Seamless primary and specialty care: Lea’s story

For parents of children who need specialty care on top of their typical visits with pediatricians, CHOC’s growing Primary Care Network offers seamless integration with more than 30 specialty areas represented by CHOC’s mighty brigade of pediatric specialists.

Lea, age 4, has seen a CHOC specialist since before she was born. Lea was diagnosed in utero with hydronephrosis – a treatable condition in which urine gets trapped in the kidney and drains slower than it should into the bladder. A routine ultrasound flagged fluid in Lea’s kidney, and her mom was referred to CHOC’s urology program for a fetal consultation.

Dee Dee, Lea’s mom and a longtime CHOC employee, knew her daughter was in good hands.

“The urologist explained everything in a way that was easy to understand,” Dee Dee recalls. “I was comforted knowing that this condition was common, my daughter would be OK, and that they would continue to monitor her and manage the condition after she was born.”

Dee Dee chose to deliver at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange for its proximity to CHOC. Doctors weren’t concerned that Lea’s hydronephrosis would cause her any immediate harm, but it gave the first-time mom peace of mind knowing that CHOC was right across the street.

Specialty care with CHOC’s urology program

Lea returned to CHOC’s urology program after she was born for additional testing and monitoring.

baby ultrasound
When she was 1 month old, Lea returned to CHOC for an ultrasound.

Urologists confirmed the prenatal diagnosis and also diagnosed Lea with vesicoureteral reflux or VUR, where urine flows backward. Lea’s VUR is due to wide ureters – tubes located between the bladder and kidney, and essential to proper urine flow – and valves that are too small to efficiently direct urine flow.

Some children with VUR grow out of it without the need for medical intervention. This is less common in children with higher grade openings between the kidney and bladder, as is Lea’s case. Doctors explained to Dee Dee and her husband Pat that over time, VUR can lead to infections in the kidneys. Eventually, a high number of these possible infections can lead to kidney damage.

After receiving Lea’s diagnoses, Dee Dee and Pat switched their daughter’s pediatrician to one in CHOC’s Primary Care Network.

“We realized that if we were going to need specialty care for our daughter, we wanted a pediatrician in the CHOC network to fit into that puzzle,” Dee Dee says. “CHOC is the best partner in caring for our child.”

MRI prep
At age 1, Lea underwent an MRI in preparation for her Deflux injection. Before her MRI, she played with her dad.

Lea has remained under the care of CHOC urologists, who continue to monitor her VUR. This has included two voiding cystourethrograms (VCUG). With this test, doctors insert a catheter and dye to fill Lea’s bladder, then take X-rays of fluid flowing in real time. Tests of any kind can be stressful for young kids, so child life specialists from CHOC’s Cherese Mari Laulhere Child Life Department have been present for each of these tests with Lea. Child life specialists are experts in normalizing the hospital environment for kids, but by being an extra source of comfort, they often put parents at ease, too.

“Child life has been amazing with Lea,” Dee Dee recalls. “During one VCUG, the child life specialist asked about Lea’s favorite song. At the time, it was “Wheels on the Bus” so that’s what she sang with Lea. I joined in the song, and before I knew it, every single clinician in the room was signing along to “Wheels on the Bus.” I remember thinking that even though the radiologist was so smart and so focused on performing the test, he was not above singing this song. He knew that is what my daughter needed in that moment to feel comfortable.”

Shortly after Lea’s first birthday, she underwent a procedure called a Deflux injection, where, under anesthesia, doctors injected a protein or ureter material to make the wall of Lea’s ureters thicker, hoping to close the gap and ensure proper urine flow, helping to continue avoiding UTIs.

Lea’s care team – including her parents – remain on high alert for a urinary tract infection or UTI, as a high number of these can contribute to kidney damage. Lea took preventive antibiotics until she was potty trained to help avoid UTIs.

age 3 ultrasound
Lea and her mom Dee Dee take a selfie during a recent visit to CHOC for an ultrasound

Lea sees her urologist Dr. Heidi Stephany a couple times per year, and they’re able to seamlessly communicate with Lea’s CHOC pediatrician, Dr. Katherine Williamson.

