Innovative Burn Care All About Changing Lives
Shriners Children’s Leads the Way Through Expertise and Research
For Jaclyn Block, there is no doubt: Shriners Children’s burn care saved her son Bryson’s life.
“Without Shriners, he wouldn't be here at all. He had a 13% chance to live,” Jaclyn said of her son, who was 8 years old when he was burned from a gas can explosion at their Ohio home. “And to go from that, to where he is now, I mean, we couldn't have made it without Shriners.”
Now, almost eight years later, Jaclyn remains in awe of the care Bryson and others like him receive from an organization that has defined pediatric burn care as we know it today.
“They make these kids feel comfortable and anything that they want to do, any type of person they want to be they're right there behind them helping them out and getting them to be the best people they can be.”
Shriners Children’s treats burns of any size – from massive, life-threatening injuries to the smallest superficial burn. Care extends to children with serious skin conditions, dog bites, skin tears and other wounds. All four burn centers are accredited by the Joint Commission and have been distinguished by the American Burn Association (ABA) and the American College of Surgeons.
Physicians from Shriners Children’s have been active in the ABA throughout its history, serving as committee chairs, officers and advocates. Twelve Shriners Children’s doctors have served as ABA president. Ingrid Parry, a physical therapist and researcher at Shriners Children’s Northern California, was named president of the American Burn Association (ABA) for the 2022-2023 year, becoming the first non-physician/non-surgeon to lead the organization.
The physicians and care teams have contributed to most of the significant advancements in acute and reconstructive burn care since the system began treating burns in the 1960s, and has set many of the standards for pediatric burn care.
The medical team at Shriners Children’s includes leaders of the American Burn Association, the American Board of Surgery, International Society for Burn Injuries, American Association for the Advancement of Science, the Society of Critical Care Medicine and the American Surgical Association. Journal editors, textbook authors and winners of outstanding teaching awards are counted among the medical team. All are focused on advanced practices. They conduct research, lecture nationally and internationally, and work collaboratively to ensure that every child they serve benefits from exceptional care and expertise.
The organization pioneered a specialized nutrition plan to reduce muscle loss. Research scientists in the healthcare system also fostered advancements in determining how much fluid to give patients in the first few hours after a burn. Additionally, physicians developed the use of cultured skin substitutes to close acute wounds more quickly. Techniques that are now considered the standard of care in burn scar reconstruction were born out of research by Shriners Children’s staff.
“The survival rate of children who have significant burns has dramatically improved thanks to the remarkable evolution in both the treatment and recovery phases,” said Shriners Children’s Chief Medical Officer Frances A. Farley, M.D.
"The commitment to a wrap-around care approach is rooted in studies and research into the emotional and psychological needs of children coping with injuries and other changes," Farley said.
We’re not just treating the physical injury. We are also providing emotional and psychological support that a child and their family needs to heal.
The story began when the first Shriners Hospital opened in 1922 as a place where children suffering from the crippling effects of polio, clubfoot and other orthopedic conditions could receive much-needed medical care regardless of the families' ability to pay or insurance status. The simple idea inspired a wave of optimism that transformed itself into a model of care that embraced children, their families and the promise of a brighter future.
Donations fueled the growth and development of a healthcare system that honored the unique needs of children and delivered care in care facilities built just for kids. Positive patient outcomes attracted physician leaders intent on finding new and innovative ways to treat the most challenged among us. Clinical research was incorporated into the model of care.
Pediatric Burn Centers Open
Shriners Hospitals for Children formalized its permanent entry into pediatric burn care with the opening of 30-bed pediatric burn hospitals in Galveston, Ohio and Boston in the late 1960s. A fourth center for pediatric burn care was established in 1997 with the opening of Shriners Hospitals for Children — Northern California in Sacramento.
Partnerships and New Models of Care
The partnerships forged with neighboring teaching and research institutions allowed Shriners Children's to expand its scientific research and discover new ways to improve medical outcomes. The partnerships also provided new opportunities for resident education and the fulfillment of the threefold mission of treatment, teaching and research.
