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New Chief of Staff Excited to Lead Shriners Children's Ohio to Bright Future

Higginson speaking at podium

Sara Higginson, M.D., speaks to staff, sharing her excitement to be part of the organization and her vision for the future.

You could call Dr. Sara Higginson’s new role as chief of staff at Shriners Children’s Ohio a homecoming – returning to the state where one pivotal moment changed the direction of her life.

She was working as an EMS pilot for Medflight of Ohio and flew a trauma patient to a Columbus hospital. That’s where she witnessed the trauma surgeon who she called a “superhero.”

“He entered with cape billowing, four pagers on his waist and in an instant, had full command of the room,” Higginson described. “I knew in that moment, I wanted to be ‘that guy.’”

So, she enrolled at The Ohio State University and earned her medical degree from the College of Medicine. She then headed west to complete her surgical residency, followed by fellowships. She eventually returned to Fresno, where she trained, as medical director of burns at the Leon S. Peters Burn Center.

Higginson said, even while working at other hospitals, everyone knew the reputation of Shriners Children’s.

“Shriners Children’s is the rock star in the burn world. They’ve been part of every major advancement in the prevention and treatment of burns, and have some of the best outcomes,” she said.

Higginson added she’s spent her entire career improving her skills as a surgeon and elevating the type of care she delivers to patients, so when she saw the posting for the chief of staff position at Shriners Children’s Ohio, it was fate.

“In an instant, it felt like I was shown my destiny,” she said.

She added that working with children and being part of their continuity of care is especially meaningful.

“Children really are resilient and adapt well after their injury,” she explained. “We stay with that child as they grow so they can tell us if they need more functionality based on their interests, like playing an instrument or sports.”

Higginson, Shriners Children's logo, statue

Higginson stands at the entrance to Shriners Children's Ohio. She said she has spent her entire career improving her skills as a surgeon and elevating the type of care she delivers to patients in order to join the Shriners Children's family.

Now, as chief of staff, Dr. Higginson will lead an entire team committed to providing the best outcome for every child.

That team includes plastic surgeons who perform cleft lip, cleft palate and complex craniofacial surgeries, but also help with complex burn reconstruction and scar modification.

“What they’re able to do, is magic,” Higginson described. “These are children who likely would not survive without these surgeries. Sometimes they are literally reconstructing a child’s skull, or face, the team includes a neurosurgeon to give the child the best functional outcome.”

Dr. Higginson is also quick to point out another hallmark of the Shriners Children’s mission: wrap-around care by a multi-disciplinary team.

“I’m so impressed by the experience of the clinical team who is all working toward the same goal: the best outcome for that child,” she said. “We have rounds multiple times a day with every discipline involved in that child’s care, so everyone is bringing their expertise to the table. We also have social workers and care managers to make sure the parents and families are also part of the process.”

That team is central to Dr. Higginson’s goal of being there for every child who needs burn or craniofacial care.

“I want us to be the first call providers make if they have a child with a burn injury,” she explained. “I want us to say ‘yes’ to some of the most complicated craniofacial conditions.”

Still, Dr. Higginson stresses that for parents dealing with a child’s burn injury or learning their baby will be born with a craniofacial condition, there is no such thing as a “simple case.”

“You want the best for your child, and that’s what you’ll get at Shriners Children’s Ohio.”

Higginson with female patient

Dr. Higginson with a patient, Merhia, in front of the Shriners Children's Ohio logo

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