Joe DiMaggio, Boston’s Children hospital announce alliance


Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood on Monday announced the grand opening of its Center for Complex care.

Screenshot of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital video

Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital has launched a new initiative to help make it easier for families with kids who have rare and complex health conditions find the specialized care they need without having to travel across the country.

“A lot of these families go everywhere and anywhere to get answers and help with their diagnosis and treatment and our goal is to bring those resources to them and make it easy,” said Caitlin Stella, CEO of Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital in Hollywood.

Children with medical complex conditions are often diagnosed with multiple underlying health conditions that can sometimes lead to lengthy hospital visits and require treatment from a team of specialists. Sometimes, not all of the specialists are in South Florida, causing confusion and stress among families.

Joe DiMaggio is hoping to change that — or at least make the process of finding the right doctor easier — through its Center for Complex Care. The center gives families access to an expanded network of specialists from Joe DiMaggio and Boston’s Children Hospital in Massachusetts, the top pediatric hospital in the U.S. and the primary pediatric teaching hospital for Harvard Medical School.

At Joe DiMaggio, one of several pediatric hospitals in South Florida including Holtz at Jackson Memorial and Nicklaus near South Miami, doctors were already caring for kids and adolescents with complex health conditions. But the care was “fragmented,” with families sometimes having to seek specialists for specific conditions at Boston’s Children Hospital on their own, said Dr. Amanda Porro, Joe DiMaggio’s medical director of clinical effectiveness and complex care programs.

DiMaggio is considered a top hospital for pediatric care, in the Top 50 for orthopedics and cardiology and heart surgery and No. 5 in Florida for children hospitals based on U.S. News & World Report’s 2021-2022 rankings.

Joe DiMaggio, Boston’s Children to streamline care

Through the new “alliance,” doctors at Joe DiMaggio and Boston’s Children Hospital will work together to streamline care and keep families in South Florida as much as possible, Porro said. JoeDiMaggio physicians will now be able to provide patients with direct referrals to Boston Children’s for evaluation and treatment. Physicians from both hospitals will evaluate the child’s condition and create a treatment plan that will keep the care in South Florida, if possible.

“We really care about putting our patients first and trying to take care of all of their needs … where we take some of the legwork away from the families, and we do that for them by coordinating the care,” Porro said. “In addition to finding the physicians, we’re also transferring any medical records, imaging lab results that may need to be done. So we help do that in a coordinated process and ease the burden of the families.”

On Monday, in a Facebook Live video announcing the partnership, Joe DiMaggio introduced viewers to Layla, a 6-year-old patient who the hospital says has benefited from Joe DiMaggio-Boston Children’s continuum of care. In November 2020, Layla was playing on the swings in the backyard of her North Broward home when she said “Mommy, my head hurts,” her mom Nicole recalled in the video.

“She had right side facial drooping, and she collapsed,” Nicole said.

Layla was taken to a hospital, and at her mother’s request, was transferred to Joe DiMaggio, where a team of specialists saw her.

“She was kind of recovering when we were in the ICU — she was moving the right side because everything occurred on the right side, her arm, her leg, her speech — her face symmetry was coming back to normal and then something happened, she lost her speech out of nowhere again and it almost looked like she had another stroke,” her mom said.

Layla was hospitalized for weeks. At some point, Joe DiMaggio connected Layla’s family to Boston’s Children Hospital, where they met with a neurologist. In 15 minutes, he diagnosed her with a medium to large vessel of Central Nervous System Vasculitis, her mom said. Layla, she learned, had an inflamed artery on the left side of the brain, which caused her strokes.

Stella, Joe DiMaggio’s CEO, said Layla’s experience is an example of how families will benefit from the hospital’s alliance with Boston’s Children. Both hospitals already have a “rich history of collaboration,” said Kevin B. Churchwell, president and CEO of Boston’s Children Hospital.

“We’ve found that collaboration is the key to exceptional patient care,” said Churchwell. “Instead of working in silos, we work together, sharing ideas and expertise and that’s how we view our alliance with Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital too … We know that access to exceptional, local care should not be a hurdle for families.”

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There’s never a dull moment in Florida — and Michelle covers it as a Real Time/Breaking News Reporter for the Miami Herald. She graduated with honors from Florida International University, where she served as the editor-in-chief of Student Media PantherNOW. Previously, she worked as a news writer at WSVN Channel 7 and was a 2020-2021 Poynter-Koch Media & Journalism fellow.

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