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Children's National Medical Center Receives $150 Million

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Dr. Kurt Newman and Dr. Peter Holbrook
Surgeon-in-Chief and Chief Medical Officer, Children's National Medical Center
Wednesday, September 16, 2009; 12:00 PM

In one of the largest philanthropic donations ever made to a U.S. pediatric hospital, Children's National Medical Center will receive $150 million from the government of Abu Dhabi -- a gift that the hospital hopes to use to dramatically change pediatric surgery.

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Dr. Kurt Newman, surgeon-in-chief, and Dr. Peter Holbrook, chief medical officer, were online Wednesday, Sept. 16 at Noon ET to discuss how the hospital hopes to use the funds.

A transcript follows.

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Dr. Peter Holbrook: Thank you for your interest in the generous gift we're receiving from the government of Abu Dhabi to improve pediatric surgery. Dr. Newman and I are happy to take your questions about the gift and how it will be used.

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Charlotte, N.C.: What does this generous donation really mean for the children?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: What the institute is all about is making surgery more precise, less invasive, and less painful for children. That will translate into better outcomes and a better experience for children and their families. We will be applying advanced technologies to the issues of pre-surgical diagnosis, creating an individualized plan for both surgery and medical and pain management, and post-operative recovery.

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Louisville, Ky.: What are some of the new research and technologies that the hospital wants to venture into, but never had the resources to do so before?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: The institute will facilitate the application of computer sciences, the knowledge from the human genome project, and cross-disciplinary interactions, all to the benefit of the patient. This will allow us to break barriers between traditional disciplines to apply the latest science to individual patients.

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Washington, DC: Dr. Holbrook, How can you make surgery painless?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: We know from the human genome studies that every individual has different responses to pain. In addition, we are unlocking knowledge about pain blockers that makes some of traditional pain medicine seem crude. By tailoring the specific agents to a specific patient's genetic profile, we should be able to reduce -- and even eliminate -- pain from the equation.

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Washington, DC: When will this gift show tangible/measurable improvements in care? Months? Years?

Dr. Kurt Newman: Many of our key researchers are already in place, and we making progress every day. It will probably take a year to get the institute fully operational, and we expect to see real results that will benefit children within two to three years.

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Washington, D.C.: Can you give an example of what you will be able to do for a child, undergoing a surgical procedure three years from now, that you were not able to do for a child that was operated on yesterday?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: We should have a more precise diagnosis of the child's underlying genetic makeup. We should have more advanced understanding of the disease we're facing, and we should have clearer options for surgical approaches if indeed surgery is necessary. It's even possible that some surgeries that would be required today would not even be needed in three years. If the disease is cancer, we expect to have an even better understanding of the genetics of the tumor, which will help us provide more predictable and targeted treatment.

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District Heights, Md.: Will any of money help to fund procedures for children of noninsured or low income families?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: Most of this gift -- $125 million -- is devoted to the surgical center itself. The remaining $25 million will help cover priorities established by the Board of Directors. Children's National has a longstanding commitment to serving all children in our region, regardless of their families' ability to pay. This gift in no way changes that commitment.

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Fairfax, Va.: How will you measure success in the short term and the long term?

Dr. Kurt Newman: Our gift agreement requires annual reports to the donor and we will set up measurable milestones to track our progress. Part of our innovating process will be to share our findings widely as we make discoveries.

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Pittsburgh: Dr. Newman- does this mean you are opening new facilities or buying new equipment? How will that technology help kids needing surgery?

Dr. Kurt Newman: There will be some new facilities to house research and some of the programs, however the bulk of the support goes to the researchers, investigators, and surgeons to advance the care of children.

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Santa Fe, N.M.: What does the Immunology Initiative really mean? How can you have surgery without cutting?

Dr. Kurt Newman: This initiative is designed to harness the body's immune system to cure disease. For example, if we could use a vaccine to stimulate the immune system to attack a tumor, we might be able to avoid an operation to remove that tumor. There is very promising research already underway in animal models and we hope to translate this into clinical trials for children.

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Washington, D.C.: What are the priorities of the board of directors?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: Our mission is care, advocacy, research, and education, and we seek to be world-class in all of these areas. For example, right now, we are anticipating a challenging flu season, and this will require additional resources -- doctors, nurses, and equipment -- and these are the types of needs that the Board will prioritize in the months ahead. As new challenges arise, we'll also respond to them.

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Denver: how many kids do you think this will benefit? Hundreds or thousands?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: Certain discoveries will benefit thousands of children, while many other will literally benefit millions of children around the world. If we're successful in eliminating pain, every child experiencing surgery will benefit, wherever they are.

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Rockville, Md.: Does this mean you are now offering surgical services in the UAE or other countries?

Dr. Kurt Newman: This initiative doesn't change our mission, in fact it enhances what we already do here. We have a longstanding history of treating children from many countries, including the United Arab Emirates.

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Temple Hills, Md.: Will any of the money from this gift help Children's Health Centers?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: This gift will benefit many of the children who are seen in our Child Health Centers, especially if they are referred for surgeries. The surgery institute may also lead to discoveries that will benefit children with conditions that do not require surgery.

