The Rangos Research Center at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh: Giving Kids Another Chance at Life
For the past two decades, the John G. Rangos Sr. Research Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh has provided state-of-the-art facilities for scientists and medical professionals worldwide to collaborate in finding cures for childhood disease and disability. The center stands as a model facility in the eyes of outside regulatory agencies. Studies performed there, representing academic pursuits in every major discipline, are as varied as the diseases the dedicated staff seeks to overcome.
Up and running since the fall of 2008, the new Rangos Research Center has not only elevated the profile of Children’s Hospital, a highly esteemed institution locally and nationally, it has concretely helped Children’s become one of the world’s leading pediatric care centers, as the latest U.S. News & World Report rankings clearly confirm.
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh was among 62 facilities ranked in one or more of ten pediatric specialties in U.S. News’ 2010-11 “Best Children’s Hospitals” nationwide. Children’s now ranks among the top six in three pediatric categories; top 15 in eight categories; and top 25 in ten: It is ranked 3rd for diabetes and endocrinology; 6th for gastroenterology; 6th for pulmonology; 11th for neurology and neurosurgery; 12th for cardiology and heart surgery; 12th for treatment of kidney disorders; 13th for neonatology; 15th for urology; 23rd for treatment of cancer; and 23rd for orthopedics.
THE GREAT MERGER
Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is a 260-bed general pediatrics facility. In 2009, it registered 12,983 inpatient stays, 67,369 emergency room visits, 23,129 surgeries and more than 1 million outpatient visits. It merged with the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center in 2001. That $500 million transaction was the largest hospital merger in Pittsburgh’s history, with UPMC promising to build a new $250 million hospital for Children’s. The new Children’s Hospital opened its doors on UPMC’s Montefiore Campus in Lawrenceville in May of 2009.
Central to the merger plans was a top-notch, state-of-the art research facility for Children’s, made possible through $8 million in contributions from the John G. Rangos Sr. Family Charitable Foundation, courtesy of Mr. Rangos, whose generosity and stalwart devotion to Children’s Hospital have been an integral part of the Hospital’s steadily rising success over the past two decades.
Mr. Rangos’ unwavering commitment to Children’s development and widely acknowledged excellence is not lost on Hospital officials, who honored Mr. Rangos by mounting his portrait in the new research center’s main reception area. The portrait was painted by famed master portrait artist Benjamin McCready, who has painted several Presidential portraits, among others.
With nine floors (six of which are open laboratories) and 300,000 square feet, the new Rangos Research Center at Children’s has superseded the original Rangos building located in the Pittsburgh suburb of Oakland. Still operating under the auspices of UPMC, the original building has 100,000 square feet, and was made possible in 1990 through a $3 million donation from the Rangos Foundation.
That gift helped establish the John G. Rangos/Massimo Trucco Diabetes Center, a dedicated local resource used by scientists and medical professionals in their search for a cure to Type-1 diabetes, commonly called juvenile diabetes.
More recently, the Richard King Mellon Foundation ramped up its support of Children’s Hospital with a $23 million grant, establishing a pediatric research institute inside the walls of the new Rangos Research Center.
The original Rangos building is still operating as a UPMC research center, and Children’s is going strong, but things weren’t always that way. Hard is it might be to believe now that the 21st Century is well underway, there was a time when what is now widely considered one of the world’s finest pediatric hospitals experienced an enormous amount of struggle.
And if it wasn’t for the Mr. Rangos’ tireless dedication, optimism and unflinching confidence, Children’s might not be the vibrant and dynamic an institution it is today, as J. Gregory Barrett, president and chief development officer of Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation, attests:
Children’s has provided free and uncompensated care to families in need since it first opened its doors in 1890. Children’s policy is to provide medical care for every child that comes through its doors, regardless of whether the child and his or her family have the ability to pay, Mr. Barrett said.
“Whether they have insurance or not, we don’t turn any child away, so every year, the Hospital loses money on those children who come in and aren’t able to pay for medical services. But the Hospital looks at that as part of its mission. We’re not-for-profit, and that’s what we have set out to do. The bottom line today is, if you come into our door, you’re going to get the best possible care, whether you have enough insurance or not,” he said.
Families who are socioeconomically underprivileged present their cases to the Hospital itself, and the Foundation helps provide the necessary financial support, he said. But that support only goes so far. The Hospital ends up absorbing a loss each year, and the Foundation provides as much available funding as possible to minimize the net loss.
