Solutions for Patient Safety

Children’s Hospitals’ Solutions for Patient Safety (SPS), a national network of children’s hospitals committed to the highest safety and quality standards, selected Children’s as the December 2017 Hospital of the Month. Children’s first received the honor in January 2016. The hospital also celebrated a decrease in risks to patient safety as well as the rollout of I-Connect, a patient data entry program that helps maintain consistency in patient records.


On Valentine’s Day 2017, 19-year-old Robin Struble became the first patient to undergo thermal laser ablation surgery to treat her epilepsy at Children’s. Thermal laser ablation, trademarked as Visualase, is touted as less invasive than a craniotomy and boasts a quicker recovery time. Visualase uses a flexible laser fiber that is guided through a “nick” scalp incision and small hole in the skull–3.2 millimeters to be exact or about the width of a coffee stir stick. The laser heats and destroys abnormal brain tissue, leaving the surrounding healthy tissue unharmed. The entire procedure is viewed in real time on magnetic resonance imaging to ensure safe and successful target treatment. Thermal maps show the extent of the tissue being destroyed. Finally, the laser is removed and the incision is closed with minimal sutures, typically one stitch. Children’s neurosurgeons Jeffrey Blount, M.D., and Curtis Rozzelle, M.D., underwent training to perform Visualase therapy, first approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in 2010.


Children’s successfully administered its first photopheresis treatment in April. Previously, patients were transported to and from UAB for treatment. Photopheresis was first approved by the FDA in 1988 to treat cutaneous T-cell lymphoma. Since that time, the treatment has shown to be effective in the treatment of other disorders, including graft versus host disease, solid organ transplant rejection, atopic dermatitis and rheumatoid arthritis.

Vestibular and Balance

Children’s Hearing and Speech Department is home to equipment necessary for diagnosing vestibular disorders, which may occur as the result of various conditions, including concussion and sensorineural hearing loss. The addition makes Children’s the first facility in the state to offer comprehensive clinical pediatric vestibular and balance services. The equipment was purchased in part by monies received from Wells Fargo through its annual Picks for Kids campaign, which donates $1,000 to Children’s every time a University of Alabama and Auburn University football player makes an interception.


In order to better meet health needs across the state, the Alabama Genomic Health Initiative (AGHI) was recently launched as a collaboration among Children’s of Alabama, the University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) and the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. The project, funded by a $2 million appropriation from the Alabama Legislature to UAB, supports one of the nation’s first statewide efforts to harness the power of genomic analysis to help identify those at high risk for a genetic disease and provide a basis for continuing research into genetic contributors to health and disease.


Children’s Communication Healthcare Education Simulation (COACHES) program trains community healthcare providers treating pediatric patients at their respective hospitals. A pediatric simulation outreach team comprised of Chrystal Rutledge, M.D.; Kristen Waddell, CRNP; Stacy Gaither, RN, BSN; and Adria Whitfield, AA, travel to hospitals across the state bringing state-of-the-art simulation mannequins and equipment.


Rare Disease Genomics Symposium

The fourth annual Rare Disease Genomics Symposium drew its largest crowd yet in 2017. More than 100 attendees heard topics focusing on ways primary care physicians can use genetic testing in their day-to-day practice and when to refer patients. Children’s co-hosted the event with the UAB Department of Genetics. Children’s displayed the Beyond the Diagnosis art exhibit featuring 12 original works depicting patients with various rare diseases.

Concussion Summit

The theme for Children’s fourth annual Concussion Summit was “Kids and Concussions: Tough Questions Worth Asking.” Topics addressed included advances in football helmet design and safety, and what schools can do to help children recover from concussions. Gerard Gioia, pediatric neuropsychologist at Children’s National Health System in Washington, D.C., and director of the Safe Concussion Outcome & Recovery Education Program, was the keynote speaker.

Mental Health in the School Setting

More than 75 school counselors, teachers, administrators and community health professionals attended the second annual Mental Health in the School Setting conference. Dr. Terra Griffin of Children’s Behavioral Health designed the meeting to give school personnel tools they could use in the classroom to evaluate students with a potential mental health issue, de-escalate situations and refer a student's family to the right place for care.