surgical and medical teams and great postoperative care. All of those factors have come together to achieve the best outcomes in the country. This could not be achieved without the seamless collaboration of our physicians, nursing staff and dynamic care team,” he said.
Among UF Health’s ranked programs, the pediatric cancer specialty made the largest jump. William Slayton, M.D., chief of pediatric hematology and oncology,
said his division’s unprecedented rise in the rankings is a result of many factors: improvement in the rate of bloodstream infections, which can be common in
children receiving chemotherapy; five-year cancer survival rates; a one-year rate for bone marrow transplant patients that is among the best in the nation; and a trio of ongoing clinical trials involving pediatric brain tumors and immunotherapy that has raised UF Health’s national profile.
In diabetes and endocrinology, ongoing efforts to improve patient care and expand research opportunities continue to demonstrate UF Health’s dedication to moving the fi eld forward, said Michael Haller, M.D., chief of pediatric endocrinology. The division optimized automated electronic medical records, facilitating the ordering of screening labs for patients with diabetes. Retinal screening is now offered in its clinics, making it easy and efficient for patients and doctors to ensure there are no signs of diabetes-related vision problems. In addition, the division continues to offer exceptional multidisciplinary care for children with Prader-Willi syndrome, Turner syndrome and gender health issues, Haller said. Its efforts to expand telemedicine services in Ocala,
Tallahassee and Daytona Beach are continuing.
Ed Jimenez, chief executive officer of UF Health Shands, said the overall rankings refl ect the staff ’s unwavering commitment to innovation and patient care.
“Providing the best possible patient experience requires dedication, focus and teamwork. Our expertise and outcomes are why parents continue to turn to UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital to solve their child’s complex medical issues,” he said.
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, more than 11,000 physicians were asked where they would send the sickest children. For more information, go to https://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals.