Research Leads to More Gratitude

As my 50-week gratitude tour for all things CHOC Children’s nears its end, I’d be remiss if I didn’t point out how grateful I am for the research that happens at CHOC.Research

CHOC is committed to clinical research and understanding the mysteries behind childhood diseases. Because of this, CHOC patients have access to current treatment options but also benefit from the latest in research.

Research is occurring every day at CHOC, and new endeavors begin regularly. Just recently, CHOC opened a stem cell production facility that could one day lead to therapies for neurological diseases in children.

The Research Institute at CHOC Children’s operates two Institutional Review Boards (IRBs), which decide whether proposed research is ethical, that participant consent is sufficient, and that safeguards have been established for participants.

It’s so exciting that CHOC is a research hospital. Scientists’ work today will affect patients for years to come. I am grateful that CHOC has an opportunity to help children today and tomorrow.

Surgical Services: Then and Now

Operating Room_lgIt’s been so much fun this past year to reflect on how CHOC has evolved since my first visit in 1964.

And I most certainly cannot forget the changes in surgical services, which CHOC has specialized in since its opening nearly 50 years ago.

CHOC has the latest surgical equipment, technology and techniques, including minimally invasive procedures and robotic surgery methods.

At CHOC’s Tidwell Procedure Center, fully-integrated operating rooms give surgeons full, wireless control of cameras and lights and the ability to view all of the room’s monitors and camera images, patient records and imaging reports on large, flat-screen displays as needed throughout the procedure.

Surgeons can also consult with other surgeons in other operating rooms and our hospital pathologists in real-time using video conferencing to discuss the surgery as it is happening.

Another big change since the hospital’s opening in 1964 has been the addition of child life specialists. These important CHOC staff members work with patients to help ease any fears and worries about a procedure, and to improve understanding of surgery through developmentally appropriate methods.

Surgery is scary for anyone of any age, but I know I would feel better knowing I was in CHOC’s care!


Surgical Services at CHOC Children’s specializes in providing patients — from infants to young adults — with the most state-of-the-art services in a compassionate, family-centered environment. CHOC’s experience in exclusively treating children, teens and young adults makes it the expert in pediatric surgery.


Choco Bear’s first portrait

Written by Choco Bear

Disney illustrator Bob Moore with a CHOC patient.
Disney illustrator Bob Moore with a CHOC patient.

One of the coolest things to happen to me since I started hanging around CHOC Children’s is getting my portrait professionally drawn.

Through the decades, a couple different versions of my likeness have been featured at CHOC, but the most special is the original drawing created by Disney artist Bob Moore.

More than 50 years ago, Bob first drew my portrait, expertly capturing my happy smile and arm bandage.

“I didn’t want to make him a scary bear for the kids, and I thought the bandage would be cute, something the children would remember,” Bob said. “The bandage was placed on the left arm, to be closest to the heart.”

Vintage choco
Choco’s original look

The Disney connection should come as no surprise given that Walt Disney served on CHOC’s original board of directors. And the influence is pretty visible in my original portrait: Do those ears remind you of anyone else you might know?

According to Bob’s biography on the official Disney fan club website, he first joined Disney in 1940 as an illustrator apprentice. Later, Bob created promotional images for Disney movies and theme parks.

And fittingly for his work with CHOC, Bob was also an M.D. – well, sort of.

He was the only Disney artist to have these initials added after his last name. They stand for “mouse drawer.”

Related posts:

  • Happy 50th Anniversary, CHOC!
    The moment I’ve been awaiting for nearly a year now is just days away: Oct. 5, CHOC Children’s 50th anniversary. As I spent the last 50 weeks gearing up for this ...
  • Thank you CHOC Walk Participants!
    One of the most fun CHOC Children’s events is the CHOC Walk in the Park – and I want to thank the thousands of folks who have participated in this ...
  • Choco’s Gratitude Tour: The Greatest Hits
    When I began my gratitude tour last October to help celebrate CHOC’s 50th anniversary, I had no idea that I’d meet so many cool people and see so much fun ...

A Bright Future: Ian and Micah’s Story

Even though I’ve been hanging around CHOC Children’s for a long time now, I am continually surprised by the courage, tenacity and strength of the patients I meet. It’s especially gratifying to meet people who have reached special milestones and enjoy bright futures thanks to their treatment at CHOC.

Today, I want to introduce you to two such patients, Ian and Micah Rogers, who recently overcame some big obstacles to earn a huge accomplishment.

In front of a standing-room only crowd, Ian and Micah Rogers recently kicked, punched and sparred their way toward a black belt in karate.

Attaining a black belt would be a proud achievement for anybody. But for the two brothers, the accomplishment is even more significant given their rare form of muscular dystrophy, diagnosed by CHOC Children’s metabolic disorders specialists about eight years ago.

“People might think that because I have muscular dystrophy, I cannot do anything,” Micah, 10, wrote in an essay. “But I proved them wrong. … Earning my black belt gives me hope that I can be tougher and could accomplish lots of stuff even though it’s harder for my body.”

Micah was first diagnosed after a series of blood tests and muscle biopsies. By his 12-month doctor’s appointment, his doctor suspected something was wrong and he was ultimately diagnosed with muscular dystrophy.

