Commentary by Richard G. Azizkhan, M.D.
President & CEO, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center
As someone who spends most of his “todays” envisioning and planning for tomorrow, I find it especially thrilling that this issue of Spira is so future-focused. I really enjoyed participating in our cover story, delving into a few of the big themes and trends that lie ahead in pediatric health care – from advances in fetal care to surgical innovations and the ever-expanding role genetic medicine will play in most effectively diagnosing and caring for children.
The future. It seems to be arriving at light-speed. When I flash-forward 30 more years and think about the Children’s of 2047 and beyond, I see a former community hospital turned regional and national academic medical center that is now serving as a global leader in children’s health. A global leader.
To be sure, we’re not based in Texas, Minnesota or Paris. Then again, neither are Mutual of Omaha, Berkshire Hathaway or TD Ameritrade. From right here at 84th & Dodge, I have absolutely no doubt that we can significantly and positively impact the lives of children on a global level. As it stands now, each of the four pillars supporting our mission—clinical care, research, education and advocacy—already has a global implication.
We will, first and foremost, secure our spot as a global leader through the kind of clinical care we deliver. Not only will we continue to set a high standard every day, we will work to create necessary technological enhancements that can then be shared across the U.S. and beyond.
At present, we have patients coming to Children’s from all 50 states and seven countries. I anticipate, as we build our capabilities to treat complex and rare diseases, we will have even more patients coming from outside the Heartland and around the world.
Research partnerships are global today. Technology has allowed us to have interface across the world in real time. Against that backdrop, we know we can drive the creation of new knowledge, through research and innovation, which will change the paradigm of how we care for children, setting a standard that others will follow.
The discoveries we make through our research enterprises, including our Child Health Research Institute, will impact the lives of children on an international level and establish Children’s as a global leader in children’s health.
When we talk about learning from, teaching and sharing with others, it has to be on a global level as well. If we are an organization with global impact and reach, we will attract the best and brightest to Omaha to be part of our institution. That, in turn, will continue to fuel our growth, impact and relevance in this highly competitive world of medicine and academics.
Right now, we have 2,000 learners (including medical students, nursing students and residents) in our system every year. With our academic partners, we want to be able to train people from all over the United States and beyond. That’s why we are developing global educational partnerships in central Europe, China, the Dominican Republic and elsewhere. I recently spoke with the dean from the University of Rwanda about starting an exchange program and had a similar discussion with the Dean of the College of Medicine at Tongji University in Shanghai.
Advocacy is another one of our fundamental pillars here at Children’s. We believe it is our duty to staunchly protect and support the rights of children for access to high-quality health care. As far as we’re concerned, it’s an inalienable right for children from a societal standpoint—not just here in the Omaha area but around the world.
We are a global society today and there is really no reason why Children’s can’t be a major part of and contributor to that global society. Establishing ourselves as a global leader is not going to happen overnight (though the pace of change is accelerating); it’s going to take a lot of focused, hard work over time. It is also not going to happen in isolation; we will only achieve our vision through collaborative partnerships and relationships.
First and foremost, we care for the children in our community extraordinarily well; but, ultimately, we are invested in the lives of all children. The truth is—a mother loves a child the same way whether they live in Gretna or Shanghai or Kigali. Our mission is to improve the life of every child.