JACKSON — A transformation of pediatric care is under construction, benefiting children in the Leflore County area as well as the rest of the state.
Children’s of Mississippi, the pediatrics arm of the University of Mississippi Medical Center, is expanding, more than doubling the square footage of the state’s only children’s hospital.
The seven-story expansion reached its pinnacle in June and is on schedule to open in fall 2020.
Having a state-of-the-art children’s hospital and medical specialists ready at a moment’s notice is vital to the health of Mississippi’s children, supporters say.
Lake and Nicole Lindsey of Greenwood know this firsthand. Their daughter Iva Beth, now 5, is cancer-free after a fight against stage 4 germ cell cancer. The Lindseys had surgeons and oncologists from Children’s of Mississippi in their corner since the day they arrived at the pediatric emergency department with concerns about a lump they discovered on their daughter’s back.
“Iva Beth has had so many surgeries,” said Nicole Lindsey. “Our surgeons at Children’s of Mississippi are like family to us.”
After chemotherapy and surgeries to remove tumors in spots, including her lower spine, adrenal gland, abdomen and brain, Iva Beth had three stem cell transplants at UMMC to restore her own blood-forming stem cells.
Radiation treatment was given at M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, Texas, but most of Iva Beth’s care was at Batson Children’s Hospital.
“Children’s cancer care is a big network,” she said. “It was important to us to get as much of her care in Mississippi as possible. At Batson, her doctors collaborated with other experts around the country to get her the care she needed.”
Iva Beth has been cancer-free for more than a year. A true “girly girl,” she loves dancing, gymnastics and swimming and will be heading to kindergarten next year, Nicole said.
“We love Batson,” she said, “and we will be forever grateful.”
The current pediatric hospital space, opened in 1997, has been outgrown and outpaced by advances in medicine and the needs of Mississippi’s children, said Dr. Mary Taylor, Suzan B. Thames Chair, professor and chair of pediatrics at UMMC.
“We deliver world-class care here today,” she said. “Our pediatric care team achieves outcomes that rival the best children’s hospitals in the country, and soon we will have a facility that matches their skills.”
The 355,303-square-foot tower will house 88 state-of-the art private neonatal intensive care rooms, additional pediatric intensive care unit rooms and surgical suites and an imaging center designed for children. The Children’s Heart Center, representing the Medical Center’s pediatric cardiovascular program, will also call the new building home.
A pediatric outpatient specialty clinic will bring pediatric specialists and subspecialists together to allow patients to see multiple experts in one location. A convenient parking garage will be located nearby.
A project the size of Children’s of Mississippi’s expansion would not be possible without the generosity of philanthropists from around the state who share in their support of children’s health.
To that end, the Campaign for Children’s of Mississippi was launched by Sanderson Farms CEO and board chairman Joe Sanderson Jr. and his wife, Kathy, in 2016. The couple, who are chairing the Campaign, began the fund drive with a $10 million personal donation. Since then, the effort has raised more than 75 percent of its $100 million goal.
“This will ensure better outcomes for children, but also better research now and research that hasn’t even been thought of yet,” Sanderson said in the topping-out celebration for the tower in June. “It will bring more doctors to the state, and more jobs.”
Children’s of Mississippi leaders anticipate recruiting 30-40 new physicians as the facility is built and after it is opened, since it will provide additional capacity.
At a minimum, about 50 to 75 staff positions, not including physicians, would be added after construction is done.
Mike Rozier, CEO of Rozier Construction, with offices in Greenwood and Hattiesburg, said having the best pediatric care ready when needed is important to him and to his sons Michael Rozier Jr., the company’s president, and Craig Rozier, its vice president.
“Nobody plans to need a children’s hospital, but you never know,” said Mike Rozier.
“Rozier Construction gives to several charities, and we stepped up our giving to include Children’s of Mississippi because this is so important. We have 10 grandchildren, and we want the best care ready and available for them and for all the children in the state.”
To learn more about Children’s of Mississippi’s expansion, see progress via a worksite cam and donate, visit growchildrens.org.