Number of ranked programs at SC’s top children’s hospital grows as heart team holds onto high spot

June 21, 2023
Boys ride IV stands through a hospital hallway.
Boys who became known as the three MUSCeteers as they bonded while waiting for heart transplants ride their IV stands in a hospital hallway. Bennett Gulyas, foreground, tries to catch up with his buddies. Photo by Sarah Pack

As the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital maintains its status as the top children’s hospital in South Carolina, its heart team ranks among the best in the country. That’s according to the 2023-2024 Best Children’s Hospital Rankings by U.S. News & World Report

The Cardiology and Heart Surgery program comes in at No. 4 nationally, and the MUSC Health Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center achieved third in the nation status for outcomes. Outcomes refers to how well patients fare. 

Children’s heart surgeon Minoo Kavarana, M.D., said a culture of mutual respect guides the team’s approach. So does its willingness to take on the toughest cases. 

“Oftentimes, we'll do things that other centers refuse to do. We will do what we think is best for the patient. An example of that is not shying away from, say, a newborn with a very complicated heart defect or a patient that needs a heart transplantation after having five surgeries.”

A surgeon wearing a mask and surgical goggles. You can't see the patient he's working on. 
Dr. Minoo Kavarana says a culture of respect guides the heart team's approach. Photo by Brennan Wesley

He said the team strives for high achievement despite being in a state with fewer resources than some other states. “Similar-sized programs have a lot more bed spaces, larger footprint, a lot more resources, a lot more ICU staff, nursing staff, attending staff, more surgeons. And they still can't produce outcomes that we produce, which is a credit to the team that works extra hard, puts in longer hours in order to accomplish that.”

Among the heart team’s current patients are three boys who have captured hearts across the Lowcountry and beyond. The three MUSCeteers, as they’ve become known, are waiting for heart transplants and have become inseparable as they wait in the hospital.

The heart program is one of six at the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital to achieve national rankings from U.S. News & World Report. The others are:

  • Cancer at No. 26.
  • Orthopedics at No. 36.
  • Neonatology at No. 44.
  • Nephrology at No. 48.
  • Gastroenterology and GI surgery at No. 50.

That’s two more ranked programs for the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital than last year, said Mark Scheurer, M.D., chief of Children’s and Women’s Services at MUSC Health. “I was just thrilled to see the number of ranked programs grow and know that there's more that we can do for the people we serve. This is great momentum.” 

The hospital's position in the highly competitive regional rankings rose as well. Of the 43 children's hospitals in the Southeast region, the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital came in at No. 9.

U.S. News reaches its rankings by gathering data from about 200 hospitals. It considers patient safety, infection prevention and the level of nurse staffing. The rankings also factor in the results of a survey of more than 15,000 pediatric specialists that asks where they’d send the sickest children in their area of specialty.


The MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s cancer program moved up five spots from last year in the U.S. News & World Report rankings. It’s the state’s largest and most comprehensive cancer center with the only bone marrow transplant center in South Carolina. It’s also the leading referral center for children with cancer in the state and has one of only about 20 comprehensive pediatric research facilities in the country. 

A blonde woman in a doctor's coat is standing in front of a seated boy wearing glasses. 
Pediatric oncologist Dr. Michelle Hudspeth checks in with Ivan Young two years after he underwent robotic surgery for a rare cancer. Photo by Kristin Lee

Drilling down into the data shows the cancer program ranks No. 14 in the country for outcomes. But the stories behind the numbers paint an even clearer picture of a program known for its collaborative nature. 

For example, the children’s cancer team recently worked with adult cancer experts to perform a life-changing operation on a 14-year-old boy with a salivary gland type of cancer. Ivan Young is now breathing normally and running and playing like any other kid.


The leader of the orthopedics team, Robert Murphy, M.D., was thrilled to see his program go from unranked last year to No. 36 this year. “It's a huge deal for our group. It's a really big deal for our group.”

Headshot of a smiling man wearing glasses, a blue shirt, a striped tie and a suit coat. 
Dr. Robert Murphy

He credits a commitment to excellence and quality based on the volume of patients and the complexity of the care they need. “We have really been intentional and thoughtful on investing in the people that engage with each patient through their care journey. So whether that is a surgical scheduler, whether that is an X-ray tech, whether that's a nurse on the floor, whether that is a nursing assistant. Our program has really tried to educate, empower and engage all of those team members so they really feel like they have ownership and an active part about that patient's care,” Murphy said.

“Everybody that your kid is going to meet really cares about your child and your child's outcome and you having a good experience in it getting done safely.”

Murphy also wants families to know that his team is ready to tackle anything. “I would want people not only in our neighborhood, but people in our region to know that we take a lot of pride in being able to care for any and every pediatric orthopedic condition, whether that's your neighbor's child that had a fall off the monkey bars to the most complex multispecialty interdisciplinary care.”


The neonatology program, which involves the care of newborn babies, jumped 36 spots from last year’s ranking to reach No. 44 this year, Scheurer said. 

“They were kind of like the little engine that could. They were just persistent. It was important and they wanted to substantively improve their care and they wanted to bring recognition to the team, which was well-deserved. If they continue on that trajectory, they will go great places.”

Blake Hampton smiles. 
Blake Hampton smiles as she's held in the neonatal intensive care unit. Photo by Sarah Pack

About 3,000 babies are born in the MUSC Shawn Jenkins Children’s Hospital every year. It has a neonatal intensive care unit that draws families with sick or otherwise fragile babies from around the region. It's the only Level 4 NICU in the state, which means it offers the highest level of neonatal care.

Cutting-edge research is also part of the program’s focus. For example, pediatrician Julie Ross, M.D., is part of a large national clinical trial helping babies born with neonatal opioid withdrawal syndrome get healthy and home more quickly than in the past.


The hospital’s nephrology, or kidney care, program maintained its spot in the top 50 nationwide. It has the largest pediatric nephrology program in South Carolina and the state’s only multidisciplinary children’s kidney transplant program.

The ranking shows that the program stands out when it comes to the survival rate of kids who have kidney transplants, the management of dialysis and infection prevention. It treats everything from urinary tract infections to chronic kidney disease to kidney failure.

In 2022, the nephrology team captured a lot of attention when it transplanted a kidney to a little girl named Natalynn Mann from her aunt, who lost more than 100 pounds to become her niece’s donor.

Gastroenterology and GI Surgery

The gastroenterology and gastrointestinal surgery team’s high ranking comes as a new leader settles in. Benjamin Kuhn, D.O., MUSC Children’s Health division chief, is pleased to join a program with a strong track record. 

Hands put a stethoscope on a child's bare stomach. 
Gastroenterology involves treating problems with the digestive system.

“Technically I was only here for four months before the rankings package was due to submit. So I can't take much credit for this year, but I really look forward to having a lot of momentum moving forward. Part of my hire was crafting a new trajectory for building out our program. So I'm happy to have a running start,” Kuhn said.

This marks the eighth year that U.S. News has ranked the program, which has been growing. “Our program over the past couple years has been in a phase of expanding new specialty programs. If there is a niche subspecialty condition out there, we aim to service that need. As a division chief, I'm strategically making investments in those areas so that people don’t need to travel out of state to receive nationally recognized care.”

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