Primary care network

As part of CHOC’s growing health system, pediatricians in CHOC’s Primary Care Network not only have full access to any medical records from their patients’ specialty care visits, they can also see notes from recent visits to other providers, meaning they have the latest information on their patients’ medical history.

This coordination was especially beneficial for Lea and her parents on a recent weekend when Lea had a suspected UTI. Although common in children, with Lea’s VUR, potential UTIs are cause for concern.

Thanks to Saturday morning hours at Lea’s pediatrician’s office, they were able to get a last-minute appointment.

“With Lea’s condition being relatively rare, I’m used to explaining it to people,” Dee Dee says. “But when we saw Dr. Ball, he already knew her medical history and was very familiar with her condition. We typically see Dr. Williamson in that office, and she is well-versed in Lea’s health, but seeing Dr. Ball was seamless. It was such a relief not to have to explain anything to a new-to-us provider.”

A urine sample is a routine and necessary part of testing for UTI. These can be hard for children and parents alike, but Dee Dee felt grateful that Dr. Ball and his staff were patient with Lea.

“The whole staff was really patient with us, even though we were the last appointment of the day. They just kept coming in and checking on us to see how we were doing,” Dee Dee says. “The office also felt very safe during COVID-19; everyone was masked, and everything was clean.”

Ultimately, Dee Dee and Lea headed home with instructions to drink more fluids to help Lea produce a urine sample, and a plan to head to CHOC’s urgent care in Orange when Lea was ready. During this time, Dee Dee called CHOC’s urology team to confirm their course of action.

“I called the urologist on call, and even though it wasn’t Dr. Stephany, who we typically see and who is most familiar with Lea, the doctor who called us back had already looked at Lea’s chart and read Dr. Ball’s notes from that morning,” Dee Dee says. “He reassured us we were doing the right thing and validated my choice to bring her to CHOC’s urgent care.”

Lea continued drinking fluids to help produce a urine sample. When Dee Dee and Lea got to CHOC’s urgent care, they saw Dr. Vivi Tran, a CHOC pediatrician. Dr. Tran likewise could see Lea’s complete medical history and Dr. Ball’s notes from that morning, as well.

“I didn’t need to explain a thing,” Dee Dee recalls. “Dr. Tran was already up to speed, and that was such a weight off my shoulders.”

CHOC pediatricians know kids, and they know that rushing a child – especially to do something like produce a urine sample – will often have the opposite effect. Dr. Tran checked in with Dee Dee and Lea periodically, and even brought Lea an apple juice to help her produce a urine sample.

“CHOC made this as stress-free as possible for Lea and me. We were there for three hours trying to get Lea to produce a urine sample, and never once did I feel rushed,” Dee Dee recalls.

Lea’s UTI test was ultimately negative, and she had a regularly scheduled appointment with her urologist the next week.

birthday party
Lea recently celebrated her 4th birthday.

“The seamless coordination of care between Lea’s pediatrician’s office, her specialist and urgent care was unmatched. We could never find that anywhere else. I didn’t have to bring anyone up to speed on what was happening or my daughter’s medical history. They had access to her records and the latest information on her case,” Dee Dee says of her daughter’s experience. “I also know our positive experience wasn’t just because I’m a CHOC employee; everyone receives a high level of care.”

Mom’s perspective

Since joining CHOC’s marketing department in 2013, Dee Dee has had a firsthand look at CHOC’s patient- and family-centered care and has worked closely with a number of CHOC specialists. This recent experience with her daughter gave her a greater understanding of and appreciation for CHOC’s system of care.

“We write about various conditions every day and provide education on CHOC’s coordinated system of care. I already knew these things were true because of my job, but then I experienced it myself as a mom and I truly understood how beneficial these things are,” Dee Dee says. “It seems like the scariest thing in the world, to have a child who needs CHOC’s care, but it’s actually the most comforting thing.”

