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Medical Care at its Best

Houston is world-renown for state-of-the-art medical care. From the Texas Medical Center to the many fine community hospitals, “Medical Care At Its Best” can help navigate newcomers through the myriad of options available on the Houston health care scene. Look for a map and tips to help make health care decisions painless.

When Jeff Irwin moved to Houston in 1983, his health care needs were routine. A general practitioner for an occasional sore throat was about all he needed. But when diagnosed with lymphoma, his health care needs suddenly became urgent and specific.

Irwin is grateful to live in a city on the cutting edge of cancer treatment and research. After a year of treatment at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center, ranked the top cancer hospital in the nation, Irwin’s cancer is in remission.

“When faced with a terrible crisis such as cancer, there was never a question about where I would go for help,’’ Irwin said. “I felt lucky to live in Houston, where we have a wealth of excellent health care options.’’

Houston’s reputation as a groundbreaking medical center attracts people from around the world — more than 15,000 international patients seek state-of-the-art medical care here each year. More than 10,600 physicians practice throughout the 10-county Houston region, providing medical services for a population of nearly 5 million.

Texas Medical Center
The major reason for Houston’s worldwide reputation for quality health care is the Texas Medical Center — a 740-acre “city within a city’’ located about 3 miles south of downtown Houston, south of Hermann Park and east of Rice University.

The largest medical center in the world with 5.2 million patient visits a year, the Texas Medical Center has more than 42 not-for-profit member institutions providing patient care, cutting-edge research and education for medical students, nursing students and even high school students at the Michael E. DeBakey High School for Health Professions, a magnet school within the Houston Independent School District.

Beyond its impact on health care, the Texas Medical Center is Houston’s largest single-site employer, with more than 65,300 employees. As reported by the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas-Houston Branch, the medical center contributes $6 billion in regional spending, $3.9 billion in personal income and more than 140,000 jobs. The medical center’s impact is felt primarily through its regional purchases of goods and services — more than $2 billion a year. Currently, there is more than $1 billion in construction in progress on the campus.

The John P. McGovern Texas Medical Center Commons provides a centrally located facility where students, visitors, employees and volunteers can meet, eat, shop and park under one roof. Located in the heart of the medical center, the 288,000-square-foot building is within walking distance from most medical center institutions. Amenities include a variety of eateries, a fresh floral and gift shop, a bank and an upscale Italian restaurant.

Transportation through the medical center is enhanced with METRORail, which began service in January 2004 and runs 7.5 miles from Reliant Park, south of Loop 610 South, to the University of Houston Downtown, just north of downtown. METRORail has four stations in the medical center area, running down Fannin with stops at Memorial Hermann Hospital/Houston Zoo, Dryden/TMC and TMC Transit Center, and then turning onto South Braeswood and then Greenbriar, where it stops at the Smith Lands parking area, which provides parking for medical center employees.

— Memorial Hermann Hospital
Memorial Hermann Hospital, the first hospital to open in the medical center area in 1925, is the primary teaching hospital of The University of Texas Medical School at Houston. As a teaching hospital, it provides comprehensive services in cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, neurosciences, orthopedics, general surgery, pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology. Other specialized services include Houston’s only burn center, high-risk obstetrical services and the Texas Comprehensive Epilepsy Program.

As Houston’s first state-designated Level 1 trauma center, Memorial Hermann Hospital provides 24-hour adult and pediatric emergency and trauma services for more than 330,000 patient visits each year. Emergency services include Life Flight, one of the first emergency medical air transport systems in the nation and the only one based in Houston.

Memorial Hermann Hospital and Memorial Hermann Children’s Hospital are among the busiest kidney and liver transplant centers in the country. Memorial Hermann’s Liver Transplant Program performed Houston’s first liver transplant from a living donor as well as one of the nation’s first emergency liver transplants from a living donor.

Annually cited as one of America’s Best Hospitals by U.S. News & World Report, Memorial Hermann Hospital was featured in “Houston Medical,’’ a prime-time network television series that aired in the summer of 2002.

Memorial Hermann Healthcare System also operates hospitals in Katy, Fort Bend County, The Woodlands, and northwest, southeast, southwest and Memorial City areas of Houston.

For more information about Memorial Hermann, call 713-222-CARE (2273) or visit

— The Methodist Hospital
A legacy of medical milestones has attracted patients from around the world to The Methodist Hospital, which has services extending beyond the Texas Medical Center. Its international physician referral network, with information centers in Guatemala City and Mexico City, and affiliations with hospitals spanning four continents, has extended its reach throughout the world.

