Children's heart program No. 4 in country as hospital celebrates new rankings

June 14, 2022
Pediatric cardiologist Dr. John Rhodes at the operating table. He is wearing a cap and surgical gown. There is a large light to the left.
Pediatric cardiologist John Rhodes, operations director for the Pediatric & Congenital Heart Center, performs surgery. Photo by Brennan Wesley

The Pediatric & Congenital Heart Center at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital ranks a stellar No. 4 in the country in U.S. News & World Report’s 2022-2023 Best Children’s Hospitals survey. “And if you look at just the outcome component of the score, we actually had the best outcome score of anywhere in the country, including the places whose overall rank was above us,” said cardiothoracic surgeon Scott Bradley, M.D. Outcomes refer to how well patients fared after treatment.

Scott Bradley M.D. 
Dr. Scott Bradley

“We have a great team that’s incredibly collegial. We also benefit greatly from having a statewide pediatric cardiology network. It's called the Children's Heart Program of South Carolina and includes all of the pediatric cardiologists in the state. That supports us in that we're the only center that does cardiac surgery and cardiac catheterizations in the state,” Bradley said. 

That centralization means that surgical expertise isn’t diluted among multiple facilities but concentrated at MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital, Bradley said.

The heart program’s success is just part of the reason the hospital is celebrating this year’s U.S. News & World Report survey results. Three other specialties, kidney, cancer and gastrointestinal, achieved high rankings as well. And the hospital itself is the only children’s hospital in the state to be ranked by the survey.

Mark Scheurer, M.D., MUSC Children’s Health chief of clinical services, said the rankings can help families in the Southeast and beyond decide where to take their kids. “Our MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital and Pearl Tourville Women’s Pavilion care team members endlessly strive to offer safe, compassionate and advanced care to all families who seek treatment for their children. A parent can feel confident in choosing MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital to care for their child.”

David Zaas, M.D., CEO of MUSC Health-Charleston Division, agreed. He also noted the COVID-driven circumstances that have presented a series of new challenges. “I am so proud of the dedication this team demonstrates every day, and especially over the last two years as we have responded to the COVID pandemic. We are committed to improving the health of children in South Carolina and privileged to serve our community with these outstanding programs and amazing teams.” 

One of those programs, kidney, also known as nephrology, maintained its No. 30 rank in the country. It’s the highest ranked kidney program for children in the state. That means it excels when it comes to the survival rate of children who have kidney transplants, the management of dialysis and infection prevention and other factors.

Dr. Michelle Hudspeth talks with a child.  They are both smiling. 
Dr. Michelle Hudspeth, division chief for pediatric hematology/oncology, talks with a patient. Photo by Brennan Wesley

The pediatric cancer program, also known as oncology, jumped to No. 31, up from No. 44 in last year’s rankings. Michelle Hudspeth, M.D., division chief for pediatric hematology/oncology, called that a testament to the collaboration between doctors, nurses and the multi-disciplinary staff involved in caring for children with cancer. 

“I think for me, it's so striking - it's a little bit like the little engine that could, because so many of the points for the overall rankings are based on volumes, and we're consistently in the very lowest volume category,” she said. “We are making our ranking based on quality and outcomes.  In fact, based on outcomes alone, we’re 15th in the country.”

The gastroenterology & GI surgery program was also in the top 50, ranking No. 41, up one spot from last year. The rankings factor in the survival rate for children who have had liver transplants, the effectiveness of the hospital’s treatment of children who have inflammatory bowel issues and other key measures.

Scheurer said the rankings are a testament to the passion doctors, nurses, techs and everyone else at the hospital bring to their roles every day. “These rankings, this national recognition, are because of them and their commitment to overcoming the challenges health care teams face daily. They are genuine, persistent and are changing what’s possible.”

He also credited the work that goes on behind the scenes. “We’ve been on the precipice of noteworthy national recognition for several years. Our clinical and basic science researchers collaborate with one essential goal: improving patient care and outcomes,” Scheurer said.

“Our providers trained at prestigious academic medical centers across the country and bring that knowledge to the MUSC’s children’s hospital and Children’s Health ambulatory centers. Our clinicians and researchers methodically train the next generation of health care providers so that MUSC helps ensure healthier futures for all families.”

Bradley, the heart surgeon, said being methodical does not come at the expense of personalized care. “We all know the patients and their families, and they get a lot of personal attention here, which I think is difficult to get in centers that are a lot bigger than we are.”

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