When the cardiologist becomes the patient — and parent

Dr. Anthony Chang had been a physician for 40 years — and had cared for thousands of medically complex children with fragile hearts — when his own child needed heart surgery. Around the same time, he became a heart surgery patient himself. Experiencing healthcare from these new perspectives cemented the physician leader’s view on the importance of physicians spending quality time with patients.

Doctor becomes the parent

Dr. Chang is a pediatric cardiologist, chief intelligence and innovation officer at CHOC, and medical director of the Sharon Disney Lund Medical Intelligence and Innovation (MI3) Institute at CHOC.

Dr. Chang is a pediatric cardiologist, chief intelligence and innovation officer at CHOC, and medical director of the Sharon Disney Lund Medical Intelligence and Innovation (MI3) Institute at CHOC.

Several years ago, he was caring for a 2-day-old baby girl named Emma who had been transferred to CHOC’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). He immediately ordered an echocardiogram, a non-invasive procedure used to assess the heart’s structure and function.

“I remember doing her echocardiogram and thinking this is one of the most complicated hearts I had seen in a while,” Chang says.

Emma was diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. She saw Dr. Chang around 50 times over the next two years, while she lived with a foster family and waited to be adopted.

Around age 2, she was admitted to CHOC Hospital in Orange because she was struggling to breathe.

“I looked down at her, and even though it was hard for her to breathe, she gave me the biggest smile and my heart melted,” Dr. Chang says. “I was dismayed to find out her last adoption attempt was not successful. I told her foster mom the next attempt would be successful – because it would be me.”

Dr. Chang learned that Emma had a younger biological sister who was also up for adoption. Wanting to keep them together and grow his family, he adopted her younger sister, Olivia, as well.

Starting his own family was a milestone Dr. Chang wasn’t sure was in the cards for him.

“I had reconciled to the fact that my mission in life was to help children all over the world, and maybe I wouldn’t be blessed with my own child. I spend all day with kids; maybe I wouldn’t have my own. And that was OK,” Dr. Chang says.

Once Dr. Chang became Emma’s foster dad, a step toward formally adopting her, he resigned as her cardiologist. Her care transitioned to Dr. Michael Recto, another pediatric cardiologist at CHOC.

At CHOC, parents are considered part of the care team – whether they are trained doctors or not. CHOC practices patient- and family-centered care, a partnership between staff and families.  CHOC encourages all parents to be active members of the care team by asking questions, sharing knowledge and making decisions.

“Emma is in good hands with Dr. Recto,” Chang says. “Her entire team at CHOC has been really great at letting me have input as a clinical expert, but also letting me just be a dad when I wanted to be.”

Throughout the next few years following Emma’s adoption, she spent a lot of time at CHOC – as a patient for check-ups at the cardiology clinic, and as a daughter tagging along to her dad’s office.

“Whenever she came to the CHOC clinic, she felt at home,” Chang says.

By the time Emma was 3, her heart needed more surgery.

The doctor becomes the patient

Just as Emma was back on her feet, Dr. Chang started feeling sick. He was at his home when he noticed that he felt short of breath when lying down, but not standing. Dr. Chang went into diagnostic mode, trying to find a reason for his symptoms.

After ruling out a heart attack, the cardiologist still knew that something serious was happening.

“I better get myself to the hospital,” he told himself, and took a ride-sharing service to his nearest emergency room.

Doctors ordered a CT-scan and an echocardiogram to get better imaging of his chest and heart. Dr. Chang was diagnosed with acute rupture of the mitral valve. This, the doctors said, was likely a congenital weakness that had, over time, weakened until it finally ruptured. Dr. Chang was given medication to stabilize his heart, and then he was transported to another facility for additional testing and surgery to repair the ruptured valve.

As a loving father, he was eager to recover quickly and get home to his family. As a clinician passionate about artificial intelligence in medicine, he was eager to get back to work.

“I stepped up my rehab schedule. My nurses and physical therapists believed in me. While other patients were taking afternoon naps, I would take afternoon laps around the hallways,” Dr. Chang says.

