Richmond Times-Dispatch

Answering the community’s call for a children’s hospital

- BY ELIAS NEUJAHR AND LAUREN MOORE Elias Neujahr is the CEO of Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU. Contact him at: Elias. Neujahr@vcuhealth.org Lauren Moore is the president and CEO of Children’s Hospital Foundation. Contact her at: lmoore@chfrichmon­d

Over the course of many years, our community has longed to see the developmen­t of a comprehens­ive children’s hospital — a place where children can see a dedicated team of pediatric specialist­s in an environmen­t built just for them. In early 2023, it will become a reality when we open the doors to our new children’s tower — home to our Level 1 pediatric trauma center, emergency room, surgical and imaging expansion, and all private-room inpatient units.

Long dreamed about, Richmond’s own freestandi­ng children’s hospital not only will serve the needs of our immediate region, but also will create a world-class environmen­t where the frontiers of pediatric medicine will thrive. While as a community we have not always agreed how, when and where to build, we never have argued why: because our children deserve the best — close to home.

The constructi­on of the “Wonder Tower” at Children’s Hospital of Richmond (CHoR) at VCU is an incredible milestone. But a facility is just walls and paint if purpose and passion don’t come together — our teams and programs will bring this building to life and nurture hope, possibilit­y and health.

Over the past decade, more than 150 new pediatric subspecial­ists have been recruited, giving children local access to exceptiona­l care and keeping families close to home to focus on healing. We have developed programs to address public health concerns like asthma and obesity that disproport­ionately impact our community, and we’ve elevated hallmark programs like neurology, cancer and cardiac surgery that are pillars of all great children’s hospitals.

This progress reflects a broad commitment

from a coalition of people. They are the growing number of generous people whose donations are making the dream a reality. Not to be overlooked has been the incredible dedication among the community of medical profession­als, particular­ly those in the area of pediatric care, who have embraced a bold vision for CHoR, a vision that will result in the creation of a top-tier children’s hospital, one befitting a region of our size and needs.

Make no mistake, while we have come a long way, there still is much work to do, especially in the areas of access, community partnershi­ps and research where we are making progress. Our teams tenaciousl­y are dedicated to addressing access concerns — a battle children’s hospitals are fighting across the country. When we saw that parents were waiting 10 months to enroll their children in a sleep study at our shared adult/pediatric center, we made plans to open a dedicated pediatric sleep center, set to start seeing patients in the new year. To help us forge community partnershi­ps, we hired a former community pediatrici­an and leader of PACKids,

Dr. Keith Derco. We’ve

developed a clinically integrated network run by the community and supported by CHoR, and that’s just the beginning.

Finally, on the research front, we’ve developed a Children’s Health Research Institute (CHRI) that’s dedicated to supporting our seasoned researcher­s like Dr. Judith Voynow, and seeding the ideas of junior faculty like Dr. Cristin Kaspar. CHRI positions us to find answers to pediatric ailments that will improve the lives of children in our community— and across the country. We’ve recruited top physicians­cientists like Dr. Nick Johnson, for example, who brought a nationally prominent neuromuscu­lar program with robust clinical offerings and research capabiliti­es. We’ll continue to recruit additional top talent whose expertise will continue to improve quality of care and accelerate discovery.

There are great children’s hospitals around the country, special places that occupy a prominent and respected place in their communitie­s. What they have in common are the strong bases of community support that have built and sustained them. Within those communitie­s are

partners who advocate for children’s health and philanthro­pists who fuel it. These partnershi­ps represent a powerful alliance, bringing together the vital donors with the medical resources to create something truly remarkable.

At the groundbrea­king of the new children’s tower, CHoR mom Marisa Cherry reminded us that even amid celebratio­ns of progress, our focus must remain on the children and families who will enter our doors on some of their hardest days.

Days of a new diagnosis, relapse or hard news— but with these hard days come hope and drive, and a spirit of the possible.

It’s for Marisa’s daughter, Lauren, who has beaten brain cancer (twice), that we call on the best of our community to rise to this challenge, one gift at a time. We hope many of you will join us on this journey, knowing that your involvemen­t makes the difference. Lauren deserves nothing less, nor do so many other hopeful children.

 ?? JOE MAHONEY./ TIMES-DISPATCH ?? Earlier thisweek, constructi­on continued on the“Wonder Tower” at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.
JOE MAHONEY./ TIMES-DISPATCH Earlier thisweek, constructi­on continued on the“Wonder Tower” at Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU.

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