U.S. News Names CHOC One of the Nation’s Best Children’s Hospitals

From treating the most complicated cases of epilepsy and repairing complex urological conditions, to curing cancer and saving premature lives, CHOC Children’s physicians and staff are committed to delivering the highest levels of safe, quality care. That commitment has earned CHOC its most recent accolade:  inclusion on the coveted U.S. News & World Report’s Best Children’s Hospitals rankings.   CHOC ranked in eight specialties: cancer, neonatology, neurology/neurosurgery, pulmonology, orthopedics, gastroenterology and GI surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, and urology, which earned a “top 25” spot.

U.S. news

According to U.S. News, the Best Children’s Hospitals rankings are intended to help parents determine where to get the best medical care for their children. The rankings highlight the top 50 U.S. pediatric facilities in 10 specialties, from cancer to urology. Of the 183 participating medical centers, only 78 hospitals ranked in at least one specialty. For its list, U.S. News relies on extensive clinical and operational data, including survival rates, clinic and procedure volume, infection control measures and outcomes, which can be viewed at http://health.usnews.com/best-hospitals/pediatric-rankings. An annual survey of pediatric specialists accounts for 15 percent of participants’ final scores.

“The Best Children’s Hospitals highlight the pediatric centers that offer exceptional care for the kids who need the most help,” says U.S. News Health Rankings Editor Avery Comarow. “Day in and day out, they offer state-of-the-art medical care.”

Dr. James Cappon, chief quality and patient safety officer at CHOC, points to the survey as an invaluable tool for him and his colleagues to evaluate programs and services, determining best practices, and making plans for the immediate and long-term future.

“CHOC is certainly honored to be recognized once again by U.S. News. But our dedication to serving the best interests of the children and families in our community is what truly drives us to pursue excellence in everything we do. Our scores, especially in the areas of patient-and-family-centered care, commitment to best practices, infection prevention, breadth and scope of specialists and services, and health information technology, for example, reflect our culture of providing the very best care to our patients,” explains Dr. Cappon. To hear more about CHOC’s commitment to patient safety and quality care—and what parents need to know— listen to this podcast.

CHOC’s culture of excellence has it earned it numerous accolades, including being named, multiple times, a Leapfrog Top Hospital. Additional recent honors include the gold-level CAPE Award from the California Council of Excellence; Magnet designation for nursing; gold-level Beacon Award for Excellence, a distinction earned twice by CHOC’s pediatric intensive care unit team; “Most Wired Hospital”; and The Advisory Board Company’s 2016 Workplace Transformation Award and Workplace of the Year Award. Inspiring the best in her team, CHOC’s President and CEO Kimberly Chavalas Cripe was recently named a winner of the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award in the “Community Contributions” category.

CHOC Children’s Joins National Cancer Consortium

The Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s took yet another bold step in its fight against pediatric cancer by uniting with Cancer Moonshot 2020.  CHOC is one of 10 founding members of a national pediatrics consortium announced at a press conference on Feb. 18, 2016, and dedicated to accelerating cancer cures through immunotherapy.  All partners will seek to apply the most comprehensive cancer molecular diagnostic testing available, and leverage proven and promising combination immunotherapies and clinical trials. Real time data sharing is designed to accelerate clinical learning for all consortium members.

“The Pediatric Cancer Moonshot 2020 will attempt to cure all the numerous types of pediatric cancer with the least toxicity by harnessing patients’ own immune systems and using the tumors’ unique genomic mutations to create individualized cancer vaccines,” explains Dr. Leonard Sender, medical director, Hyundai Cancer Institute.

Dr. Sender has positioned CHOC a leader in the field of innovative genomic medicine techniques. In addition to being designated a Caris Center of Excellence for its commitment to precision medicine, CHOC is a participant in the California Kids Cancer Comparison, bringing the benefit of big data bioinformatics to its patients. And, CHOC recently enrolled its first patient in a multi-center clinical study for the treatment of relapsed or refractory acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) with investigational immunotherapy.

