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Children's Hospital of San Antonio, previously known as Christus Santa Rosa Children's Hospital - is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar expansion and upgrade of its downtown facilities. Edward A. Ornelas / San Antonio Express-News
By Peggy O'Hare, San Antonio Express-News
Children's Hospital of San Antonio once again will be a teaching hospital for physicians in training now that a national body has accredited Baylor College of Medicine's new pediatric residency program there.
As a result, San Antonio will have two training programs for pediatric residents next year. University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio long has operated the other curriculum.
Children's - previously known as Christus Santa Rosa Children's Hospital - is in the midst of a multimillion-dollar expansion and upgrade of its downtown facilities, where the new program will be based. Ten student doctors will be accepted in the first year of operation, with studies beginning in July 2015.
Children's learned Monday that the academic program had been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education. While such training programs typically take up to two years to get approved, this one was accredited in about six months.
The accreditation is significant because it could boost the number of pediatricians and children's subspecialists in San Antonio, physicians said.
The move also will restore Children's reputation as an academic teaching facility and extend the hospital's reach beyond the local market, they said.
Academic teaching programs are vitally important for pediat- ric hospitals because "it brings them prestige. . . . It makes them a leader in children's health care," said Dr. Gordon Schutze, vice chairman for educational affairs in Baylor's pediatrics department.
"Those institutions that don't have that academic side to them certainly may deliver great care, but you don't really hear of them outside their region."
The residency program also will create more academic opportunities in a field of formidable competition among medical students, physicians said. The number of students pursuing such careers far exceeds available residency openings.
Baylor's new residency program is expected to slightly increase the number of student doctors it accepts each year, meaning 30 to 40 residents could be rotating at Children's Hospital of San Antonio by the curriculum's third year of operation.
"We will train the next generation," said Dr. Mark Gilger, Children's chief pediatrician and vice chairman of Baylor's pediatrics department. "When those trainees are graduated, we have a much greater likelihood of retaining them here in San Antonio.
"San Antonio still has major deficits in (the number of) pediatric subspecialists in the city. And that is one of the things we want to work on correcting. And quite honestly, the only way you can do that is to train your own."
UTHSC faculty previously trained its pediatrics residents at Christus' children's campus downtown, but the two institutions parted ways after failing to reach an agreement on partnering together in a pediatric hospital in San Antonio.
UTHSC decided in 2012 to partner with the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Vanguard Health Systems to bring a $350 million academic pediatric hospital to the South Texas Medical Center. Christus then collaborated with Baylor and Texas Children's Hospital to establish a top-level academic children's hospital downtown.
When UTHSC's deal with CHOP and Vanguard fell through, its pediatrics faculty scrambled to find a home.
Those physicians now are stationed at University Health System facilities as the medical school explores a potential partnership with Methodist Healthcare System, which operates Methodist Children's Hospital.
At Children's, residents will be trained not only by Baylor physicians, but also by many private pediatric specialists who practice there, Christus Santa Rosa Health System CEO Patrick Carrier said. The hospital operates as an open campus that allows all qualified pediatricians and pediatric subspecialists to practice there.
So far, Baylor has recruited 106 general pediatricians and subspecialists to practice at the hospital, Gilger said.
Training student physicians will open tremendous potential for the hospital, said the new program's director, Dr. Michelle Barajaz.
"Any top children's hospital has an education program," said Barajaz, who built the curriculum and also is an assistant professor of pediatrics at Baylor.
"We know that when you train doctors in a certain area, whatever city you're in, a good proportion end up staying in that region when they graduate. So it's a great opportunity to bring more primary care physicians to San Antonio."