040214 - Arnes
April 24, 2014

Volume 36 | Number 6

New UT President Doubles as Pediatrician

THE PEDIATRICIAN AND THE PATIENT—Cystic fibrosis patient Jenna Medina, 14, is examined by her pediatric pulmonologist, Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D., who is also the new president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston.


By Kathleen Smith  |  Texas Medical Center News

Giuseppe Colasurdo, M.D., the new president of The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston, slips off his suit jacket and slips into the role of pediatrician every third weekend – without his white coat. It’s very important, he said, not to wear a white coat in front of pediatric patients.

“We don’t like to scare young kids,” he said. “If you wear a white coat you run that risk.”

As he stands outside the Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital room of 14-year-old cystic fibrosis patient Jenna Medina, he slips on plastic gown and gloves to avoid bringing germs into her room. As a CF patient, the teenager’s weakened lungs are susceptible to infection.

Colasurdo has been with Medina since the very beginning. A pediatric pulmonologist, Colasurdo diagnosed the native of Nederland, Texas with cystic fibrosis when she was only 3 months old.

Medina’s parents first brought her to Memorial Hermann because there was no doctor near their home who would treat her.

The entire family has benefited from the hospital’s patient-centered care, said Medina, who is typically hospitalized two weeks out of every year. During each hospitalization, she gets a new peripherally inserted central catheter, also known as a PICC line. The thin, soft plastic tube is inserted through the large vein in her arm into her body and remains in place for months. The antibiotics that are so important to her health are delivered through the tube, eliminating the need for needles and shots.

This year, Colasurdo allowed Medina to be discharged after only 10 days, so she could make it home in time for Thanksgiving. At home, her mom administered antibiotics through the PICC line.

“They’re pros at this by now,” Colasurdo said. “We put a certain amount of trust in our patients, that they will take ownership of their care.”

Because of her disease, Medina had to relinquish her dream of becoming a cheerleader. The physical demands would be too much for her coughing, chest pain and wheezing.

The teenager now spends her free time sewing – she’s making a quilt – and attending Friday night high-school football games as a fan. Her hometown team, the Bulldogs, is undefeated, so it’s an exciting first year of high school for Medina.

Her ultimate objective is to become a pediatric pulmonologist, inspired by her own expreiences and by Colasurdo.

To reach that goal, Colasurdo said Medina must keep her lungs healthy. “No smoking, young lady,” he says as he shakes his finger at her, somewhat jokingly.

Medina knows all too well about the dangers of an unhealthy lifestyle and what it will do to her. Even now, Medina’s mom said, school dances where smoke machines add to the ambience don’t work well for her daughter.

Colasurdo’s patients, including Medina, are his top priority. When listening to their lungs, he often delights hospitalized children by letting them “listen in” with his double-bell stethoscope, which has two listening heads – one for the patient’s front and one for the patient’s back. The stethoscope was a special gift from the University of Colorado, where Colasurdo completed his fellowship training program.

As president of UT Health Science Center, Colasurdo says his goal is to hire talented physicians, then inspire them.

“Ultimately, my success and the success of the university will be measured by their success,” he said.

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