Changing the lives of children for 50 years
Since 1968, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati has been delivering exceptional, life-changing care to children and families with pediatric burns, complex wound and skin conditions and reconstructive and plastic surgery. In the past 50 years, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital has treated patients from more than 35 states and 30 countries including Mexico, Honduras, Columbia, India, Africa and Ecuador.
Where hope and healing meet
Now in its 50th year, Shriners Hospitals for Children — Cincinnati continues to be recognized as one of the nation’s foremost authorities in the field of comprehensive pediatric burn treatment. In the early days of burn treatment, a child’s life post-injury was not always certain; survival was the principal goal. As medical expertise, research and technology advanced, the focus shifted and the goal became fostering the child’s quality of life after wounds have healed—a philosophy of thriving, rather than just surviving. That goal inherently included plastic surgery as a part of the recovery process. As the years progressed, this expanded medical proficiency led to Cincinnati Shriners Hospital becoming a destination for plastic and reconstructive medical treatments beyond burn care.
Before Cincinnati Shriners Hospital
In the early years after World War II, Shriners Hospitals focused on treating polio and its related orthopedic complications. As vaccinations drastically reduced the need for such treatments, the organization began to look for other areas of pediatric care that could benefit from its resources and attention. Burn injuries rose to the awareness of the Shriners Hospitals’ Board of Trustees. Until that point, burn treatment had largely been advanced as a result of treating soldiers during war time, and lacked any understanding of burn injury on a growing and developing child.
By the mid-1960s, the Shriners Imperial Council decided that the next challenge for its hospital system would be pediatric burns. It designated funds totaling $10 million dollars (the equivalent of over $70 million today) to build three hospitals to specialize in pediatric burn care. After much consideration, Galveston, Boston and Cincinnati were chosen as sites because of strong teaching hospitals located in each. An interim unit was established in 1964 at the Cincinnati General Hospital. In 1968, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital was opened as Shriners Burns Institute, in affiliation with what became the University of Cincinnati Hospital and the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine.
The decade of the 1970s was one of great progress in the era of pediatric burn treatment. Successful research in grafting, excision (surgical removal of traumatized areas) and intravenous feeding was the beginning of a mind shift from merely treating a child’s injuries to focusing on his quality of life beyond the healing process. Research played a large role in improving outcomes, with “skin banking” and other techniques pioneered, as well as the widespread use of pressure garments and other appliances to smooth and reduce scarring and improve esthetic appearances.
By the 1980s, pace and progress in the treatment of pediatric burns was improving rapidly, reducing infections and shortening hospital stays. This meant that even the most severely injured children were eventually able to return to a more routine schedule of school and friends. The challenge then became educating those in the community—to lessen fears and reinforce that the child is the same under the scars. Cincinnati Shriners Hospital created school re-entry programs, training staff to help both children and adults, giving them tools to welcome back their friend without fear. Meanwhile, the hospital was improving capacities to treat children more efficiently by implementing an outpatient clinic for those requiring a shorter hospital stay. It also launched its own airborne transport team to more rapidly dispatch a child with burn injuries.
At the end of the decade, construction began on a new hospital structure to allow for growth in patient service, technology and research.
The new hospital building was dedicated in 1992, creating on-site accommodations for families, a floor for research, and greater patient capacity. Amid this growth, service was also expanded to include cleft lip and palate repair. With an initial expectation of seven patients, the first year 50 children were admitted.
While continuing to improve physical healing through research and new technologies, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital also expanded its focus to include the whole person, recognizing that a major physical trauma also leaves psychological scars traditional medicine often can’t heal. Camp Ytiliba (“Ability” backwards) was created to give children who experienced physical trauma an opportunity to be outdoors, play and support one another without judgment. Other complementary therapies using music, pets and holistic energy were introduced, giving each child the best opportunity to heal, uniquely and individually.
The 21st century ushered in an era that that would test Cincinnati Shriners Hospital as a leader and innovator in its field. Its staff rose to the challenge, designing new programs for training and communication, new clinical studies and pioneering research that changed the way children heal.
The research team developed a process for growing skin from a child’s own cells, which could reduce the need to take grafts from uninjured areas of the body. Research also revealed the vital role of specialized, high-caloric nutrition in successful recovery from significant burns.
Service expansion continued; the hospital began accepting patients needing correction for nevus, port wine stains, congenital deformities and other complex wound and skin disorders, often to improve conditions that were judged “cosmetic” by the general health community, but that caused a child great distress and harmed self-esteem.
Telehealth began, allowing patients to continue the healing process in their hometowns with local physicians and hospital staff conferring electronically.
Cincinnati Shriners Hospital reinforced its reputation as a premier pediatric specialty hospital when it was awarded national designation as a Cleft Lip and Palate Team by two highly-respected accreditation associations.
With the recognition that children heal most optimally when the family is informed, involved and nearby, Family-centered Care became a part of the hospital’s Strategic Plan. Expansion of the family care units was completed to ensure that goal was met.
Technology became an integral tool in treatment and recovery. Same-day surgery programs were developed, allowing more children to heal at home, with an internet patient portal for parents to communicate with the hospital. A mobile phone app was created for pediatricians to quickly and easily access information and refer a child for treatment.
The hospital also expanded services to include treatment for gynecomastia, breast hypertrophy and brachial plexus.
Cincinnati Shriners Hospital has stayed on the leading edge of pediatric burn treatment and specialized care for 50 years. Moving forward, there will continue to be exciting new medical breakthroughs and treatment approaches to improve patient outcomes, both physically and emotionally.
One thing will remain the same: this hospital’s mission to heal children and provide family-centered care, regardless of the ability to pay. As long as children remain resilient, Cincinnati Shriners Hospital is committed to giving them the best possible opportunity to heal, thrive and grow to their fullest potential.