Between four highly-trained physicians, the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center of Driscoll Children’s Hospital treats more than 100 young patients per month at the Driscoll Children’s Specialty Center in Brownsville and at the Driscoll Children’s Medical Plaza in McAllen.

While physicians Nkechi Mba, MD, FAAP, Medical Director; Jeff Hanrahan, MD; Catherine Boston, MD; and Farha Sherani, MD; see many patients at the Corpus Christi-based hospital, they spend a lot of time in the Rio Grande Valley providing treatment to patients there.

Bringing Care to You
“We’ve been in the Valley for more than 15 years providing care,” said Dr. Mba. “We treat patients in Brownsville twice per week and in McAllen once per week. I’m hoping in the near future we will be able to expand our time and presence in the Valley.”

Like every physician working at the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center Dr. Mba, a 1998 Beth Seaton Outstanding Resident Awardee, speaks with a passion about her patients and the care she gives to each of them.

“Every service we provide at the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center in Corpus Christi we also provide to our patients in the Valley with the same standard of care. It helps to bring peace of mind to parents that their children can receive treatments closer to home allowing us to treat all types of cancer and blood disorders,” said Dr. Mba.

“There are some circumstances when patients are brought to Corpus Christi after an initial diagnosis for surgery or when intense care is required,” she added. “After we have a treatment plan or the patient is stabilized, the child can then return to the Valley and continue care.”

Dr. Hanrahan, a board-certified pediatric hematologist-oncologist who came to Driscoll Children’s Hospital about a year ago after spending 17 years in New Mexico, said using targeted therapies helps to extend treatments into the Valley.

“Driscoll is a participant of the Children’s Oncology Group, which is a consortium of about 200 hospitals and academic institutions across the United States, Europe and Australia. They are the largest organization exclusively dedicated to childhood and adolescent cancer treatment and research,” said Dr. Hanrahan. “Being part of the group has given Driscoll the ability to treat oncology patients with the same level of care they could receive anywhere, whether it be Austin, New York City, London or Sydney, Australia.”

What this means for parents of young patients is that the physicians of the Cancer and Blood Disorders Center are able to provide medicines that increase cure rates and decrease the side effects of chemotherapy whether those patients are treated in McAllen or Brownsville.

“We believe it is important to provide the same professional services for the children in the Rio Grande Valley as if they had travelled to the main campus in Corpus Christi,” said Dr. Sherani.

A Well-Rounded Care Plan
The Center uses a multidisciplinary, family-centered approach to care with four board-certified pediatric hematologist-oncologists; oncology nurses; case managers; social workers; dieticians; child life specialists; teachers; chaplains; rehabilitation specialists and psychologists all with specialized education allowing them to be a part of the treatment team.

The Center also offers a broad array of services; in addition to cancer treatments, children with blood disorders including anemia, bleeding and clotting conditions, low blood counts and immune conditions are treated at both Driscoll Valley clinics.

As a cancer or blood disorder diagnosis can be extremely traumatic for a child, it can be just as daunting for parents and family members. Having support groups and chaplains available to provide comfort can help loved ones cope with the challenges faced during the treatment process.

Additionally, Driscoll Children’s Hospital offers camps for the pre-teens and teenage patients of the Cancer and Blood Disorders Clinic during the summer months. Patients living in the Valley participate and are always included in all of the Center’s activities. Transportation is provided by Driscoll to all camps and other activities, such as Chemo Kids Fish Off and the September Childhood Cancer Awareness event.

Dr. Boston points out that the Center is able to provide a valuable service and expertise to patients in the Valley who cannot always come to Corpus Christi.

She said she enjoys being able to go to the Valley, and as someone fluent in Spanish, it helps her to establish a strong relationship with her patients and patient’s families who are primarily Spanish-speaking.

Dr. Sherani said she enjoys the travel to the Valley from Corpus Christi as well, as it gives her time to consult with staff.

“We come very prepared, of course,” said Dr. Sherani, adding that having so many subspecialties within the Driscoll Health System available to the population in the Rio Grande Valley helps to identify other issues that may arise due to some of the unique challenges they may face.

Dr. Sherani said she is familiar with unique patient care challenges as she has been a part of medical volunteer projects in India and Saudi Arabia.

“The socioeconomic challenges, including health insurance and access to primary care in some parts of the world, reflect similarly to what our patients experience in the Valley,” she said. “Recognizing the needs of our patients and addressing them to ensure they are receiving the best possible care available is what Driscoll is so great at.”

While coping with a cancer diagnosis and managing treatments is challenging, it is important to remember that the majority of childhood cancer patients survive this frightening disease. Driscoll Children’s Hospital Cancer and Blood Disorders Center is well-staffed with physicians who carry more than 50 years of experience between them, including many other medical professionals who work with pediatric patients on a daily basis. With the ability to provide the same level of care and consistency of treatment at the Brownsville and McAllen Clinics, Driscoll Children’s Hospital is able to ensure oncology and hematology patients throughout South Texas are in the very best hands.

“Pediatric oncology patients have a much greater chance of survival today than they did years ago,” said Dr. Mba. “I know that we are able to greatly increase that survival rate by the abilities we have here at Driscoll providing care for the children of South Texas.”