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Washington, DC: My daughter has had several surgeries at Children's and will most likely have another one before this year is over. I have noticed that frequently there aren't enough nurses to meet the needs of all of the children on the ward in a timely manner. Frequently, when my daughter needed pain medication, I would have to go out and find a nurse to help her because there wasn't a response to the buzzer. Will some of this money go to staff more nurses?

Dr. Kurt Newman: While this gift is specifically focused on research in the area of pediatric surgery, we are continually evaluating our staffing levels to ensure we provide the highest quality of care to our families. We do want to hear feedback from our families, and we encourage families to address specific concerns with their providers.

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Huntersville, N.C.: How will medical advances made possible by this donation be shared so that they may be leveraged across the country to benefit children?

Dr. Kurt Newman: A major portion of the plan is for annual forums and training of fellows, who will present research each year. In addition, research will be published and shared in traditional ways, such as medical journals and conferences. We're committed to sharing our findings as widely as possible.

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Washington, DC: Will this influx of funding equate to more outreach and preventative care programs?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: One example of where the institute may affect outreach and prevention is obesity, which is a major problem among children, especially in the Washington region. The most severely ill children with this disease may require surgery. The discoveries made by the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation could lead to more targeted and personalized treatments that could treat the condition without the need for surgery.

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Arlington, Va.: Is this the largest gift CNMC has ever received?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: Yes.

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Raleigh, N.C.: How much of this money will go to babies born with Congenital Diaphragmatic Hernia or towards CDH Research at the hospital?

Dr. Kurt Newman: Our goal through this initiative is to make sure that all children requiring surgery, including congenital defects, will benefit from the discoveries of the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation.

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Washington, DC: What's the "Holy Grail" of pediatric surgery (procedure heretofore impossible to do)?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: Dr. Newman, who's our chief surgeon, has said that he'd like to put himself out of work. The Holy Grail of surgery would be not having to do surgery at all. We'd prefer to heal patients with non-invasive, pain-free treatments, and we believe that will be increasingly possible in the years ahead.

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Alexandria, Va.: Congratulations on the gift. As the father of a Children's bone health patient, I am grateful to your institution. I am intrigued by pain management. Will all of the efforts be confined to surgery, or will efforts be available to pain management for outpatients as well?

Dr. Kurt Newman: What's so exciting about this initiative is that the lessons we learn and breakthroughs we make can be applied not only to kids who need surgery, but to any disease or setting.

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Athens, Ohio: How can surgery be personalized? What does that mean?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: The unlocking of the human genome has demonstrated that people have individual responses in many organ systems that affect the surgical experience. Pain perception differs from person to person. Similarly, the impact of drugs varies based on now-known genetic variability. So discovery of these differences allows for tailoring (or personalizing) of treatment for one particular patient with more predictable outcomes.

So surgeries could be different in terms of the approach and the types of drugs used for anesthesia and post-operative recovery. Put simply, there is no one-size-fits-all surgery for all children (or adults). We are working to be more precise for each patient.

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Latrobe, Pa.: How does this compare to other donations made to children's hospitals?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: To the best of our knowledge, this is one of the top two or three gifts to to a children's hospital -- and the largest ever for pediatric surgery. We are grateful for the donor's generosity.

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Washington, DC: What is the institute named after? What is the background on that?

Dr. Kurt Newman: Sheikh Zayed was the founder of the United Arab Emirates. He was a visionary leader and focused on improving children's health and welfare. At the donor's request, we are naming the institute in honor of the late Sheikh.

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Dr. Peter Holbrook: For more information about how the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation will impact children, visit http://childrensnational.org/surgicalinstitute

A short video explains how our doctors and researchers are working together to make these goals a reality.

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Fox News Viewer: What are the ethics of accepting foreign government money? Are there any conditions, spoken or unspoken, in return for this contribution?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: This gift comes with no strings attached. As with any charitable contribution, we have a written agreement with this donor. The donor will have no governing role, and their expectations are that we will use these funds to advance surgery to benefit children in the United States and around the world.

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Reston, Va.: Will the research being done for pediatric surgery translate to adults?

Dr. Kurt Newman: Yes, there are direct applications of research advances that will benefit both children and adults. Pain management is one example of an area that could impact adults and children alike.

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Wolverhampton, England: With this impressive donation, are there currently any plans to collaborate with other pediatric medical centres internationally?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: The Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation will collaborate with investigators around the world, and we see this as a center for pediatric surgical innovation which will serve all children and those who treat them.

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Arlington, Va.: Can you tell us about the device being developed to measure pain?

Dr. Kurt Newman: One of the earliest priorities of the Institute will be developing the technology to measure pain. We have been testing a device that has been effective in the research setting and hope to apply it to clinical trials in the near future.

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Dr. Kurt Newman: Thanks for joining us today. We didn't get a chance to address every question we received, but if you are seeking more information about the Sheikh Zayed Institute for Pediatric Surgical Innovation, please be sure to visit our web site at www.childrensnational.org/surgicalinstitute.

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Lanham, Md.: I'm overjoyed at this announcement, especially as a parent of a patient seen at the Montgomery County ROC. How will this gift impact donations to the hospital in the future?

Dr. Peter Holbrook: Most of this generous gift is devoted to surgical care and research. In order to meet our mission to provide high-quality care to every child in our region who comes to us, we have a continuing need for community support. We are grateful for the generosity of individuals and organizations that have supported us, and hope they will continue to provide for the children who require medical care.

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