Dr. Catherine Gordon is the new pediatrician-in-chief at Texas Children’s and Chair of the Department of Pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine. She came from Boston Children’s Hospital, where she served as the Chief of Adolescent/Young Adult Medicine and Professor of Pediatrics at Harvard Medical School. Since taking the helm as pediatrician-in-chief on Oct. 1, Dr. Gordon shares her clinical and research interests, her vision for the future, and what inspired her to join the leadership team at Texas Children’s.
While there are many pediatric hospitals in the U.S., why did you choose Texas Children’s?
We’ve heard the saying, “first impressions are everything.” It didn’t take me long to realize that Texas Children’s Hospital is a very special place. Not only is Texas Children’s ranked one of the nation’s top five pediatric hospitals for children and women’s health, I could tell that our leaders put a lot of thought and effort into creating a family-friendly environment. For many children, the hospital can be a scary and unfamiliar place. At Texas Children’s, everybody strives to create a positive experience for patients and their families so they can feel relaxed and comfortable as possible. In addition to our people, Texas Children’s has unique resources such as therapy dogs who help to make the hospital a brighter and less stressful place for our patients. I firmly believe that compassion and small acts of kindness mean a lot to families and their children. That’s the culture I want to nurture as the new pediatrician-in-chief and chair of Pediatrics.
Secondly, I am inspired by the innovative work of our talented teams at Texas Children’s and Baylor. I am thrilled to be part of this team and look forward to the many exciting opportunities ahead for us to advance care for children and adolescents. I am grateful to be part of Texas Children’s, an extra special place. We will do great things together.
What are some of your goals/priorities as pediatrician-in-chief?
Since I will lead one of the most clinically and academically active teams in the nation, I want to continue to solidify our position as a global leader in children’s health. I look forward to working with our executive leadership to launch new clinical and research programs that advance care for children and adolescents, as well as initiatives that expand diversity and allow for continued strong engagements in our community.
Focusing our collaborative efforts on community outreach is so important for Texas Children’s and Baylor College of Medicine. As pediatrician-in-chief, I want to combine Texas Children’s clinical and research interests in outreach starting in our middle and high schools that will help build engagement in the Greater Houston community. We have the opportunity to get young people interested in science and medicine, and we have a ripe opportunity to bring more children in for timely primary and subspecialty services.
What innovations in pediatric care at Texas Children’s are you most excited about?
Today, what we once thought of as adult health issues are appearing in younger and younger people. We are seeing adolescents who suffer from atherosclerosis (premature stiffening of the blood vessels) and reduced bone density, problems that were typically thought to be afflictions of adults. Fortunately, we have greatly refined measurement and assessment tools that allow us to diagnose and treat these conditions that may be overlooked elsewhere. Additionally, we have learned much about the genetic underpinnings of disease, and have the tools to help us as caretakers to better perform surveillance for other diseases and health complications. We are able to accomplish this as a result of the collaborative environment at Texas Children’s Hospital and Baylor College of Medicine that brings together amazing clinical and research teams. Collaboration is truly the special sauce. It leads to team science and advances the innovative care of children and adolescents.
Because of Texas Children’s affiliation with our academic partner, Baylor College of Medicine – home to one of the largest, most diverse and successful pediatric programs in the nation – we have an amazing platform to move forward important issues in children’s and adolescent health. We have talented multidisciplinary teams in a variety of subspecialty areas in pediatrics, including many highly respected and world-renowned leaders in the field who are involved in cutting-edge research to optimize patient care and outcomes.
Certainly, the COVID pandemic has opened a variety of new insights for us around vaccine development. In collaboration with our pharmaceutical partners, Texas Children’s Center for Vaccine Development, along with other Texas Children’s teams, have been instrumental in bringing new vaccines to market against COVID-19. Texas Children’s is a strong leader in this area, and we have learned much over the last year.
Can you share your background and clinical / research interests in pediatrics?
I graduated from medical school at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill in 1991. Subsequently, I obtained my residency in general pediatrics and fellowship in pediatric endocrinology and adolescent medicine from Boston Children’s Hospital, where I was chief of adolescent and young adult medicine and also a faculty member in the Division of Endocrinology.
My special clinical interests include reproductive endocrinology and bone health. I am actively involved in research in the area of pediatric bone health – in particular, ways to prevent osteoporosis and optimize factors such as nutrition and exercise that are important for bone development. My goal is for all children to enter adulthood with healthy bones. For almost two decades, I have led an independently funded adolescent bone health research group with support from the National Institutes of Health, Department of Defense and private foundations.
I also enjoy working with adolescent athletes, including helping them through injuries and keeping them healthy. It’s rewarding to help them get back “in the game.” I’m happy to know Texas Children’s has an outstanding Sports Medicine Program that is dedicated to the care, treatment and rehabilitation of our young athletes.
Do you see yourself as a role model for younger generations of female physicians?
Of course, I would be thrilled to be a role model for adolescent girls and young women who aspire to go into medicine or science. However, it is vital that we bring more voices to the table – not just men and women, but people who enrich the world of medicine, and the world in general, with their diverse backgrounds. These include individuals from various racial and ethnic communities, and with various orientations. Expanding diversity, equity and inclusion will be a priority area as a new leader.
What do you want referring providers to know about Texas Children’s?
Texas Children’s is one of the nation’s largest and most comprehensive pediatric and women’s health care organizations, recording nearly 4.3 million patient encounters annually. We are not just the neighborhood children’s hospital – we’re that plus more. Our renowned clinicians and scientists are constantly interacting on a national and global level with other scientists/researchers and clinicians.
As an internationally recognized referral center, Texas Children’s collaborates with doctors from all over to help them provide the best care to their pediatric patients – whether they come to Houston or remain at home. Texas Children’s welcomes e-mails or other communications from physicians worldwide about research and clinical matters. If you are a physician from Asia, Africa and other continents in the world, or work just around the corner from us, you can reach out to us. We look forward to the opportunity to collaborate with you to ensure your patients receive the best care.
Dr. Gordon is our first woman in Texas Children’s history to serve as an in-chief, and is one of only three female pediatrician-in-chiefs among U.S. News & World Report Honor Roll hospitals in the country.