The collaboration between Shriners Children’s and its neighboring teaching and research institutions continues today. Physicians and scientists partner with university colleagues in both care and research.
As Shriners Children’s examines future care needs, one thing is certain – all decisions will put the needs of patients first.
Responding to Tragedy
Shriners Children’s always stands ready to provide critical care for critical needs. When fire erupted at the ABC Day Care in Hermosillo, Mexico, on June 5, 2009, doctors and nurses at the Northern California Shriners Hospital worked around-the-clock to respond to the needs of children severely burned in the fire. Tina Palmieri, M.D., a specialist in emergency response, led triage efforts as children were airlifted to the Shriners Hospital in Sacramento.
When the news first broke in March 2017 of a devastating fire at a children’s shelter in Guatemala, our staff reached out to their contacts in Guatemala to offer assistance, and within 24 hours the first team of Shriners Children's physicians was on the scene.
“When any hospital receives such a large number of critically injured children, it places a great strain on its resources – no matter what country it is,” said Jong Lee, M.D., pediatric burn surgeon and medical director of the intensive care unit at Shriners Children's Texas, and member of the first team on the ground in Guatemala. “Each patient requires very complex, round- the-clock care. Shriners Hospitals for Children is fortunate to have four burn hospitals in our system. This made it possible for us to help several of these children.”
After the initial go-team arrived, the first group of patients was identified for transport and arrived at Shriners Children’s Texas in the early morning hours of March 12. Three other patients were identified by a second go-team and transported to the Boston Shriners Hospital, and two more patients received care at the Ohio hospital.
In 2022, two severely burned children from Ukraine were treated in Boston for highly specialized surgeries and treatment.
While the medical team at Shriners Children’s is constantly researching new ways to advance care and improve patient outcomes, they are equally devoted to prevention education and advocacy.
Many prevention studies have won “best poster” awards at the annual meeting of the ABA. A Circle of Safety poster designed to promote campfire safety was adopted by the California State Department of Parks and Recreation and circulated at campgrounds throughout the state.
Prevention posters have emphasized the importance of smoke alarms and water sprinklers, and others have warned of the dangers of hot liquids and halogen lamps.
Burn Care Timeline
- 1962: Resolution to add burn care to list of treatment specialties adopted by unanimous vote at Shriners Imperial Session in Toronto, Canada.
- 1963: Shriners Hospitals for Children opens seven-bed wing for pediatric burn care in the John Sealy Hospital at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston.
- 1964: Shriners Hospitals opens pediatric burn units in Cincinnati General Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.
- 1966: Shriners Hospitals for Children pediatric burn institute opens in Galveston, Texas.
- 1968: Shriners Hospitals opens new pediatric burn institutes in Cincinnati and Boston.
- 1973: Firefighters Burn Institute established in Sacramento one year after Farrell’s Ice Cream Parlor disaster.
- 1974: UC Davis Medical Center’s Burn Unit opens in Sacramento.
- 1983: First grafts of cultured skin grown from patients’ own cells are used to treat two brothers flown from Wyoming to the Boston Shriners Hospital for burn care.
- 1997: Shriners Hospitals for Children opens in Sacramento.
- 2006: Northern California Shriners Hospital co-hosts Phoenix Society’s World Burn Congress in Sacramento.
- 2008: American Burn Association’s Data Coordinating Center at UC Davis launched.
- 2008: Little Heroes Preschool Burn Camp begins.
- 2009: Mexico’s ABC day care fire – patients treated at Shriners Hospitals for Children.
- 2012: Shriners Hospitals partners with Firefighters Burn Institute for National Scald Prevention Campaign.
- 2017: Shriners Hospitals responds to needs of children injured in fire in Guatemala.
- 2022: Shriners Children's looks to the future as it pioneers new and innovative ways to deliver pediatric burn care.
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