“CHOC has studied whole genome sequencing for several years, and our team recognizes its value to clinical decision making. Now, with the availability of the next generation of molecular diagnostics, we are excited by the acceleration of knowledge that this system will provide and are honored to be a founding member of such an important initiative,” says Dr. Sender.

20140916_2770 Three major drivers of the Cancer Moonshot 2020 Pediatrics Consortium are:

  1. The recognition that cancer is caused by any one of a multiple number of genetic mutations, with thousands of molecular alterations presenting within each pediatric cancer patient. Consortium members and their patients will benefit from the most comprehensive molecular diagnosis in the market today.
  2. The significant fragmentation across the healthcare ecosystem. More specifically, pharmaceutical drug development often occurs in silos with limited ability to share clinical information. Consortium members recognize that collaboration across medical and scientific communities will help remove barriers to accelerated progress in the war on pediatric cancer.
  3. The lack of a comprehensive data sharing system, including participation by pharmaceutical companies, for individual children cancer centers. Consortium members will have access to Cancer Moonshot 2020’s national, robust and scaled cloud infrastructure enabling the ability to share data in real time and provide access to breakthrough knowledge.

In addition to CHOC, founding members of the Cancer Moonshot 2020 Pediatrics Consortium are:

  • Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital
  • Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta
  • Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC
  • Duke Department of Pediatrics at Duke University School of Medicine
  • Floating Hospital for Children at Tufts Medical Center
  • Huntsman Cancer Institute at the University of Utah and Intermountain Primary Children’s Hospital
  • Phoenix Children’s Hospital
  • Sanford Health

Celebrate National Cancer Survivors Day

In honor of National Cancer Survivors Day on June 7, check out this video where patients and staff at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s groove to Lady Antebellum’s “Compass” and show how they let their hearts be their compasses.

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Carter was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer but is now cancer free thanks to CHOC.

carterKara Kipp has been a member of the Glass Slipper Guild for the past nine years. She and her husband Matt are the proud parents of three amazing boys, Bennett, Carter and Davis.

On April 17, 2009 their son Carter, seemingly healthy 22-month old was diagnosed with a rare form of liver cancer called hepatoblastoma. Less than 48 hours after being diagnosed, Carter was checked into CHOC Children’s and the oncology floor became their reality. Carter’s road map of action entailed four rounds of chemotherapy, then resection surgery and liver transplant, followed by two more rounds of chemotherapy. Carter did remarkably well from his transplant and after four weeks of recovery, went into CHOC for his final two rounds of chemo. Carter is now having follow-up scans and blood work done, and everything looks great for Carter. Carter has been cancer-free for four years.

The nurses and doctors at CHOC became the Kipps extended family, and Carter still considers them his closest friends. Not having an opportunity to interact with other kids his age, he thinks it’s perfectly normal to have so many doctors and nurses as his buddies.

The Kipp Family is forever grateful for CHOC and their leadership in making their son cancer-free.

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A Bright Future: Amy’s and Emily’s story

I’m more than half way through my 50-week CHOC gratitude tour, and I just met two others who want to join me in thanking the hospital for our bright futures: Meet Amy and Emily.

Sisters Amy and Emily believe they IMAGE_2have two birthdays: the days they were born, and the days they were diagnosed with cancer before beginning treatment at CHOC Children’s.

Each day is met with equal celebration. Amy and Emily, ages 29 and 18, see the anniversary or their diagnosis – their cancerversary – as the day they began the long road toward health.

“We think that’s the day of them starting to get better,” says their mother, Denise Justiniano. “We made that day a good memory. We eat dinner together as a family and make a fun time out of it.”

Both women received treatment as children at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC. Amy spent six months in the hospital after being diagnosed with lymphoma in 2001. Diagnosed with leukemia in 2008, Emily still receives treatment at CHOC’s outpatient infusion clinic.

And today both women are moving forward: Emily graduated from high school last June and is now in her second semester at college. About seven months ago, Amy gave birth to her second daughter.