The nurses who supported Dr. Chang’s recovery served as a reminder of how big a role nurses play in patient care and patient experience.

“Having been a physician for almost 40 years, I already had a deep appreciation for everything nurses do day in and day out to care for patients and support physicians,” Chang says. “But becoming a patient myself allowed me to see that from a different perspective.”

Becoming a patient also reminded Dr. Chang of the importance of physicians spending quality time with their patients. Dr. Chang was impressed by how the renowned surgeon who treated him spent so much time connecting with him

“Shake the parents’ hands, touch someone’s shoulder as you introduce yourself and find out who everyone in the room is. They are in that room because they are important to your patient,” Dr. Chang says. “Even though I’m their doctor, it’s their space, not mine. Doctors need to be sensitive to that.”

Father and daughter back on their feet

Today, Emma is “doing very well” says her dad — and former cardiologist — Dr. Chang.

Dr Chang and Emma
Dr. Chang and Emma

Dr. Chang is back at work after recovering from his own heart surgery, with the renewed perspective of having been a patient — and parent of a heart patient.

“Unless you see something from another domain or perspective, you won’t have the full picture,” Dr. Chang says. “We’re all going to be patients eventually.”

A day in the life of: CHOC’s director of safety, security and emergency management

As CHOC’s director of safety, security and emergency management, Calvin Fakkema is also the CHOC’s safety officer. His responsibilities include leadership over CHOC’s safety program, security department, parking and valet departments, workplace violence program, emergency management program, and business continuity program.

CHOC’s director of safety, security and emergency management
Calvin Fakkema, CHOC’s director of safety, security and emergency management

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Calvin has also served as a Co-Incident Commander — alongside CHOC’s chief nursing officer — in CHOC’s COVID-19 Command Center. Activated in March 2020, the command center has been tasked with overseeing planning, response, mitigation and business continuity amid the pandemic. Through its virtual database that tracks various activities, the command center has logged more than 5,000 entries of decisions, actions, documents, algorithms and preparedness efforts throughout the health system thus far in the pandemic.

Follow along for a day in the life of Calvin, amid the COVID-19 pandemic

2 a.m. — My cellphone rings, and I open one eye trying to see who from the hospital may be calling. It is one of my security staff members, calling to notify me of something going on and seek direction. I calmly give him directions, then hang up and call a few other hospital staff for updates. Everyone involved follows policy and procedure, and I get a call back a few minutes later letting me know that all is well. No matter the day or time, the safety of our patients, families, clinicians and staff is always on my mind.

6 a.m. — My daughter shows up next to my bed to warmly greet me with a, “Good morning, Daddy.” I slowly open my eyes and greet her with a hug and a “Good morning,” back. As I get myself ready for the day, I make sure both kids are all settled in with breakfast. I quickly glance at my schedule for the day and check emails and text messages for anything that needs an urgent response. I grab my coffee as I head out the door and kiss my beautiful wife goodbye with a whisper to have a great day.

Calvin and family
My family and me.

7 a.m. — I arrive at work and greet my valet staff on the front driveway and see how they are doing and how operations are running this morning. Our valet staff members are often the first person that patients and families see when they come to our main hospital campus, and it’s important to me that they feel appreciated for all they do, and that they strive to make a positive first impression. I then make my way down to my office to get situated for the day. I take another look at my emails and listen to any voicemails that have come through overnight. I take my last sip of my coffee as I continue to follow up with team members who have questions or need support.

7:30 a.m. — First touch base of the day with Harving Parra, CHOC’s safety and workplace violence program manager. Harving’s job is to manage the physical safety aspects of our hospitals as well as to ensure that our staff have a safe work environment. Harving then heads off to the daily safety briefing where representatives from all areas of the hospital campus brief one another on updates from the past 24 hours and any anticipation of potential safety issues to arise in the coming 24 hours. Harving will keep me in the loop with anything discussed in this safety huddle. He is also part of our command center team, so he has been a huge support throughout the pandemic.