“We give the money to the Hospital, and we let the experts do their job. Last year, the Hospital provided $31 million in free care, and the Foundation gave $18 million to help offset the Hospital’s free care expenditures. This is my first year – I started in January of 2010 – so I’m new here, but my understanding is that the Foundation’s historic swing has been between $15-25 million each year over the past ten years. It varies each year, depending on whether we receive a couple of bigger-than-usual gifts,” he said.
The Foundation’s goal is to eventually provide the Hospital with $50-75 million per year, Mr. Barrett explained, because that’s what takes to make a more significant impact on alleviating the Hospital’s costs, whether the funding supports research or education or clinical care.
But the Foundation essentially raises money through programs like its Free Care Fund, and through the commitments of people in the community Like Mr. Rangos who truly care, he said, emphasizing the global reach of the new Rangos Research Center.
“Mr. Rangos is one of those people. He’s absolutely at the top of the list. He has served on the Foundation’s board of directors for more than 20 years, and has had an abiding interest in our Free Care Fund and other fundraising programs. He understands the breadth of what we do. Remember, it’s not the ‘Rangos Free Care Fund.’ It’s the Rangos Research Center. Mr. Rangos exemplifies teaching a person to fish so that he can eat for a lifetime, instead of simply giving someone a fish to eat for just one day. He understands that caring for kids is crucial – and he’s always very solidly supportive of the essential mission – but Mr. Rangos also knows that the research being conducted at the research center bearing his name touches children all over the world,” he said.
“The research end of it is extremely important, and that’s what distinguishes Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh from other hospitals because great research facilities attract great doctors and scientists which, in turn, raises an institution’s profile and quality. You simply can not be the best without great research programs in place, and Mr. Rangos clearly understands that fundamental concept,” Mr. Barrett added, noting that the new Rangos Research Center was an instrumental part of Children’s merger with UPMC.
“As an independent hospital, Children’s didn’t have the financial wherewithal to build this new campus, and being part of UPMC makes us even more effective. We were already integrated with Pitt in a number of ways, so it was a very logical merger. And the merger with UPMC made the new Rangos building possible. It’s a magnificent facility. And it takes an organization with the financial wherewithal of UPMC to take on the level of debt required to build a tremendous new hospital and research center like that. Looking to the future, the Rangos Research Center will continue to expand UPMC’s global reach, and that will continue to benefit children everywhere. It also benefits Children’s in terms of our ability to have a presence in places we normally wouldn’t have,” he said.
BUSINESS ACUMEN, WISDOM AND VISIONARY APPROACH
Several hospital officials concurred that the new Rangos Research Center is enhancing the already formidable quality of children’s healthcare at UPMC, and making a major impact on the local and regional economy. They spoke very highly of Mr. Rangos, citing his business acumen and praising his wisdom and visionary approach to the need for expansion of facilities which, in turn, leads to improvements in overall performance and quality of healthcare. They also credited him with helping to turn Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh into one of the finest pediatric centers in the world.
The general consensus was that, while Mr. Rangos is an immensely generous and philanthropic man, he also gives money in a very precise and strategic manner in order to ensure that his contributions make a solid and measurable impact.
Foundation Vice Chair Mary Jo Dively, who is also Vice President & General Counsel of Carnegie Mellon University, said the new Rangos Research Center is meeting the growing demands for more research space.
Children’s was independent for many years, Ms. Dively pointed out, but when it merged with the UPMC system in 2001, part of the agreement was that the University of Pittsburgh would build a new, state-of-the-art hospital and research facility. And while the merger with UPMC made the new Rangos Research Center possible, she said, it works both ways: To a very real extent, the Research Center also helped make the merger possible.
“It’s a big university and medical community, so there’s always a need for more research space, and we were just delighted that we could add this building to UPMC,” she said. “Besides having triple the amount of space, we reached a point where, because of the medical school’s dramatic rise in the rankings, it’s a hub for great clinicians and academicians. We’ve seen a tremendous increase in the quality of people we are able to attract to Pittsburgh, and the governing factor for that is space,” she said, adding that Mr. Rangos has played an instrumental role in helping Children’s become a leading child care institution.
“To attract top researchers, you really have to have the kind of space they want to work in – and the kind they’re used to having. This new building was designed with all the things today’s researchers have in mind. It’s designed in a way that makes research more collegial and interdisciplinary. We really wanted to foster that,” she said.
