is a pediatric outpatient center that delivers specialized and complex medical care exclusively for children from the Rio Grande Valley.
Driscoll gastroenterologists such as Ashok Jain, MD, and Vera Okwu, MD, travel from Driscoll Children’s Hospital in Corpus Christi, to the Specialty Center in Brownsville to treat patients with gastrointestinal and liver disorders, as well as nutritional problems of infants, children and adolescents. The clinic also has Sabeen Syed, MD, on staff who treats patients at the main campus.
“I’ve been seeing patients in the Rio Grande Valley for the past 25 years,” said Dr. Jain.
“We started in Harlingen, and then expanded into McAllen and Brownsville.”
Dr. Jain said at that time he was able to hold clinic once per month while he was the only gastroenterologist. In the last several years, the clinic has gastroenterologists seeing patients every week at the Driscoll Children’s Specialty Center.
Patients they see most often will come through referrals after visiting their family practitioner, though it is not uncommon to see a patient for the first time in emergent care.
According to Dr. Syed, once the patient is referred to them, the reputation of Driscoll Children’s Hospital is comforting to the family.
“I think part of the reason is the care we provide is well known, and that someone is always on call to answer their questions after hours, including weekends,” said Dr. Syed. “If the patient needs to be admitted, then we transport them to the main campus in Corpus Christi, taking care of them and always following up with after care once they return home.
“The quality of care we provide is why we see the number of patients that we do.”
Dr. Jain added, “There are also many patients who are transferred from other hospitals from the Rio Grande Valley into our neonatal or pediatric intensive care units that we treat, who require a lot of care, and sometimes we are following up with those patients for many years.”
Driscoll Children’s Hospital continues expanding its care throughout South Texas and the Rio Grande Valley, so that more children receive more care and they do not have to travel outside of their communities.
Gastroenterology complications are complex.
“We see patients with all gastrointestinal-related problems in our clinics,” said Dr. Jain. “These conditions can include inflammatory bowel disease, chronic abdominal pain, intestinal bleeding, constipation and others. We also follow patients who are discharged from Driscoll Children’s Hospital and need continued care.”
With the number of symptoms and variety of ailments connected to gastrointestinal problems, Driscoll gastroenterologists are very experienced in their practice.
Some of the health concerns the physicians treat are:
• Gastroesophageal reflux
• Recurrent abdominal pain
• Diarrheal disorders
• Inflammatory bowel disease
• Peptic ulcer disease
• Chronic active hepatitis
• Disease of the pancreas
“We provide not only the quality of care aspect that is so important, but the efficiency in providing that care,” said Dr. Okwu. “We’re very good about getting our patients in without delay so they are not waiting hours to see the doctor and then reaching out with test results, and next steps that need to be taken to extend that necessary care.”
Dr. Okwu, a graduate of Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine in Chicago, Illinois, completed her residency in Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital and is board certified in General Pediatrics and Pediatric Gastroenterology, as are all physicians in the clinic. She has been with Driscoll for the past three years.
The clinic also has a dietitian on staff, so a patient may easily be seen for nutritional and dietary issues.
“That is a big plus,” added Dr. Jain. “When we see a patient in Brownsville, they are able to be seen the same day to help figure out the dietary needs of the patient and how to improve there so that the impact of care can take hold.”
“There is a lot of specialized care available with Driscoll that is not readily available at even the largest medical centers across the country, particularly with therapies that help with issues related to constipation,” added Dr. Syed.
Driscoll Children’s Specialty Center – Brownsville also has Radiology Services on location so if the gastroenterologists need to see why a child’s stomach or liver is swollen, those diagnostics are readily available to help expedite decision-making at the point of care.
Pediatric radiologists read the results and physicians have immediate access, throughout the entire Driscoll Health System, to relay to parents right away.
Caring for children is Love.
Dr. Jain, who completed his residency at Saint Luke’s in Cleveland, Ohio, has always felt there is such a need to work with children and has done so throughout his entire medical career.
“As we have better resources, we have more challenges,” said Dr. Jain. “To meet those challenges is exciting and offers rewarding opportunities.
“You can create such a change through pediatric medicine,” he added. “We can help children with a wide array of digestive health problems, whether they are simple problems like constipation or soiling, or serious problems like Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, bleeding ulcers, celiac disease and liver diseases. Patients with short bowel syndrome can require years of intravenous nutrition. To see these children grow is very rewarding.”
Each Driscoll gastroenterologist understands that you have to create an environment that is comforting for the child, and try to have fun whenever possible, in order to complete the process of care.
“We enjoy working with children at Driscoll,” said Dr. Syed. “Everyone has pediatric experience, everyone wants to be there and we have a process to turn difficult situations into something much easier to handle for the pediatric patient.”
Dr. Okwu adds that she appreciates the happiness a family shows when their child is feeling better.
“I really enjoy working with families and little patients,” she said. “Taking care of a child, you’re essentially taking care of their family.
“There is no greater reward than to care for our patients, eliminate their pain and guide them toward living a healthier lifestyle, so that they may live, laugh and love together,” said Dr. Okwu.
There continues to be an increase in certain gastroenterological conditions in children that the Driscoll gastroenterologists see that is concerning to them.
“We’ve seen a significant increase in the number of cases of inflammatory bowel disease in young children. South Texas has an obesity epidemic that has contributed to adult disease, however we are finding these same problems in children such as fatty liver, gall stones and pancreatitis,” said Dr. Jain.
Parents can take steps to help combat the rise of obesity and gastrointestinal diseases.
“We are what we eat,” Dr. Jain added. “Parents can adopt a healthy lifestyle for their children eating healthy snacks, sitting down to eat a meal together instead of eating on the run; teaching children how to eat slowly and mindfully.” He also recommends avoiding sugary drinks and limiting juices.
In order to improve access to quality care, Driscoll continues to grow throughout the Rio Grande Valley by providing physicians with specialties that otherwise would not be available or difficult to come by.
“We are going to continue to expand,” said Dr. Jain. “We want to accommodate every child’s healthcare needs throughout the Rio Grande Valley.”