For 50 years, Methodist has been the home of internationally acclaimed heart surgeon Michael E. DeBakey. Methodist physicians and researchers continue the groundbreaking work begun by DeBakey and his associates, including the world’s first multiple-organ transplants of a heart, one lung and both kidneys from one donor to four recipients. Methodist also was the birthplace of the MicroMed DeBakey VAD, marking a new generation of heart-assist devices, in collaboration with Baylor College of Medicine heart surgeon George Noon and NASA engineers.

The Methodist DeBakey Heart Center at The Methodist Hospital builds upon Methodist’s reputation as a leader in cardiac care providing comprehensive services, including research, preventive care and education, diagnosis, surgery and rehabilitation to effectively care for and treat people suffering from heart disease.

Methodist formed a partnership with Baylor and Texas Children’s Hospital to create the Center for Cell and Gene Therapy. In 2002, Methodist physicians were the first in Texas to perform an islet cell transplant, allowing Type 1 diabetics to produce their own insulin.

Physicians and researchers at Methodist also have developed groundbreaking treatments in the areas of Parkinson’s disease, liver disease and cancer.

Methodist is named among the country’s top hospitals for ophthalmology, otolaryngology, neurology/neurosurgery, gynecology, heart surgery, nephrology and urology in U.S. News & World Report’s 2004 list of “America’s Best Hospitals.’’

Other Methodist system hospitals in the Houston area include San Jacinto Methodist Hospital in Baytown, Methodist Sugar Land Hospital in Sugar Land and Methodist Willowbrook Hospital in Houston. Methodist’s Visiting Nurse Association of Houston also offers home health care services.

Internationally, Methodist is affiliated with more than 24 hospitals throughout Latin America, Europe and the Middle East.

An in-house physician referral service can connect people to physicians at any Methodist hospital based on specialty and, in some cases, can even set up an appointment. Some Methodist operators are nurses who can connect the patient to the proper physician. For physician referral, call 713-790-3333 or visit

— St. Luke’s Episcopal Health System and Texas Heart Institute
St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital anchors St. Luke's Episcopal Health System, a comprehensive network of services designed to meet the primary and specialized health care needs of the Houston area's diverse community. St. Luke's also cares for international patients from more than 80 countries.

St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital is home to the Texas Heart Institute, internationally recognized for its expertise in cardiology and heart surgery. Once again, the Texas Heart Institute at St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital placed among the top 10 heart centers on U.S. News & World Report's 2004 list of “America’s Best Hospitals.”

The Texas Heart Institute, at St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital-The Denton A. Cooley Building, which is located adjacent to St. Luke's Episcopal Hospital, opened its doors in early 2002 as a monument to the pioneering work in cardiology performed by Denton A. Cooley, who founded the Texas Heart Institute in 1962. The first heart transplant in a human being in the United States took place at the Texas Heart Institute, and further research has led to the clinical use of heart-assist devices, which provide bridges and alternatives to transplants.

St. Luke's earned the first Magnet designation in Texas, the highest national honor in patient care provided by the American Nurse Credentialing Center, and in 2002, Fortune magazine named St. Luke's to their "Best Companies to Work For'' list. The Houston Business Journal also named St. Luke's as its 2004 "Best Place to Work'' for companies with 500 or more employees.

As one of the nation's premier teaching hospitals, St. Luke's cares for more than half a million patients each year. Through an affiliation with Kelsey-Seybold Clinic, the patients have access to the expertise of more than 250 physicians in 39 specialties and subspecialties practicing at 23 locations throughout the community. Kelsey-Seybold physicians care for more than 300,000 patients through health insurance and managed care plans, employer groups, the U.S. Department of Defense and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Its research affiliate, the Kelsey Research Foundation, is engaged in outcomes based research studies designed to improve community health through information and education.

St. Luke's online referral form and staff can help newcomers select a physician who accepts their insurance. Visit or call 832-355-DOCS (3627) for physician referral.

— Shriners Hospital for Children-Houston
Shriners Hospital for Children-Houston has treated more than 34,000 children with orthopedic conditions that affect the bones, joints or muscles — all free of charge.

Because it is supported primarily by income from the Shriners Hospitals for Children endowment fund, the hospital accepts no insurance or third-party payments. It is known as the “the only hospital in the Texas Medical Center without a billing department.’’

Shriners is a 40-bed facility with an active outpatient list of more than 6,500 patients. Twenty-three outpatient clinics, each designed to treat a specific orthopedic condition or disease, are held on a monthly basis.

