Pediatric Brain Center Assembles Unique Team of Specialists and Researchers
Fifteen-year-old Audrey Price slowly reaches for an orange plastic cup sitting on the counter. In a concerted effort, her fingers close around it, and she lifts it to chest height, shaking ever so slightly.
For Audrey, this simple act marks a tremendous journey from diagnosis to brain surgery to therapy and slow healing.
Just eleven months ago, she was living a typical middle-schooler’s life in a Bay Area suburb, hanging out with friends, playing tennis and obsessing over the British boy band, One Direction.
Audrey's brain aneurysm was the size of a golf ball.
Then Audrey began developing weakness in her right side. After a series of doctor’s appointments, she ended up visiting a neurologist, who ordered scans of her brain that showed an aneurysm the size of a golf ball pressing on her brain stem.
That’s when her neurologist called UC San Francisco.
UCSF Pediatric Brain Center
- Stroke and cerebrovascular disease
- Brain injuries
- Brain Tumors
- Congenital malformations
- Movement disorders and nerve problems
- Developmental problems
- Sleep Disorders
Audrey was brought into the newly-formed Pediatric Brain Center at the UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital San Francisco, which integrates neurology, neurosurgery, physical and occupational therapy, speech, social work and neuro-psychology to provide seamless holistic care for patients’ full range of brain-related needs. It’s one of just a few specialized pediatric brain centers in the U.S.
The center’s unique structure and specializations ended up being an ideal match for Audrey’s rare and complex condition.
Bringing the Doctors to the Patient
The Pediatric Brain Center was founded about two years ago, spearheaded by Heather Fullerton, MD, and Nalin Gupta, MD. The center brings together a diverse range of UCSF experts from across multiple departments to treat patients together, as a team.
Rather than the typical experience in which a patient may see one doctor and then be referred to another specialist, and then another, chasing multiple appointments over weeks, at the Pediatric Brain Center the physicians, nurses and other key staff coordinate the care around the patient. One coordinator books all the patient’s appointments, from check-ups to arranging tests to surgery, and each patient is treated by a team assembled specifically to meet his or her unique medical needs.
“The goal was to make not only the patient experience, but also the problem solving and treatment, more rational. We wanted to be able to design our care around the patient’s medical issue, as opposed to simply following the organizational structure of the institution,” said Gupta.
Initially the center existed mainly as an organization change, with all the experts still located in separate offices at Parnassus. With the Feb. 1 opening of the UCSF Medical Center at Mission Bay, the Pediatric Brain Center will soon have it’s own central location to further streamline the patient experience.
“It’s so much easier for the family to have one place to go for all their child’s care, all the way from the initial treatment to rehabilitation,” said Fullerton.