“The nurses and doctors at CHOC are amazing,” Amy says. “Not only do they offer the best medical care, but they are empathetic and caring, and offer emotional support in a way that you would expect only a friend to. If it weren’t for CHOC, I wouldn’t be here today. They made a huge difference in my life and helped me become the person that I am today.”

Watching two children battle cancer was heart-wrenching, but Denise credits CHOC staff and fellow families and patients with helping to ease the experience.

“When we first arrived at CHOC with Amy, everyone came out of their room as we were coming down the hall,” she says. “They’re were talking to us, patting us on the back. It was like a warm hug.”

And their time at CHOC made an impression on more than Amy’s and Emily’s health: Amy is a nurse at a local hospital, and Emily is pursuing a career as a nurse practitioner.

“For us, it was the nurses who made CHOC home for us and made it manageable and joked with us,” Denise says.

And CHOC’s impression has extended further into the Justiniano family: Inspired by the CHOC child life staff who helped her sisters cope with hospitalization, a third daughter, Sarah, volunteers at CHOC and is pursuing a career in the child life department.


5 Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Rare Diseases

5_things_rare_diseasesImagine waiting for years to learn what is ailing your sick child, only to receive a diagnosis that you’ve never heard of. That’s often the plight of a parent of a child with a rare disease.

CHOC Children’s works to diagnose, treat and support patients and families with rare conditions. Here are some facts on rare diseases:

  •  In the United States, a condition is considered “rare” it affects fewer than 200,000 persons.
  • If all people with rare diseases lived in one country, it would be the world’s third most populous country.
  • Approximately 50 percent of patients affected by rare diseases are children and 30 percent of these children will not live to see their fifth birthday.
  • 95 percent of rare diseases have no Food and Drug Administration-approved drug treatment.
  • Many pediatric cancers make the list of rare diseases.

But despite these statistics, patients with rare diseases and their families are most certainly not alone – and there is hope.

In addition to finding support from CHOC, they can also lean on The Global Genes Project, an advocacy organization based in Aliso Viejo. The group helps parents and patients through their diagnostic odyssey and supports them through their rare disease treatment.

The best defense against the progression of rare disease is knowledge, support and medical facilities with a strong eye towards innovative technologies and treatments.

Learn more about The Global Gene Project, and find resources and more information about rare diseases.

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Kids and Cancer

Girl with tongue out

“The pediatric cancer patient is never an individual, but is looked at in the context of the family,” says Dr. Sender, explaining the need for a family-centered treatment approach with young cancer patients. “Kids have siblings. They have parents. We try to understand that patient as a child, or teen, or young adult, but we also understand how they fit into  their family and the family dynamics. In adult medicine, the family’s wishes are often secondary to the patient’s wishes. In pediatrics, they can be equal or overshadowed. A three-year-old can’t define what they want to do but with teens, we try to find the balance between the patient’s and the parent’s wishes.”

Pediatric cancer patients are classified in one of three major groups: young children, tweens/early teens and teens/young adults, says Dr. Sender. Developmental issues and stages of the child’s growth, including in utero before birth, are  considered. “We think of adult cancers as the consequences of living your life. In childhood, it really is more about developmentally what is going on. Sometimes the cause is unknown,” says Dr. Sender.

Children with cancer are not just considered “little adults” in terms of care. “We want them to still be children,” says Dr. Sender. “We make sure that we provide an environment that is nurturing and comforting to the family. This is very stressful for these families. We are always thinking of that. We have a team-centered approach. We have oncologists, social workers, psychologists, child life experts and others all working to provide the young patient with as normal of a life as possible while they are being treated. CHOC is truly committed. It’s our passion. We want to deliver the most advanced treatment we can.”

Adolescents and young adults into their late 30s who are being treated for cancer face a wide range of issues that need to be considered to help them cope. These issues include fertility preservation, the development of body image, career and education considerations, and dealing with an increased dependence on parents at a time when many in this age group strive to be more independent.