For information, call 713-797-1616 or visit

— Texas Children’s Hospital
Founded in Houston in 1954, Texas Children’s Hospital offers one of the most comprehensive pediatric medical programs in the country – from performing emergency trauma and fetal surgery, to finding causes of and treatments for childhood cancers and heart ailments, to delivering a child’s clean bill of health
A private, nonprofit teaching hospital, Texas Children’s is an affiliate of Baylor College of Medicine. Texas Children’s and Baylor participate in some 400 pediatric research projects annually.
Ranked No. 4 by Child magazine and U.S. News & World Report, Texas Children’s offers more than 40 pediatric subspecialties and has garnered widespread recognition for expertise and breakthrough developments in the treatment of cancer, diabetes, asthma, HIV, premature babies and cardiogenic and attention-related disorders.
Texas Children’s recently joined Children’s Miracle Network – a nonprofit organization dedicated to saving and improving the lives of children by raising funds for pediatric hospitals across the nation.
For more information about Texas Children’s Hospital, visit

— The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center
For the fourth time in five years, The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center is ranked as the nation’s top cancer hospital in the U.S. News & World Report’s 2004 list of “America’s Best Hospitals.”

In addition to the number one ranking in cancer, several M. D. Anderson specialties are ranked among the nation’s best, including gynecology (5), ear, nose and throat (10) and urology (10). M. D. Anderson has ranked as one of the top two hospitals in cancer care since the magazine began its annual survey in 1990.

M. D. Anderson, which has provided care for nearly 600,000 people with cancer since 1944, provides top-quality care for 10 percent of all people with cancer in Texas and one percent of cancer patients nationwide.

In 2003, M. D. Anderson served more than 65,000 patients and provided $187.6 million in unsponsored charity care to indigent Texans with cancer.

Many of the advances that have pushed the cancer cure rate past 50 percent were initiated at M. D. Anderson, which spent $282 million in research in 2003. Research expenditures have increased more than 110 percent since 1996.

More than 12,000 patients participated in clinical research exploring novel therapies and diagnostic tests in 2003, the largest such cancer program in the nation.

An unprecedented building program is under way to meet the demands of changing technology, increased research funding and projected growth in patients. Construction is under way on a new Proton Therapy Center that will become operational at M. D. Anderson in 2006. Proton therapy is expected to be helpful in treating many types of cancer because of its ability to direct highly targeted radiation to cancerous tissue while sparing healthy tissue.

For more information about M. D. Anderson, call 713-792-2121 or visit

— The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research
The Institute for Rehabilitation and Research (TIRR) is an internationally known hospital that specializes in medical care, education and research in the field of catastrophic injury. U.S. News & World Report recognizes TIRR every year in a nationwide survey of physicians as one of the best hospitals in America. In 2004, TIRR earned the number three spot in the nation for rehabilitation.

More than 4,000 patients have completed their rehabilitation in the TIRR Spinal Cord Injury Program. The Brain Injury and Stroke Program helps with the physical, communicative, cognitive and behavioral problems faced by people with brain injuries. Similar care is provided for survivors of stroke.

The Amputee Program serves patients with traumatic amputations, congenital limb deficiencies and disease-related amputations. TIRR also treats infants, children and adolescents with virtually any physical disability or injury. A specialty rehabilitation program serves those with special problems such as multiple sclerosis and complex orthopedic problems.

TIRR has eight rehabilitation centers located in the Houston area, including the Texas Medical Center, inner loop, east and northwest areas, two on the west side of Houston, and Pasadena and Sugar Land.

For patient referral, call 800-44-REHAB (447-3422) or visit

— Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center
As a member of one of the world’s largest integrated health care systems, the Michael E. DeBakey Veterans Affairs Medical Center (MEDVAMC) serves as the primary health care provider for more than 103,000 veterans in southeast Texas. MEDVAMC Prime Care Clinics logged more than 650,000 outpatient visits in fiscal year 2003. This includes the satellite clinics in Lufkin and Beaumont, providing care to veterans outside of Houston.

Veterans from around the country receive referrals to the MEDVAMC for specialized diagnosis, radiation therapy, surgery and medical treatment, including cardiovascular surgery, gastrointestinal endoscopy, ophthalmology, dermatology, nuclear medicine, pain management, and treatment of spinal cord injury and diseases.

The MEDVAMC is home to a Mental Illness Research, Education and Clinical Center; a Post Traumatic Stress Disorder Clinic; and an award-winning Cardiac Surgery Program. In addition, the facility is one of the VA’s six Parkinson’s Disease Research, Education and Clinical Centers.