Micah’s mother, Akemi, knew his older brother, Ian, had the same condition. As a baby, Ian had difficulty holding his head up while on his stomach. He was quickly passed by his friends while going up stairs, and he got tired after passing just a few houses on his tricycle. Following Micah’s diagnosis, Ian also tested positive.

Further genetic testing by Dr. Jose Abdenur, division chief of metabolic disorders at CHOC, refined the boys’ diagnosis to a type of Fukuyama congenital muscular dystrophy. Fukuyama CMD is a progressive degenerative disease that affects the brain, eyes and muscles. Because the Rogers boys were the first to be discovered with this specific condition, they have an unknown prognosis.

The Rogers brothers with their sensei.

“In the beginning, I was very afraid,” Akemi says. “I wasn’t sure if they were going to walk next month, or talk next year. I felt like life was so fragile.”

Faith, time and the care of CHOC specialists gave the family resilience and hope. And participating in karate has helped greatly: In 2010, Micah and Ian began training at Karate for All, an occupational therapy karate program designed for children and adults with special needs.

“It keeps them limber because they do stretching,” Akemi says. “It gives them confidence and agility.”

Writes Micah, “(Karate) gave me strong legs. It made me more focused. It gave me better balance. It taught me how to relax.”

While physically challenging for the boys, the black belt test was equally challenging emotionally for Akemi and husband, Randy, and the many friends and family who attended the milestone event.

“Everyone knew this was not a normal black belt test,” Akemi says. “They’re walking miracles. They have normal vision and intelligence, and are breaking boards – though that could all change.”

“Today, there may be no cure for muscular dystrophy, but muscular dystrophy is curing us of wasted worry and wasted pursuits, and teaching us to savor our time with our kids. We’re so proud of them.”

But for now, the boys continue to persevere, seeing a variety of CHOC specialists throughout the year and are great big brothers. And they plan to take their responsibilities as black belts very seriously.

“Your duty as a black belt is to love everyone around you,” Ian, 12, wrote in his essay. “Then and only then, will you be a black belt.”


Thank You, Community Physicians!

Frank_Kellogg_CHOCCommunity physicians play an integral role in CHOC Children’s mission to nurture, advance and protect the health and well being of children. These important people are the doctors who work in the community and send patients to CHOC when specialized care or hospitalization is needed.

In my 50 years hanging around CHOC, I’m lucky to have met many awesome community docs. I wanted to introduce you today to to one who was a familiar face at CHOC when I first visited in 1964: Dr. Frank Kellogg.

An early role at CHOC

He may have officially retired in 2013, but Dr. Kellogg is still a practicing pediatrician. He works one day a week at Strong Families Medical Group in Anaheim, where he cares for an underserved medical population. It is the latest stage of a long medical career marked by service.

Dr. Kellogg was an original member of CHOC’s medical staff and served on the hospital’s executive committee and board of directors. Since that time, he has seen a complete shift in the way hospitals care for their youngest patients.

When he was an intern, parents could only visit one afternoon a week. After they left, there would be complete pandemonium because the children knew their parents wouldn’t be back for a week.

“They sobbed all night long,” Dr. Kellogg said. “Child life? It didn’t exist because it wasn’t seen as important.”

And today, Dr. Kellogg marvels at the highly sophisticated patient care that CHOC provides, especially the 24-hour access to expert pediatric specialists.

50 years of changes

At the beginning of his career, pediatricians sat with seriously ill patients in the middle of the night to start and restart IVs. To this day, Dr. Kellogg still gets a little nervous if he sees a low IV bottle.

“CHOC Children’s is really quite something,” he said. “Whoever thought we’d have a place like this.”

Dr. Kellogg graduated from Anaheim High School on D-Day. Two days later, he and the rest of the boys from his senior class reported for active duty.

The U.S. Navy sent him to begin pre-medical training at UCLA, which he finished in two years. Next, he went to Stanford Medical School, followed by an internship at San Francisco City and County Hospital. The Korean War interrupted his pediatric training for two years, while he served as a physician on the aircraft carrier USS Antietam.

After returning, Dr. Kellogg completed his residency at Stanford. In 1955, he became the first chief resident of pediatrics at the new UCLA Medical Center. And in 1956, Dr. Kellogg returned to Orange County to open a private practice in Garden Grove.

Thank you to Dr. Kellogg and all other community physicians for your years of service to Orange County’s children!

More stories about CHOC physicians and staff:

  • A day in the life of a pediatrician
    By Dr. Rei Tosu, a CHOC Children’s pediatrician I’m a board-certified pediatrician at Los Alamitos Pediatrics, part of the CHOC Children’s Primary Care Network. I’ve been a pediatrician for 18 ...
  • An innovative internship approach during COVID-19
    A year ago, Jenae Vancura joined an elite group of college and high school students for a unique and innovative summer internship program at CHOC Children’s. The interns shadowed physicians, ...
  • How being an athlete prepared me to be a nurse
    By Elyse Shelger, registered nurse at CHOC Children’s In my life before nursing, I was a soccer player. I started playing the game when I was 4 years old. It shaped ...