USSBC member Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) is widely recognized as a leader in pediatric healthcare and education. CHOP Vice President of Global Strategy and Business Development, Ruth Frey, recently spoke with the Council about the hospital’s strategy to boost global pediatric healthcare services, its commitment to the advancement of innovation and knowledge exchange, and CHOP’s solutions for international patients seeking world-class pediatric services.
CHOP is the nation’s first hospital devoted exclusively to the care of children. Since 1855, CHOP has been the birthplace for countless breakthroughs and dramatic firsts in pediatric medicine. Could you speak more to these achievements?
CHOP has been a leader in pediatrics over its 160 + year history given its mission to clinical care, education and extensive dedication to research. The investment in CHOP’s Research Institute has allowed far-reaching innovation and kept CHOP on the cutting edge of treatment for children worldwide. CHOP had recruited and retained some of the most expert researchers and clinicians who share our vision for finding answers to treatment for rare diseases that affect children. CHOP’s thought leadership has established Frontier Programs—which are funded and sourced to focus on a childhood illness that requires a breakthrough for possible cure and treatment for a better future for children. Some of the examples of the recent advancements and achievements are:
- Creation of the first center to map the anatomy and flow of the lymphatic system, providing highly-specialized imaging and treatment for children and adults with lymphatic leaks and flow disorders, often undiagnosed conditions, and
- Development the first-ever S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved personalized CAR T-cell gene immunotherapy for aggressive blood cancers, including the development of the drug Kymriah to treat relapsed ALL.
One of the more futuristic innovations is the progress that our physician-scientists have made in the development of an artificial womb, a bridge therapy for certain prematurely-born infants; the device — which is in an experimental stage using animal models — replicates the womb, with fetuses remaining immersed in fluid, allowing normal physiologic development, and avoiding essentially all of the major risks of prematurity.
What are some of CHOP’s unique medical programs and does your expertise lie in any specific areas?
CHOP is a leader in many specialties, and has developed high-end, interdependent programs across the pediatric span to give children the most comprehensive complex care possible. As a leader in pediatric healthcare our expertise lies in the following programs:
#1 ranked in the United States by US News and World Report 2021-2022. CHOP is one of the world’s leading treatment centers for refractory neuroblastoma, the most common pediatric solid tumor outside of the brain, its Brain Tumor Program is one of the largest in the U.S., seeing more than 200 new patients each year, and its pediatric Blood and Marrow Transplant (BMT) Program is also one of the largest in the U.S., performing an average of 80 transplants per year.
CONGENITAL HYPERINSULINISM (HI) CENTER
The Division of Endocrinology and Diabetes at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) was ranked #1 in the United States by US News and World Report 2021-2022. Its Congenital Hyperinsulinism Center has treated more than 1,000 children with congenital HI, and performed more than 500 pancreatectomies — making CHOP’s Center the largest and most active HI center in the world. CHOP’s team of congenital hyperinsulinism experts work together to provide specialized, patient-centered and seamless care for children with congenital HI and their families.
CHOP’s Division of Orthopaedics is ranked #1 by US News and World Report 2021-2022; the Division is one of the largest and most active pediatric orthopaedic centers in the world, and its Center for Thoracic Insufficiency offers unique multidisciplinary care for children with chest wall and spine disorders.
The Cell and Gene Therapy Collaborative aims to build on Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia’s longstanding position at the forefront of cell and gene therapy research, which has already led to game-changing success. The Collaborative is designed to significantly increase the volume of new pediatric cell and gene therapy research and to accelerate the pace of clinical development by coordinating the efforts of multiple groups operating across the institution. Two of the three FDA-approved cell and gene therapies available for use in children in the United States, were pioneered at CHOP:
CAR T-Cell Therapy for Leukemia
CHOP led the clinical trials of the first cell therapy to be approved by the FDA and has treated more patients with Acute Lymphoblastic Leukemia than any other pediatric institution.
Gene Therapy to treat Congential Blindness
Luxtura, a one-time gene therapy product for children with inherited blindness, a type of retinal dystrophy, had its genesis in more than 10 years of research conducted at CHOP.
Gene Therapy for Neuromuscular Disorder
CHOP was one of several institutions that participated in clinical trials of Zolgensma, the first FDA-approved gene therapy to treat Spinal Muscular Atrophy.