8 a.m. — I prepare briefing notes ahead of my daily meeting with the other members of CHOC’s COVID-19 Command Center team. I want to be sure to keep them in the loop on my team’s work as part of CHOC’s overall ongoing response to COVID. I do this with Chris Riccardi, CHOC’s business continuity manager. Chris has been actively involved in our COVID response, which like a lot of our command center team, has involved a lot of work on top of our typical responsibilities.

8:30 a.m. — Every morning at this time, I meet with our command center team, comprised of physicians, infection prevention specialists, nurse managers, CHOC’s chief nursing officer, CHOC’s chief government relations officer, and representatives from purchasing, business continuity and emergency management. We go through COVID-19 updates and plans. We review yesterday’s case numbers; the status of any plans for our hospitals, clinics and Outdoor Evaluation Centers; get updates from the infection prevention team; discuss logistics including our levels of personal protective equipment (PPE); hear from our government relations team on pending legislation or support; discuss local updates within the county and region; go over current support for our patients, staff and community; touch base on telehealth operations and making these visits more accessible to families, and any other emergency management matters at hand.

9:30 a.m. — It’s time for a meeting with our logistics chief and infection prevention leaders to review our current supply of PPE. While CHOC is not exempt from the global shortage of PPE prompted by the COVID-19 crisis, we are aggressively managing our supply chain; working with existing and new manufacturers and vendors to augment our supply; and following expert guidelines for equipment use. We are confident that we have ample PPE to protect our physicians and staff and provide the highest quality and safest care to our patients. We have been grateful for the support of our community and their generous PPE donations as well.

10:30 a.m. — I head back to my office for an outfit change, of all things. I don my Grinch costume and join a safe holiday celebration called Deck the Halls planned by the CHOC Foundation, in an effort to spread joy to our patients and staff. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, many typical holiday celebrations at the hospital were canceled or reimagined. We wanted to keep the magic of the holiday season alive and well for our patients and families, so the event included delivering goody bags to patient rooms, and
broadcasting a virtual celebration from Seacrest Studios and livestreaming all the festive décor throughout the hospital.

During typical years, I participate in holiday celebration planning efforts to ensure that all decorations are appropriate and safe for the hospital environment. Each year this always brings the tough part of my job as we have a standard of care and safety we need to ensure, which means someone must be the “Grinch” and say no to certain ideas or décor. To bring a spark of joy during a tough couple of months, I thought it was only appropriate to dress up as the Grinch and participate in some fun activities in our Seacrest Studios.

The Grinch costume
Donning my Grinch costume before the virtual holiday celebration.

Noon — Back to the office to change back into work mode after a fun adventure as the Grinch. Clean up, check my emails and text messages and reply to anything urgent, and quickly eat some lunch.

12:30 p.m. — I have a quick update call with the Orange Police Department’s Chief of Police to touch base on how things in the community are going and to see how CHOC is holding up through the pandemic. We have built a relationship with our local law enforcement officers and fire department, as we all play a part in keeping our community safe and healthy. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we would bring police vehicles and fire trucks to the front driveway of our hospital in Orange for patients and their siblings to explore. It was always so rewarding to see the smiles it would bring to the children’s faces, and I know the law enforcement officers and firefighters enjoyed it as well. I’m looking forward to organizing more of those visits in the future, after the pandemic is over and it is safe to do so.

1 p.m. — I hop on another COVID-related phone call, this one with other hospitals in the county and Orange County Emergency Medical Services. We receive county and local updates, followed by a state update. Each hospital representative also shares a status update. As part of the Healthcare Coalition, it is important to always continue open communications on what is going on around the county, assist those in need, and keep our continued preparedness levels high. Before the COVID-19 pandemic, we met monthly in person. It gave us the opportunity to meet and see one other, catch up, and continue working through planning efforts and preparing for potential scenarios. Now that we are in the middle of a pandemic, the objectives of these calls are tailored to COVID, and it has been very beneficial for everyone to understand what is happening locally and at the state level.

