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Omaha Children’s Transformational Vision

Mar 01, 2019 06:00AM ● By MED Magazine

Omaha Children’s Hospital & Medical Center is advancing its mission “to improve the life of every child.” With a vision “to be a global leader for children’s health”, Children’s has entered a dramatic season of growth and transformation, the most visible sign of which is a new 9-story Hubbard Center now underway.

For a clearer picture of what’s to come, MED spoke with Children’s President & CEO, Richard Azizkhan, MD, a pediatric surgeon who took the helm three years ago.

MED: What drew you to Omaha?

RA: At Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, I spent about 20 percent of my effort in international health. So part of my interest in taking this CEO position was that I was going to be able to continue and expand that work. The other thing that attracted me was that the geographic reach was quite substantial - we are the only freestanding children’s hospital for 250 miles - but I could see that we had an opportunity to meet the needs of the broader Midwest. There were many disciplines that were understaffed or just didn’t exist, such as pediatric neuro-oncology.

MED: How are you addressing those gaps?

RA: We are doing a lot of recruiting. When I came, we had 130 specialists. Today, we have 230. We are on track to go up to about 400 in the next 5 years. We will also bring on 60 to 70 new scientists. We are looking for people who are game-changers in their field as part of a child health research institute in conjunction with UNMC. 

MED: How does the new Hubbard Center fit into the overall expansion plan?

RA: We are adding 450,000 square feet of new space and are literally doubling in size from 145 beds to 260 beds. We are expanding our ICU capabilities and we are developing a complete set of cardiac services. Our NICU is expanding from 40 to 60 beds and we will have the first NICU-embedded Neonatal MRI. The OR is expanding from 7 to 16 rooms and will include hybrid ORs with interventional radiology embedded. That building will also house a hematology/oncology unit and some shelled space for future expansion. These are the kinds of things we are designing in our tower.

MED: How do these changes reflect the changing mission of Children’s?

RA: Our original mission, that all children would have a chance to survive, was based on the polio epidemic. Today, it is more about improving the lives of children in our six surrounding states and around the world with exceptional clinical care, research, education, and advocacy.

MED: How is the project being paid for and how long will it take?

RA:  This is a $430 million project with the parking garage and we have a 10-year capital plan. We are almost finished with the $50 million for the bricks and mortar portion and The Hubbard Center will be completed in the first quarter of 2021. We have another $10 million for research infrastructure and we have $20 million segregated into endowment for a research institute. $100 million will be financed and the rest is coming from our resources. We want to show the community that we can reinvent ourselves.

MED: Why is it important to make these changes now?

RA: How we care for patients will continue to evolve. Because of the moves we’re making now, our successors will have the flexibility to make the right decisions for the community in the future.

Click here to see more on the project.