“Children’s is the jewel of Pittsburgh. It’s consistently ranked among the world’s top hospitals for children, and John has been such a huge part of that. He was the seminal donor who helped us establish our own research center 20 years ago. He stepped up at a time when we didn’t really have any other major donors. His generosity allowed us to move forward and build, and to solicit other substantial donations. But there was a time when he was really it,” she added.
Mr. Rangos is very committed to philanthropy and medical research, she emphasized, and always comes through for the Hospital, noting that he genuinely cares about the Pittsburgh community and its economic progress, and is deeply concerned about the quality of available healthcare.
“When you have someone like John giving as much as he does, he’s helping to advance the amount and quality of available healthcare, and creating important jobs because they’re the kind of jobs which are not only well-paying, but which also involve caring for people who require medical care, and which make a real impact on society because they involve a high level of satisfaction for both the caregivers and those who need care,” Ms. Dively said.
“It goes beyond the fact that he has been an incredibly generous donor. He typically asks questions which are focused in two ways. He always brings us back to the kids and what’s best for the kids, so he’s our conscience in that sense. But equally important, he’s very business-oriented about the way we deliver our services, and about making sure we’re going to be here a hundred years from now. He loves Pittsburgh, and he wants the city to prosper. He knows that the kind of industry which comes from groundbreaking research is vital to the area, and he invests at all levels. He invests in basic research, and then he invests in spin-off companies, often providing angel capital for researchers who want to start a new company,” she said.
“And John is a very sophisticated donor. He’s a person who motivates others. He’ll issue challenge grants: ‘I’ll give this, if you can get it matched.’ He does it to cure children and achieve great results for children’s health, and he also wants business spin-off because he knows it’s good for the city and the region. It’s good for the economy, and he recognizes that, in Pittsburgh, healthcare is increasingly the most important industry,” she said.
“Above all, John’s commitment to medicine and children is sustained. Not all donors are as faithful and constant. He is also a prolific giver to other institutions, and he has been behind Children’s Hospital for two decades. He’s very patient. He knows what the hospital needs, and he always comes up with it,” she said.
Past President of the Foundation Roger Oxendale, who is now CEO of Nemours Children’s Hospital in Orlando, said the new Rangos Research Center has expanded Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh’s range of services by rendering more effective patient care more efficiently, and cited Mr. Rangos’ inspiring leadership in the overall effort to expand.
“The new Hospital is making an impact in fundamental ways. We’ve reorganized the service aspect, so from an efficiency standpoint – from the way physicians and nurses work together to provide services to the way we’re able to operate support services – there’s greater opportunity for delivery. Everything operates more efficiently, which is better for patients,” he said.
“From a research standpoint, one of the advantages is that the new facility and the physicians’ office buildings will all be on the same campus. Under the previous configuration, we were separated by city blocks, so there wasn’t proximity between someone working in a research lab and somebody else working in a specific division. People who take care of patients were not as readily connected to folks who do the research in those areas. With the new configuration, interaction is much more frequent, and that connectivity is important for advancement and progress, he said.
“Everyone feels more connected with the bigger mission. The open-design concept of the new labs promotes greater collaboration between researchers and sharing of equipment and information. Each floor is connected on one end with a staircase and a gorgeous, bright area of window-walls that look out over the whole city. Researchers will naturally gravitate toward that area to take a break from the rigors of their daily routines, and that will promote a natural exchange between them,” he said.
The new facility is both a testament and tribute to Mr. Rangos and his leadership, Mr. Oxendale added.
“Mr. Rangos is a person who really looks for how he can inspire and provide incentive for major work to be done. He’s not the kind of person who stands up during a board meeting and says, ‘Follow me.’ He’s a person who understands how important research is to the organization, and he looks at how his contribution can motivate researchers and foster overall growth,” he said.
MAJOR IMPACT AND DRIVING FORCE
David Perlmutter, Chief Physician & Scientific Director of Children’s Hospital and Department Chair of Pediatrics at UPMC, said that in addition to being a larger and more modern facility, the new Rangos Research Center is making a major impact on pediatric care nationwide, and therefore globally.
“The new research center not only has triple the amount of space – which allows us to continue this trajectory of growth (in terms of attracting top-notch scientists) – but it’s also designed in such a way which has very important implications for the future. It’s designed as an open lab, and when you have an open lab, you capitalize on researchers working with each other. You can share more equipment and resources. A typical floor of this building has 22,000 square feet. In a traditional research building, that would all be in separate rooms. But this is all completely open, where 17-18 thousand of the 22,000 square feet is basically one big lab, and each group occupies a designated area within that space,” he said.