2 p.m. — Time to review the daily documentation sent to the state government and federal government. Our command center utilizes a system to track data every day from key areas within our health system to submit to the state and federal COVID-19 response dashboards. There are many people involved in this effort, in order to ensure the data is captured, accurate and safe-guarded. During the week, Leeza Guardado, CHOC’s business continuity coordinator, holds down the fort for our command center documentation. On weekends, managers from my team and I rotate responsibilities for documentation and submission, to ensure that all weekend data is covered. This documentation covers approximately 80 questions we need to answer daily. We review any outstanding items that may need to be updated for the next morning, which leads into many emails sent out and reviewed for follow-up.

3 p.m. — I participate in a few internal virtual meetings regarding updates on projects and programs, while going through the command center log on the side for any new updates.

Calvin training
Pre-COVID, at a professional development conference with other emergency preparedness professionals.

4 p.m. — Before I head home for the day, I carve out some time to work on upcoming webinars, presentations and other projects in the works. Throughout COVID-19, my team and I have developed a number of presentations on not only lessons learned during COVID-19 in terms of proper emergency management and business continuity while dealing with the pandemic, but also best practices on other emergencies, mass casualty response, emerging infectious diseases, and security-related presentations and podcasts. CHOC is fortunate to have experts in the field of emergency management, safety and security to provide these types of education opportunities to the community, colleges, government officials and other healthcare personnel and executives.

5 p.m. — Time to wrap up my day in the office with a few last-minute emails and voicemails. As I get home, my kids are waiting patiently, looking out the window, waiting for me. That is the part of the day that I look forward to the most, getting my daily hugs and updates on what they were up to all day. We wind down by eating dinner together, doing homework, playing board games, building Legos, and spending quality family time together.

The most common questions for a pediatric surgeon

Many people are fascinated by medicine, and kids especially have a lot of questions for their doctors. We spoke to Dr. Peter Yu, a pediatric general and thoracic surgeon at CHOC, about the most common questions he gets as a pediatric surgeon. You can also follow along for a day in the life of Dr. Yu here.

What is a pediatric surgeon?

A pediatric surgeon operates on kids. We operate on kids from newborn – even premature babies – all the way up to teenagers and young adults. We operate all over the body, but mostly in the abdomen and the chest. We do everything from removing lumps and bumps on the skin, to hernias, to minimally-invasive surgery, to major open surgery and everything in between.

How many hours do you sleep the night before a big surgery? Does feeling tired affect your ability to operate?

I try to get a good night’s sleep every night. I aim for getting seven to eight hours per night. That number goes down when I’m on call. Surgeons rotate call coverage overnight, so there is always a pediatric surgeon on campus at all times. During those nights, I’m up and I’m busy.

Feeling tired doesn’t really affect my ability to operate. We are well-trained to operate under all conditions. Surgeons feel good even if they’re a little tired. Plus, being in the operating room is exciting and enjoyable for surgeons so we are wide awake and ready to go during every operation.

What do surgeons eat for breakfast on the morning of a big operation?

I often don’t eat breakfast. My body is pretty used to not eating until lunchtime. That said, from time to time there are tater tots in the physician dining room – they are really good, and something that I enjoy every once in a while.

How many years did you have to go to school in order to become a pediatric surgeon?

Four years of undergraduate studies, four years of medical school, and then an additional 10 years of training after that. In total, 14 years after college. In the 10 years of training, I did a general surgery residency for seven years, a surgical critical care fellowship for one year, and then a pediatric surgery fellowship for two years.

How many operations have you done?

This is a hard question to answer. If you consider all the operations I did during my training plus the operations I’ve done here at CHOC, I’ve probably done about 4,000 operations.

How many hours was your longest operation?

Pediatric surgeons do a lot of different surgeries. Some procedures are quick, lasting a matter of minutes. Others are very complex and last for hours. The longest operation I’ve done was about seven or eight hours long. In that operation, I had to fix a congenital problem with the diaphragm, the intestine and the esophagus.