In 2003, the National Veterans Affairs Surgical Quality Improvement Program (NSQIP) Executive Committee commended the MEDVAMC for having consistently low mortality rates in general surgery, all non-cardiac surgery and all operations for the third consecutive year. MEDVAMC was one of 10 medical centers within the VA system that participated in the Veterans Health Administration (VHA) work group focusing on ensuring correct site surgery. During the past year, MEDVAMC has tested these preventive steps to ensure patient safety and patient satisfaction.

For more information, call 713-791-1414 or visit

— Harris County Hospital District
The Harris County Hospital District (HCHD) is the nation’s fourth-largest public metropolitan health system. In 2002, HCHD accommodated more than 1 million emergency and outpatient visits and delivered more than 10,000 babies.

HCHD’s two major hospitals, Ben Taub General Hospital and Lyndon B. Johnson (LBJ) General Hospital, are recognized for their high level of acute specialty care. HCHD facilities twice were named to the Top 100 Hospitals list by Modern Healthcare.

Ben Taub, located in The Texas Medical Center, is home to one of the nation’s top trauma centers, with more than 80 percent of its inpatients admitted as emergencies. Each year, Ben Taub handles 108,000 patient emergency visits. Ben Taub is also home to the Ben Taub Children’s Center, which specializes in urgent care for children and is staffed with the pediatric faculty and residents from the Baylor College of Medicine.

LBJ General Hospital specializes in gynecology, obstetrics and neonatal intensive care. Other HCHD facilities include Quentin Mease Community Hospital, 17 community health centers, seven school-based clinics, the Dental Center, and the Thomas Street Clinic, the nation’s first freestanding HIV/AIDS treatment facility.

In an effort to improve health care service to the homeless and enhance access to existing district health care services, HCHD provides a variety of preventive and primary health care services to homeless individuals at 13 shelters and through an additional mobile unit.

For information, call 713-566-6400 or visit

Outside the Texas Medical Center
Houston’s thriving medial community reaches well beyond the Texas Medical Center including the Downtown and outlying suburban areas.

CHRISTUS St. Joseph Hospital is a flagship institution of CHRISTUS Health, one of the nation's leading Catholic health care organizations.

Located in Houston’s revitalized downtown district, CHRISTUS St. Joseph Hospital covers 12 city blocks near the intersection of U.S. 59 and Interstate 45. CHRISTUS St. Joseph is an early pioneer in medicine. The hospital had Houston’s first X-ray machine, first infant incubator and one of the nation’s first mammography centers.

CHRISTUS St. John in Nassau Bay has a medical staff of more than 400 and offers a full range of specialties from family practice to women’s services. The hospital’s Sports Medicine Center offers orthopedic rehabilitation, physical therapy, athletic training, and wellness and outpatient physical medicine programs. CHRISTUS St. John also supports two school-based clinics in Dickinson.

CHRISTUS St. Catherine Hospital in Katy has an inpatient nursing unit with 58 private rooms. The hospital has a nursing center and a continuum of care for women. It also offers specialty services in orthopedics, ophthalmology, plastic and reconstructive procedures, urology, podiatry, peripheral vascular, and ear, nose and throat medicine.

For more information, call 713-757-1000 or visit

— HCA Houston: Gulf Coast Division
One of Houston’s largest health care providers and the largest for-profit hospital chain in the country, HCA Houston has 10 Houston community hospitals and three outpatient surgery centers in the Houston region.

More than 1,800 physicians are active at HCA Houston medical centers, which are located in Clear Lake, Conroe, Kingwood, Pasadena, Spring Branch, Texas City, east and west Houston, and two in the Texas Medical Center — Texas Orthopedic and Woman’s Hospital of Texas.

HCA Houston centers delivered more than 18,000 babies in 2003. HCA medical centers had more than 111,000 inpatient admissions and more than 446,000 outpatient visits in 2003.

For physician referral, call 800-265-8624 or visit

— Tenet HealthSystem
Tenet HealthSystem has four hospitals with about 1,000 beds in the Harris County area. Tenet HealthSystem is the second-largest investor-owned hospital company in the country.

Park Plaza Hospital in the city’s Museum District has 446 beds and more than 160 physicians. Plaza Specialty Hospital is a hospital within a hospital, offering long-term, acute care for medically complex patients with diverse needs.

Other Tenet facilities include Houston Northwest Medical Center, one of north Houston’s largest, most comprehensive health care facilities with both inpatient and outpatient services, and Cypress-Fairbanks Medical Center Hospital in northwest Houston.

For information, call 713-527-5000 or visit

Galveston Hospitals
Galveston Island’s medical community is home to the first nursing school in Texas, first Shriners Burn Unit in the nation, the world’s largest telemedicine program and continues to leader among medical schools across the nation.