  • The incidence of childhood cancers (up to age 15) that are diagnosed as leukemia: 1/3
  • The number of pediatric cancer cases (up to age 15) diagnosed annually in the U.S.: 14,000

View the full feature on Kids and Cancer

Dr. Leonard Sender
Dr. Leonard S. Sender
CHOC Cancer Specialist


Dr. Sender is the medical director at the Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s and director of clinical  operations and program development at the Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center at UC Irvine Medical Center.  He also is a professor of medicine at UC Irvine. Dr. Sender completed his internship and residency in pediatrics  at UC Irvine Medical Center and had a fellowship in pediatric hematology/oncology at Children’s Hospital in  Los Angeles. Dr. Sender has twice been named a “Top Doctor” by U.S. News & World Report. He serves as board chairman of the “Stupid Cancer” Foundation and is a founding member and chairman of SeventyK.org, an adolescent cancer advocacy organization.

Dr. Sender’s philosophy of care: “I take a patient-centric approach and treat young patients as people, while understanding the context in which they get cancer. My goals are to cure the cancer and achieve a meaningful survivorship.”

Medical school at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg, South Africa

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

More about Dr. Sender | More about The Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC Children’s

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on January 28, 2014 and was written by Amy Bentley.

Sun Smarts: Kids, Sunscreen and Melanoma

This article was featured in the Orange County Register on August 19, 2013 and was written by Shaleek Wilson.

View the full feature



Orange County is one of the sunniest places in California, with hundreds of sun days per year. With that comes the need for protection. Improper protection can increase risk for skin cancer. “People get skin cancers, the most serious being melanoma, because we get too much exposure to the sunlight,” says Dr. Sender. To ward off harmful UVA and UVB rays, use sunscreen. “Most people don’t put enough on,” explains Dr. Sender. “We recommend about an ounce for each area of exposed skin, i.e. leg or arm.”


SPF stands for Sun Protection Factor. It should be applied liberally and more often than most people think, he explains. “Sunscreen should be put on 30 minutes before you go out in the sun,” says Dr. Sender. So, what’s the magic number? 15? 50? 100? “Never go in the sun with less than SPF 30,” he says. “Use the broad-spectrum variety and reapply every two hours.”


Melanoma accounts for 4% of all skin cancers. Malignant (life-threatening) melanoma starts in cells that produce pigment (color) in skin. It usually begins as a mole that turns cancerous. People with all skin types may be affected, but those who are fair-skinned and burn easily are at a higher risk, says Dr. Sender.


Although melanoma is still rare in kids, parents should make checking for moles part of their monthly routine. Look for Asymmetry, Border, Color and Diameter. “Get to know your child’s skin; if all the moles look the same and one is different, that’s the one you need to worry about,” Dr. Sender says. “It should never be bigger than a pencil eraser.”

With early detection, melanoma is curable, so be safe and use common sense in the sun:

  • Apply sunscreen, even on infants 6 months and older
  • Wear wide-brimmed hats
  • Protect your eyes; wear sunglasses


  • Cases of skin cancer in the U.S. every year: 1.3 Million
  • Percentage of sun rays blocked when SPF 30 is applied: 90%
  • Time of day when the sun is the strongest: 10am – 4pm


CHOC Pediatric Cancer Specialist
Dr. Leonard Sender
CHOC Pediatric
Cancer Specialist


Dr. Sender is the Medical Director of Hyundai Cancer Institute at CHOC’s Children’s as well as CHOC Children’s Specialists Division chief of Oncology; and Medical Director of Clinical Oncology Services at UC Irvine Medical Center’s Chao Family Comprehensive Cancer Center. He completed his fellowship in Pediatric Hematology/Oncology including Hematopoietic Progenitor Cell Transplantation.

University of Witwatersrand School of Medicine, South Africa

Pediatric Hematology/Oncology

More about Dr. Sender


Bailey is our champion, that’s for sure.

Bailey Spoonhower, 9, was treated at CHOC for, and beat, a rare type of cancer called rhabdomyosarcoma. He had some advice for kids that feel nervous about coming to the hospital.

Children’s Miracle Network and Walmart have named Bailey the Champion for California. To read more about our efforts with Children’s Miracle Network, click here.