During the operation do you ever have to leave the operating room?

The vast majority of the time, we do not leave the operating room during procedures to use the restroom, eat or take any breaks. The ability to withstand long periods of time in the operating room comes with our years of surgical training. We are used to being in the operating room for many hours at a time. When we are operating, we feel very focused. We are able to tune out everything else besides the procedure at hand. At the end of an operation, that is when we will realize we feel hungry or tired. Until the surgery is over, we are in the zone.

Do you ever feel nervous or scared in the operating room?

The vast majority of the time, no – because we’ve had so many years of training, so we feel well-prepared for all situations. However, there are times when we do feel nervous or anxious. Sometimes, I think a little anxiety before an operation is actually a good thing. It keeps us sharp and focused. Our years of training allows us to control our emotions and remember to take care of the patient.

Did you always know you wanted to be a surgeon?

I always knew I wanted to be a doctor because my older brother who I really looked up to became a doctor. When I started medical school, I thought I definitely did not want to be a surgeon. That was because surgeons appeared to be not nice people on TV shows. I also thought being in the operating room would be tedious. The reality for me, was that after I started my surgical rotation as a medical student, I found that surgery was really exciting, and that surgeons were some of the most kind, dedicated, hard-working people I had ever met. Those things really motivated me to become a surgeon.

What we’re thankful for this year: 2020

Despite the countless challenges brought on by 2020, the physicians, nurses, staff, patients and donors that make CHOC a world-class pediatric healthcare system have retained a sense of gratitude. Several members of the CHOC community share what they are most thankful for this year.

Kim Cripe_CHOC president and CEO

Kim Cripe, CHOC president and CEO

“There are no words to fully express how thankful I am to the physicians, nurses, and staff who have worked so tirelessly and sacrificed so much these past nine months of the pandemic.  I have always been proud of our team and how well we support one another on a daily basis. Yet, our ability to rally in a crisis, particularly as long as this one has been (and will continue to be), has truly left me in awe. I am enormously grateful to everyone at CHOC across all departments, geographies and locations for the way we are not only tackling this challenge together, but also supporting the children and families we serve.” 


Chris Furman, chairman, CHOC board of directors

“I continue to be grateful for serving as chairman of CHOC’s board of directors.   Especially during these challenging times, I am incredibly honored to help CHOC’s physicians, staff, volunteers and donors protect the health and well-being of children in Orange County and beyond.” 


Dr. Jasjit Singh, pediatric infectious disease specialist

“Despite all the challenges and changes this year has presented, I feel grateful to be part of the CHOC community. At the beginning of this experience, when there were still so many unknowns, I saw nurses, doctors and all the staff put aside their own fears and rise to the challenge in order to take care of their patients. And I have been watching them continue to do that every day since. It has been inspiring. I am grateful to my colleagues, and their commitment to implementing the latest guidelines and regulations to serve our patients and their families, and for their much-needed detective work on complicated cases. I’m grateful for CHOC parents and my patients – for sharing their strength, resilience, humor and hope with us every day. And last but not least, I owe gratitude for my wonderful family & the fact that we are in a place that allows us to serve our community.”

Dr. Terrence Sanger, chief scientist at CHOC Children's

Dr. Terence Sanger, vice president for research and chief scientific officer

“In a year that has been filled with unprecedented challenges, I am thankful for the opportunity to have joined CHOC’s mighty brigade in February 2020 to help the organization continue to go beyond. I am grateful to be working alongside such amazing colleagues who are committed to the mission of elevating the cutting-edge work being conducted at CHOC’s Research Institute.” 

CHOC Hospital_Outpatient evaluation center

Kelly Navarro, RN, BSN, CPN, CHOC outdoor evaluation center 

“After working at CHOC for 10 years, I am so grateful to have had the opportunity to serve CHOC patients and families in a new way this year at our outdoor evaluation center. CHOC quickly established these outdoor, drive-through facilities at the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic to offer our patients a safe and convenient way to be evaluated by a pediatric medical provider, receive treatment when necessary, and undergo COVID-19 testing. The center gives us the ability to ensure continuity of care for patients having surgery, as well as those needing sleep studies and many other necessary procedures. I am grateful for the privilege of serving as a constant for our patients and their families: that they can always count on CHOC for safe, high-quality and convenient care.”