— The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston
The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston (UTMB) campus features six hospitals that provide a full range of medical services. Areas of clinical excellence include geriatric services, behavioral medicine, diabetes care, gastroenterology, kidney disease, the UTMB HeartCenter, a Level 1 Trauma Center, a hyperbaric facility and a children’s emergency room. An extensive network of campus and community-based clinics provide outpatient services to people throughout Texas.

UTMB has initiated several innovative services and diagnostic techniques to advance patient care. Pioneering one of the country’s largest telemedicine and distance education programs, UTMB’s telemedicine experts evaluate and manage life-threatening diseases in patients hundreds of miles away. Conceived in 1995, the telemedicine program leads the world in the number of cumulative telemedicine consults (approximately 2,000 each month) and has extended its reach to children, adults, schools and corporations. UTMB recently developed a portable telemedicine unit that can be dropped from an airplane to any location in the world such as an oil rig in the middle of the ocean or a disaster site.

In 2003, there were more than 37,000 inpatient admissions to UTMB hospitals, almost 764,000 outpatient visits and more than 70,000 emergency room visits.

UTMB is the home to one of two national biocontainment laboratories in the country and the recipient of $110 million from the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases for biodefense research. UTMB also is one of eight Regional Centers of Excellence for Biodefense and Emerging Infectious Diseases and the only institution to achieve both the national and regional designations. The new BSL4 Laboratory is the first full-sized maximum containment facility on a U.S. university campus.

For more information, call 409-772-1011 or visit

— Shriners Burns Hospital
Since the 1960s, when the Shrine, an international fraternity of about 500,000 members throughout the United States, Mexico, Canada and Panama, opened its three Shriners Hospitals dedicated to treating burns, a child's chance of surviving a severe burn has nearly doubled. Today, a child with burns over 98 percent of his or her body stands the same chance of survival (50 percent) that a child with 50 percent burns stood before the Shrine opened its first burn hospital. Fully half of the major advances in the treatment of burned children in the last 20 years have been direct results of the activities at Shriners Hospitals.

The Shriners Burns Hospital of Galveston is a 30-bed, pediatric burn hospital providing care to children under the age of 18 at no cost to the family. The Galveston hospital is equipped and staffed to treat acute burns and patients needing reconstructive or restorative surgery as a result of “healed’’ burns or severe scarring.

For information, call 409-770-6600 or visit

The University of Texas – Harris County Psychiatric Center
The Harris County Psychiatric Center (HCPC) is licensed as a 250-bed acute care, public psychiatric facility that delivers a comprehensive program of psychiatric and clinical social services. There are more than 6,000 admissions annually.

The average length of stay is nine days for adult patients. Patients are treated by a highly qualified, multidisciplinary staff comprised of psychiatric physicians, psychiatric residents, psychologists, nurses, social workers, pharmacists, dietitians and chaplains that provide patients with individualized care. There are several areas of care:

• Children (ages 3 – 12) and adolescents (ages 13 – 17) with personality disorders, attention deficit disorders, problems related to physical handicaps and severe psychosomatic problems;

• Adults (ages 18 – 50) with affective disorders, depression, schizophrenia or personality disorders;

• Older adults (over 50) with emotional problems, depression, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, psychosocial or behavioral problems.

For information, call 713-741-5000 or visit

Senior Services
Texas soon will face a dramatic increase in the number of older persons. From 2003 to 2007, Texas’ 60+ population will increase about 14 percent, from 2.9 million to 3.3 million, according to the Texas Department on Aging.

The Houston area has an “abundance of services’’ for the elderly, according to Dianne Persson of the Center on Aging, School of Nursing at the UT Health Science Center. With more than 280 assisted-living facilities, more than 80 skilled-care facilities, about 30 independent-living communities in Harris County and many options for home health care, the Houston area provides a wealth of services for seniors.

Sheltering Arms has one of the most comprehensive senior programs in the area, with home care services, Alzheimer’s Day Centers and many more services. Call 713-956-1888 or visit

The Harris County Area Agency on Aging offers programs tailored to meet the social, nutritional, educational and logistical needs of all Harris County residents age 60 and above. Nutrition services include the home-delivered meal program for the homebound elderly and the congregate meal program at 43 senior centers in Harris County. Other services include respite care and homemaker services, caregiver training, dental, hearing and legal. Call 713-794-9001 or visit

Another resource for senior citizens and their families is the Senior Guidance Directory, a complete senior resource guide for the Houston area published by the Houston Junior Forum. It is available at Kroger pharmacies.

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