Children's expertise now closer to home for south Mississippi families
Published on Monday, April 23, 2018
By: Annie Oeth
Registered nurse Caitlin Powell greeted a caller not long after opening the clinic doors. “Good morning. Children’s of Hattiesburg.”
Children’s of Mississippi, the arm of the University of Mississippi Medical Center dedicated to pediatric care, operates the Hattiesburg specialty clinic along with five other pediatric clinics along the Gulf Coast, but for the patients and their families, the hometown name fits.
Children’s of Hattiesburg. Children’s of Bay St. Louis. Children’s of Gulfport. Children’s of Biloxi. Children’s of Mississippi.
Whether it’s for a well-baby check-up or for a patient in need of complex care from a team of medical experts, Children’s of Mississippi brings UMMC care close to home for families in south Mississippi, the Gulf Coast and the surrounding area.
This particular Wednesday morning, Dr. David Josey, associate professor of pediatric pulmonology, was seeing patients including Jack Bailey of Hattiesburg, a toddler nearing 2 with asthma and a cough, and Mackenzie Samples, a 10-year-old who sees a team of specialists at Batson Children’s Hospital, located on UMMC’s main Jackson campus.
“We found out Dr. Josey was here today,” said Mackenzie’s mom, Angela Samples, “and this clinic is minutes from home, so it’s a huge help.”
Josey said most of his Hattiesburg specialty clinic patients, so far, are ones who used to make the 90-mile drive to Jackson.
“The families certainly appreciate the decreased travel distance,” Josey said with a grin while preparing for patient visits. He’s in Hattiesburg once a month. Other specialists stopping at the clinic include pediatric neurologist Dr. Mark Lee and pediatric cardiologist Dr. Brad Troutman, whose regular practices are in the Children’s specialty clinic in Biloxi, and, from UMMC, pediatric endocrinologist Dr. Naznin Dixit, weight management pediatrician Dr. Whitney Herring and nurse practitioner Shanda Sandridge.
Last month, Children’s of Mississippi acquired four general pediatrics clinics from Memorial Hospital at Gulfport. The providers parents trust with their children’s care have stayed the same at the clinics, located in Bay St. Louis, Biloxi’s Cedar Lake area and the Acadian Court and Bridgewater areas of Gulfport. What’s changed is the connection to the specialized care and expertise of UMMC.
“The overall concept is working well,” said Dr. Bryant McCrary, a longtime Gulf Coast area pediatrician. “It’s a win-win. The patients are happy seeing the pediatricians they always have, but we now have a connection to specialty care from Children’s of Mississippi and the expertise of a major medical center right here.”
Noting UMMC’s missions of clinical care along with education and research, McCrary said medical residents interested in practicing in general pediatrics would benefit from rotations in Gulf Coast clinics.
“Here we might have a 6-month-old getting a check-up in one room and a child being diagnosed with ADHD in the next,” McCrary said. “In general pediatrics, we see everything.”
Not far from the Children’s of Mississippi pediatric clinic in Biloxi is the specialty clinic where Lee and Troutman practice and where experts such as pediatric orthopaedist Dr. John Purvis visit on a rotating basis.
This particular afternoon, Kate Brown, a 19-year-old from Lucedale, was seeing Lee after having experienced seizures.
Lucedale is 62 miles from Biloxi, but 148 miles from Jackson, so having Lee closer to home is convenient, said Kate’s mom, Denise Brown, “but we would drive whatever distance we had to for Dr. Lee. We love him.”
In January, UMMC began managing Memorial Hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit, the Mississippi Gulf Coast’s only Level III unit. Offering around-the-clock care to newborns with special needs, the recently updated unit has 11 semi-private rooms with 23 NICU beds where critically ill or premature infants receive advanced levels of treatment.
Batson Children’s Hospital is home to the state’s only Level IV NICU, the highest level.
Adjacent to Batson on UMMC’s Jackson campus is where a new seven-story 340,000-square-foot children’s tower is now under construction. The tower will include a larger NICU with private rooms, more PICU rooms, 12 new operating suites, an imaging center designed for children and an outpatient pediatric specialty clinic.
The construction is being funded in part by the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi, growchildrens.org, a philanthropic effort to raise $100 million. The campaign has raised $63 million toward that goal.
The tower is expected to open its doors in August 2020.
Guy Giesecke, CEO of Children’s of Mississippi, said the organization’s outreach is part of its vision to help Mississippi’s children reach their full potential.
“By bringing needed care within reach of families in south Mississippi and the Gulf Coast, we are helping families by reducing travel costs and giving parents the peace of mind of knowing that their physicians are close to home,” he said. “While our main campus in Jackson is growing, so is our outreach. We want our improvements to benefit all the children in the state.”