Children’s Hospital University of Illinois committed to excellence and community
April 8, 2017

By Marie Balice-Ward

Children’s Hospital University of Illinois offers a welcoming, state-of-the-science environment for youngsters and their parents.

The Children’s Hospital University of Illinois (CHUI) has named Benjamin Van Voorhees, MD, head of pediatrics and physician-in-chief. Voorhees assumed his new role March 16, after serving as interim head for the preceding 18 months.

Meanwhile, the hospital has expanded its efforts to treat children holistically while keeping healthcare costs at bay. CHUI, situated within the University of Illinois Hospital and Health Sciences System (UI Health), treats children up to age 21, and in some cases up to age 25.

CHUI is “community-oriented within the Illinois Medical District,” stated Van Voorhees. “Children and their families always come first. Everyone who comes to us is treated. There are no exceptions.”

“CHUI prides itself for being very community oriented and treating children regardless of their financial status,” said Mary E. Johnson, director of strategy and planning.

She added that CHUI provides more than 50 neonatal intensive care beds, 30 of which are Level III, “the highest care designation awarded by the State of Illinois.”

CHUI is a teaching institution allowing UI Health’s physicians, faculty, residents, and fellows to address children’s varied medical conditions and diseases. Many patients come from nearby communities that include a large number of minorities, Johnson explained.

Expertise in many areas

CHUI offers expert treatments in endocrinology, gastroenterology, genetics, hematology/oncology, immunology, allergy and pulmonology, infectious diseases, nephrology, neurology, psychiatric services, rheumatology, sickle cell anemia, and urology.

It counts 98 beds for pediatric medical surgical, pediatric intensive care, pediatric step down (diminishing levels of care), and neonatal intensive care as well as an adolescent medicine area that encompasses adolescent and pediatric weight management, general pediatrics, and pediatric cardiology and critical care.

“The model for CHUI is a holistic approach, treating the children in their entirety: physical, emotional, developmental, and environmental situations,” explained Van Voorhees.

Addressing the need for a lowcost and widely available model to prevent mental disorders in children and adolescents, Van Voorhees developed a “technology-based behavioral vaccine” model, he said.

Van Voorhees also directs the Coordination of Healthcare for Complex Kids (CHECK) program, for which the hospital received a federal grant.

“Originally, there were about 8,000 hospitals vying for” funding, said Van Voorhees. Ultimately, CHUI received a grant to test a medical care model that focuses on poor children and young adults with chronic conditions.

“Our model has been well received because it improves healthcare while reducing costs associated with treatments,” he said.

“In this day of uncertainty regarding medical care, especially for children, it is the less fortunate who get seriously sick due to the inability to afford primary care,” said Edmundo Cortez, MD, who joined CHUI as chief of critical care in February after about 20 years at Rush University Medical Center.


CHUI also provides an outreach program in which staff help patients’ families with housing, language, and financial support; immigration status; transportation; and other needs, said Mary Lou Schmidt, MD, chief of pediatric hematology/oncology.

In addition, CHUI provides disease management through a community health workforce, mobile dental van, online education, text messaging, and predictive analytics in ZIP codes where CHECK families live.

Babies receive expert healthcare in a wide variety of specialties at the Children’s Hospital University of Illinois.

Schmidt noted how CHUI goes above and beyond, citing a case in which a Chinese couple brought in a baby with a rash. The staff ran tests, found elevated white blood cells and a swollen liver and spleen, and diagnosed pre-leukemia. Despite the staff administering edications, the baby ultimately declined, but “the highly astute nursing staff quickly called in hematology, cardiology, and oncology,” Schmidt said, and clinicians put the infant on a ventilator.

Schmidt said the child now is thriving developmentally. “It was the efforts of an extensive group of specialists, the nursing staff, pathology, radiology, and many other technicians who worked together to treat this infant whose young parents were alone in the United States,” she explained. “It was very difficult to tell his parents when he was diagnosed that he had a 50-50 chance of survival. Now, however, he has office visits every three weeks.”

Another patient, Jessica, came to CHUI from Mexico because she has a tumor behind her right eye. Treatment has stabilized the tumor, but she still needs monitoring. Although she is a U.S. citizen, the federal government wanted to send her and her father back to Mexico (her mother is deceased) because he is undocumented.

Schmidt intervened and delayed the return because the same treatments would not be available in Mexico in the event that the tumor started to grow.

CHUI also provides outpatient services through its Child & Youth Center (CYC), directed by Harsha V. Kumar, MD, assistant professor of clinical pediatrics in the division of allergy/immunology/pulmonology. The CYC addresses Kumar’s areas of specialty as well as pediatric sleep apnea, asthma, and children’s lung diseases; it also provides pulmonary function testing and bronchoscopy services.

Kumar’s department treats about 42,000 children per year. Born in India, he explained his “experience in India resonates with the financially struggling families of his patients at CHUI.”

He believes CHUI is moving in the right direction. “I have a great relationship
with Ben Van Voorhees, who participates in discussions regarding CYC patients. There has been a six percent increase in patients treated in clinic from a year

For more information, call (866) 600-CARE or log on to The hospital is at 1740 W. Taylor St.