Allison, age 12, CHOC patient

Dr. Mike Weiss

Dr. Michael Weiss, vice president of population health

“At a time in our lives when we have never felt more distant from our friends, neighbors and loved ones, I’m grateful that CHOC was able to deepen our “connection” with our patients and families and provide high-quality medical care through telehealth technology. This service has proven to be a true lifesaver for many children and families. From primary care to sub-specialty care and mental health to speech therapy, CHOC has provided over 55,000 telehealth visits since mid-March. Our patient satisfaction scores have remained over 90% and the subjective feedback we receive is overwhelmingly positive. In addition, this technology has allowed us to support a broader community of patients and families as well as our Orange County schools by providing COVID-19 support and education when and where it is most needed. Connecting is always important, but it has never meant more to our community, and to us, than it does now!”

Grace Magedman

Grace Magedman, executive director of pharmacy

I am very proud of and extremely grateful for everyone involved in launching our prescription delivery service during the state’s spring lockdown. The flexibility, compassion and innovation demonstrated by staff across multiple departments and by our supporters, Hyundai Motor America and Russell Westbrook Hyundai of Anaheim, resulted in a valued resource that helped safeguard the community we serve, especially the most medically fragile members. 


Dr. Christopher Min, pediatric psychologist

“Despite the challenges that 2020 has brought, I find myself even more thankful than years past. I am so very thankful for my wife and two little girls, as well as the little furball we recently welcomed into our family. I am also grateful for each of my team members who have come together to offer mental health services in a primary care setting; for fighting the front lines against mental illness in children; and for the way they have grown in their hearts of service, all amidst a global pandemic. I am reminded of the strong bonds that I have with trusted partners at CHOC across mental health, primary care, clinical staff, and CHOC at Mission Hospital. And I am most grateful for the privilege of serving the most vulnerable among us, our children.”

Korbin, age 6, CHOC patient

CHOC clinical associate

Ashlynn Graham, clinical associate

After a year of uncertainties and a new normal, it can be hard to find the good in what 2020 has thrown our way. This year and every year, I am blessed with my family and our health. I am grateful that I have had the ability to work at both CHOC Hospital, and CHOC at Mission Hospital. I am also thankful for all the first responders that have continued to give to those in need during these unthinkable times.

Clavis Foundation

Clavis Foundation’s Tusdi Vopat and Stuart McClure. Tusdi is also a member of CHOC Foundation’s Board of Directors

“We are extremely blessed and grateful for many things, including the privilege to work with CHOC. Their tireless commitment and dedication to the health and well-being of our children is what inspires us all to strive and support such a great institution. Never before has CHOC, or anyone, been met with such extreme challenges as the COVID-19 pandemic. Yet, CHOC and its staff continues to put patients first, keeping families and healthcare workers safe, and understanding the increased challenges of mental health during this time. We are honored to be part of this amazing team and look forward to a stronger and brighter future ahead for all of us.”

Colleen Smith CHOC nurse

Colleen Smith, manager of clinical programs, CHOC at Mission Hospital

“As I walked through the CHOC at Mission Hospital doors the morning of Sept. 11th, 2020 I took out my phone to text my hiring manager, still a longtime friend, to say, ’20 years ago today I walked through these doors for the very first time thanks to you.’ I had no idea all those years ago what my nursing career would look like so many years later. I am filled with gratitude every day, not only for the opportunities I have been given but, also for the joy I feel working at CHOC at Mission. Not everyone can continue to say they love what they do 20 years later. I consider that a true blessing! Thank you, CHOC at Mission and the entire CHOC healthcare system,  for always believing in me and growing me into the nurse I am today. I feel honored to be a pediatric nurse in my community”