With over 100 years of pioneering medical care for patients under 21, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta continually raises the bar for pediatric healthcare for the region. Metro Atlanta is a hub for global health, and Children’s partners with organizations to expand care to children regardless of background. Children’s is a main component to the region’s high quality of life, and Senior Director of Corporate Partnerships Sharon Robinson recently sat down with the Metro Atlanta Chamber to give an update on the system’s work in innovating healthcare for tomorrow.
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Metro Atlanta Chamber: Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is well-known in the community, dedicated to caring for children since 1915. Last year, you announced a new expansion project. Tell us about some of your most recent updates.
Sharon Robinson: We believe, “Every Child Deserves Children’s,” and that’s why we’re driven to increase access to our specialized care. To do this, we need the space and flexibility required to grow and better coordinate services for our patients and families. A planned campus at North Druid Hills and I-85 – as well as continued growth across our system – will allow us to meet the needs of Georgia’s children for decades to come.
We opened the Center for Advanced Pediatrics in July 2018. The outpatient, non-emergency facility brings together multiple pediatric clinics, programs and specialists under one roof and provides a better way to treat children and teens with chronic diseases and complex care needs. The Center for Advanced Pediatrics, which received LEED Gold certification, has already had more than 79,000 patient visits. This facility was the first new structure completed at the campus, which will also be home a pediatric hospital, support staff offices and more than 20 acres of greenspace and miles of walking trails and paths.
The construction of the Support Buildings along the I-85 access road, which will house most of Children’s non-clinical staff, is currently underway. The completion of these buildings is expected in 2020. The focus will then turn to construction of the new hospital, which we expect to be completed in 2025.
MAC: Children’s works with organizations around the community to help foster a healthy region. What is the scope of your initiatives around metro Atlanta? Can other organizations reach out to get involved?
Robinson: Children’s created the Strong4Life program to help busy parents raise healthier families. We do this by focusing on three key strategies: equipping parents with the resources they need at home, training healthcare providers, and working with schools and the community to impact kids where they learn and play. Corporations can play a large role in this outreach by equipping their own employees with the parenting resources on strong4life.com or making a financial gift in support of the program so that Children’s can expand these services and continue spreading our message throughout Georgia.
MAC: Children’s works with Fortune 500 organizations around the region, from Delta Air Lines to PNC through their foundation. How did these collaborations come about, and what are their goals?
Robinson: As a not-for-profit healthcare system, Children’s relies on community support to provide funding for several programs, some of which are housed outside the walls of our hospitals. PNC Bank and Children’s both understand the power of reading and how literacy can positively impact a child’s future. Through Children’s Strong4Life program, board books are offered to families during visits with their trained pediatric providers. These books encourage literacy and provide feeding and nutrition messaging in a fun and engaging way. This type of outreach is especially critical for low-income families who may not have easy access to books.

“PNC is committed to supporting Children’s ongoing efforts to provide families and caregivers with access to educational resources for Georgia’s children,” said PNC Regional President for Georgia and Children’s Board of Trustees member Eddie Meyers. “Through the PNC Foundation, we have supported Children’s Strong4Life Book Series since 2012 and are providing additional funding to expand the Family Library Programs at the Egleston and Scottish Rite hospitals. These efforts will provide even more quality resources for the parents, doctors, siblings and educators who influence a child’s life.”

Delta Air Lines also understands that caring for a sick or injured child requires more than just providing medical care. The Child Life Program at Children’s addresses the emotional and developmental needs of children, and these services are not covered by insurance. Delta has chosen to support our Child Life Program by providing a mobile art cart, supplies and ongoing art programming during a child’s stay. Art activities can serve as a coping mechanism for stress and also can provide normalcy to a child’s experience while in the hospital. Delta is also our lead sponsor for the annual North Pole trip that takes our patients from the Children’s Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center to see Santa.

“Delta Air Lines is proud to support patients and families at Children’s,” said Vice President of Community Engagement Tad Hutcheson. “Connecting the world is part of our mission at Delta and our most recent gift benefits the Artist-in-Residence program, which encourages children to express their feelings about illness and treatment, builds confidence and self-esteem and allows kids to connect with one another. Through Delta’s funding, we also funded a Children’s mobile art cart, which allows Child Life specialists to travel easily around the hospital and work at the bedside with patients on special art projects. It is part of our culture to give back to the communities where we live, work and serve and we are honored to be a part of the innovative work being done at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.”

Working with both organizations, we identified programs at Children’s that were also a fit within their own culture and corporate social responsibility goals. These relationships are built with good communication, a spirit of partnership and a desire to help kids.
MAC: Crawford and Co. is another major, recent collaboration. How does Children’s intersect with these institutions, and why are corporate partnerships like these and the previous companies discussed important for a region like metro Atlanta?
Robinson: Corporations in metro Atlanta benefit by supporting the healthcare system in which their employees take their children for care. In addition, employees are looking for ways to connect and volunteer, and Children’s can help arrange those opportunities. In addition to providing financial support for trauma services and event sponsorships, Crawford and Co. hosts an annual Global Day of Service where employees come together to give their time and volunteer. This past year, employees assembled activity kits for children in the hospital. Giving back, in the form of both time and money, is a part of their corporate culture, and partnering with Children’s has led to a positive impact on so many patient families as well.

“Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta is an integral part of our community, and it is a cause close to my heart, both personally and professionally. Children’s has touched many lives at Crawford & Company, from board members to employees, when a child has fallen ill,” said Crawford & Co. President and CEO Harsha V. Agadi. “As a result, in addition to our corporate financial support, our Atlanta office has chosen Children’s as its Global Day of Service volunteer project for two years running. Our employees generously donate supplies and we come together on a Saturday morning to assemble various care kits for patients and their families. While small tokens of our appreciation, we know these kits go a long way to helping the brave patients and families at Children’s.”

MAC: What benefits arise when employees with organizations across the region get involved in the community? How can more individuals become involved?
Robinson: Individuals want their employers to be involved in the community and offer opportunities for employees to engage in meaningful programs and events. Children’s will work with companies to identify activities that are the best fit for them, whether hosting a craft party for a group of patients or assembling hospitality bags for parents in need.
With the growth of Children’s throughout the community, there are more and more children of metro Atlanta employees who are seen at a Children’s hospital or neighborhood location. With the upcoming campaign for the replacement hospital, now is a great time for the metro Atlanta business community to become more involved and discover new ways to connect with their employees by visiting Corporateprograms@choa.org.
MAC: Children’s pursues innovation at all opportunities, including by incorporating VR to help cancer patients. Tell us about Children’s work in technology.
Robinson: The Children’s Aflac Cancer and Blood Disorders Center recently worked with the American Cancer Society to provide virtual reality headsets to patients to cope during chemotherapy and procedures, including port access. The goal of the headsets, one of the many distraction tools used by our child life specialists, is to help patients pass the time during treatments and relieve accompanying pain and anxiety. Whether they’re riding a rollercoaster, swimming with dolphins or relaxing on the beach, VR can transport a patient to another place.
Innovation is an ongoing priority at Children’s. Last fall, we worked with a cross-functional team across Children’s, Georgia Tech and Emory to become the second institution in the nation to place a 3D-printed tracheal splint in a 7-month-old patient battling a life-threatening airway obstruction. We are constantly striving to improve the health of children and transform pediatric healthcare through collaborative research and discovery.
For more information on Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta, visit: https://www.choa.org/

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