N. Scott Adzick, MD, MMM, FACS, FAAP, is CHOP’s Surgeon-in-Chief, and founder and Director of the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment. The Center is a leader in fetal surgery for more than 25 years, and in July, 2021 reached a record-breaking milestone, celebrating the birth of its 2,000th fetal surgery patient.
NEUROLOGY & NEUROSURGERY
Each year, more than 25,000 children suffering from disorders related to the nervous system seek care at the Division of Neurology at Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, one of the largest and most comprehensive pediatric neurology programs in the world. Its large patient volume uniquely positions CHOP to provide expert clinical care for children with conditions ranging from epilepsy, headache, muscle and nerve disorders, critical illness, multiple sclerosis, leukodystrophies and pediatric stroke, among others.
CHOP neurosurgeons offer the latest in surgery for treating children with brain tumors, epilepsy, cervical spinal trauma, and other conditions affecting the brain and spine such as cerebral palsy.
SICKLE CELL DISEASES
Researchers at CHOP are developing possible treatments for blood disorders like sickle cell disease and beta-thalassemia.
Physicians and scientists at CHOP are world experts on rare diseases, and many clinical programs at CHOP are the only ones in the world offering diagnosis and treatment of these conditions. These programs include:
- Immune Dysregulation Diseases,
- Mitochondrial Medicine, and
- Vascular Anomalies.
CHOP was recently ranked as the number two children’s hospital in the United States by U.S. News and World Report. What steps has CHOP taken to replicate that same success globally?
Sharing innovation and excellence is a priority for CHOP, and CHOP physicians, clinicians, researchers, and scientists, engage its global partners to exchange knowledge, participate in conferences, lecture medical students, and discuss pediatric collaborations. CHOP’s global priority is to share its expertise and build pediatric capability worldwide.
What are your primary goals for the Kingdom and are you currently partnered with any Saudi entities?
CHOP aims to support the Kingdom in its programmatic development of in-country specialized pediatric healthcare capability, and to provide expertise to local physicians treating children with rare and complex conditions. Progress toward this end has been made through, in part, the 40 + physicians-in-training who have participated in clinical observerships at CHOP since 2012, as well as remote tumor boards with Saudi oncologists that regularly occur. Additionally, for example, CHOP has not only signed a MOU with the National Guard Health System to train oncology nurses, focused on BMT, but also executed an agreement with King Faisal Specialist Hospital & Research Center to enable remote second opinions.
Aside from your global operations, CHOP is also renowned for its global patient services. Could you speak to some of your more unique experiences with your international patients and what potential Saudi patients can expect when deciding to get treatment at CHOP?
CHOP Global Patient Services is a comprehensive program focused on facilitating international patients to come to Philadelphia for expert treatment. The key is to make the process a smooth and easy one for patients and families, while providing every medical and social service needed.
CHOP’s Global Patient Services (GPS) Clinic
The clinic serves as a patient-centered medical home, with its team dedicated exclusively to the needs of international families. The GPS clinic has a team of full-time, bilingual general pediatricians and bilingual registered nurses. Every child is seen as a first visit at CHOP, which allows the clinic to coordinate and communicate for patients seeing multiple specialties across CHOP. The pediatricians and nurses are also on hand to provide sick visits for siblings, vaccinations, and to help families navigate their care at CHOP.
The GPS clinic is the hub—integral to providing wraparound services to international patients—and its staff includes:
The Medical Director oversees all medical care for international patients upon acceptance to discharge. The Medical Director coordinates with CHOP faculty, referring physicians, and patients and families to provide excellent pediatric healthcare from arrival to discharge.
Clinical Nurse Coordinators
A dedicated clinical nurse coordinator is assigned to each family upon arrival, and is a key member of the team to coordinate medical care, including appointments, procedures, equipment, and medications. The nurse coordinator works closely with the GPS Medical Director during the entire treatment process, and communicates with referring physicians to ensure a proper discharge when treatment is complete.
International Access Coordinators
International access coordinators are multilingual staff available in our international office, including Arabic speakers. They work directly with families on all services needed prior to arrival, during treatment and discharge. They also work closely with clinical coordinators to manage patients’ appointments and coordinate treatment.
Patient Relations Specialists
Patient relations specialists greet families and provide hospital orientation and tours. They can help with opening a bank account, finding housing, and coordinating transportation needs. Further, the specialists can assist with the visa process, and any ongoing services needed, including daily appointment reminders. All CHOP Patient Relations Specailists speak Arabic.
What is the best way for potential international patients to contact you to learn more about your services?
Phone: +1 (267) 426 6298