In 2008, Akron Children’s opened the doors to its Beeghly campus to continue to serve Mahoning Valley’s children and families and ensure no gap in services were left behind from the closing of Tod Children’s Hospital a year earlier. But, Akron Children’s goal quickly transformed into a catalyst for extraordinary growth to fill a need to bring high-quality, specialized pediatric care to the community.
What began as collaborative relationships with medical colleagues and hospital systems in the Mahoning Valley to transition services has grown to include:
- A 25-bed pediatric inpatient unit
- A pediatric Emergency Department
- An 18-bed neonatal Special Care Nursery
- A center for childhood cancer and blood disorders
- Radiology, laboratory and rehabilitation services
- An array of subspecialties, such as cardiology, orthopedics, nephrology, neurology, rheumatology and pulmonology
Today, as Beeghly celebrates 15 years, that promise to bring high-quality, pediatric care close to home continues to ring true as the list of programs and services is long and growing.
In commemoration, hear what a few of Akron Children’s providers who have been here since the beginning — with boots on the ground — have to say about what Akron Children’s presence has meant to the community and the lasting impact Beeghly has made on families and the region.
How has Beeghly met the pediatric needs of the community over the years?
Elena Rossi, MD, medical director of special projects, retired neonatologist and former director of Akron Children’s NICU at Mercy Health – St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital: When we first opened, it was about what services did we have located on the Beeghly campus and not so much about the care of the whole family. We had a pediatric office here, an Emergency Room there. We had an inpatient unit, but it was just about getting services up and running. Because of the success of the early years, we were able to develop a strategic plan as to which services our families needed to provide family-centered care.
Today, the facilities are beautiful and welcoming, and the parking is convenient. Most of all, it’s very impactful for families to have primary and specialty care close to home. This community has never had the depth of specialties that we have now.
‘What was one of the biggest challenges in the beginning?
Dr. Rossi: The biggest challenge for the community was to learn who we are and what we have to offer. It was a challenge for the community to believe that we were here to stay because Tod Children’s had closed. It’s crazy to think now what it would be like if we didn’t have Akron Children’s in the Mahoning Valley.
When was the Heart Center established in the region?
Grace Smith, MD, director of Akron Children’s Heart Center Mahoning Valley: The Heart Center established the first pediatric specialty office for Akron Children’s in Boardman in July 2002. We offered outpatient pediatric cardiology services to the community, and partnered with Mercy Health – St. Elizabeth Youngstown Hospital to treat babies in the NICU and Special Care Nursery.
How has the addition of orthopedics made an impact on the region?
Sheryl Handler-Matasar, MD, director of Orthopedic Surgery & Clubfoot Clinic in Mahoning Valley: While there was already a small orthopedic presence here when I joined Akron Children’s from Tod Children’s Hospital in 2007, orthopedics truly has taken off in the past 10 years with the added presence of multiple orthopedic providers every day in Mahoning Valley. We now have specialists in sports surgery, spine, hand/upper extremity and neuromuscular/clubfeet, and often have surgeries in the Mahoning Valley 3 to 4 days a week. In addition, we all take care of orthopedic trauma on a daily basis.
With the addition of primary care sports medicine, the orthopedics and sports medicine service line has really blossomed, as well.
Today, orthopedics is one of the busiest departments in the entire hospital. We have 12 orthopedic surgeons, 11 primary care sports medicine physicians and 15 nurse practitioners/physician assistants in our service line. Plus, Beeghly’s orthopedic department has become a major referral resource from pediatricians and outside hospitals in the region.
What achievements are you most proud of?
Dr. Smith: Witnessing the rise of Akron Children’s Beeghly campus in 2017 was a major milestone. The expansion added 47 exam rooms for pediatric specialty and primary care services to expand treatment offerings to patient families all in one building.
In addition, the growth of the Warren Pediatric Cardiology office, due to the great work of my partner, Robert VandeKappelle, Jr., MD, has expanded our geographic reach. Finally, our collaboration with Mercy Health Maternal Fetal Medicine specialists allows us to provide early diagnosis of babies with congenital heart disease.
Dr. Rossi: I’m most proud of the single patient family rooms that were added in Akron Children’s NICU at Mercy Health – St. Elizabeth’s and Special Care Nursery at Beeghly in 2014. Going from the pod concept, that old-fashioned one big NICU room, to family-centered care made a huge impact for families who had a baby in the NICU. I’m a neonatologist, so it’s a narrow accomplishment, but a big one for those families going through a difficult time.
Most memorable moment?
Dr. Handler-Matasar: I’ve been practicing orthopedic surgery in the Mahoning Valley for more than 18 years, so I’m beginning to see the next generation of patients — specifically the children of prior patients of mine.
Recently, I evaluated a toddler for a common gait abnormality. His 28-year-old father was a very memorable patient of mine when he was a teenager. We laughed about some of the things he said to me over 10 years ago, which I still remember to this day!
Any future growth you’re most excited about?
Dr. Smith: We are recruiting a third pediatric cardiologist to join us in the Mahoning Valley. Someday, it would be great to add an adult congenital cardiology clinic at Beeghly to serve adults in Youngstown with congenital heart disease.
Dr. Rossi: The future is telehealth. It’s really about meeting the patients where they are.
What has our growth meant for the community?
Dr. Rossi: Jobs! A lot of jobs. The growth has created a lot of revenue for the community and support for local businesses.
But, the main thing is more care for kids locally, and I mean everything from MRI and advanced testing to surgery to specialized treatment to meet the needs of our community’s children.