“The merger (with UPMC) has been fabulously successful. We’ve done a tremendous number of wonderful things. Everything you can measure about hospital activity – how many patients, how it’s doing financially, how accessible its services are to the community, how well those services are delivered – is unprecedented. Each year, we’re setting new standards,” he said.
“We are world-renowned for organ transplantation in children. Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh does more transplants for children than any other pediatric institution of any variety,” he said.
Children’s has also enjoyed breakthroughs in terms of community access to excellent pediatric care, he added.
“You can get an appointment with a sub-specialist (e.g., pediatric cardiologist or pediatric oncologist) at Children’s Hospital within seven days 80 percent of the time. But if you go to other cities, sometimes it takes weeks or months to see a doctor. We make a point of making ourselves available,” he said.
Dr. Perlmutter also noted that Mr. Rangos has been a driving force behind the Hospital’s ascendance as one of the country’s premier pediatric institutions, citing that Mr. Rangos’ ability to see the larger picture, to move things along from a business and administrative standpoint, and to facilitate internal politics and dynamics of the institution make him a key player in Children’s progress.
“Mr. Rangos has been a driving force. There’s no question about it. His support has been critical. It’s not only that he has supported the growth of this institution financially through his generosity as a donor. He’s also been very progressive, prescient and incisive with his ideas. We have thrived from both his generosity and his wisdom as an advisor. His advice has always been incredibly strategic,” he said.
“With Mr. Rangos, it’s all about big thinking: Children’s Hospital should be the best, so how do we make it the best? There are only four or five children’s hospitals in the country that think about being the best in the world. We all do that through our perceptions and strategies, and Mr. Rangos has pushed us here in Pittsburgh to embrace philosophies and strategies that have led to the hospital’s positioning itself at the very top. He appreciates the importance of doing research in terms of what we do every day, and also in terms of positioning ourselves as a great institution that can attract the best scientific and medical talent,” he added.
WONDERFUL GENTLEMAN WHO PLAYS A CRUCIAL ROLE
George Michalopoulos, professor and chairman of UPMC’s Pathology Department and an NIH Merit Award recipient, said Mr. Rangos has played a crucial role in both Children’s Hospital and UPMC’s rise in the national rankings.
“John is a wonderful gentleman. I’ve known him as a friend for several years. He comes to the office, and we talk about everything from Greek affairs to American trends to hospitals, academics and healthcare. He is a wealthy person who is genuinely willing to part with his wealth to improve something. And that’s actually kind of rare. He’s also somebody who really has a soft spot for children, diabetes research and medical treatment of individuals,” said Dr. Michalopoulos, who is in charge of all diagnostic research in pathology at UPMC and Pittsburgh’s 14 hospitals.
“John always comes from the perspective of needing to think about the greater common good. He really thinks about it. He doesn’t just throw money at anyone who comes a-calling. He provides strategic assistance. And that’s something I really like about him,” he said.
“The original Rangos building was already up by the time I came to Pittsburgh, and that became the nest-egg from which many other wonderful programs have emerged – from stem cell research to an array of other things which have become the cornerstone for pediatrics research in this country,” he added.
With 175 faculty members, UPMC’s Department of Pathology is the largest clinical organization of its kind in the country, and is consistently ranked among the top five. Dr. Michalopoulos, who taught Pathology at Duke University for 14 years before joining UPMC in 1991, said Mr. Rangos has had a lot to do with helping UPMC transform into one of the country’s pre-eminent medical centers.
“Maybe I’m biased because he’s my friend, but objectively, it comes down to money and space. One of the biggest challenges for hospitals to rise in the rankings is to be able to bring in faculty to do research on the cutting edge of their fields. And to do that, you need quality space. And to have quality space, you need financial resources. So you need somebody who provides money for that space; who provides financial support for endowment; who empowers a clinical enterprise to attract research-oriented clinical chiefs,” he said.
“This is what creates leading programs which, in turn, create leading centers of research. And that’s what John has done for Children’s Hospital and the University of Pittsburgh. He has given the money that has helped attract very talented clinicians to the UPMC community. One doctor came to us from Yale, for example. To recruit him, we had to put together the financial resources and create research space in the new research tower. That didn’t come directly from John. But it came from the financial resources at Children’s, which John has contributed to over the years,” he added.
SUPPORTING HOSPITALS AND HELPING CHILDREN
Mr. Rangos himself takes all the praise in stride, preferring to focus on the importance of supporting hospitals and medical research, and stressing the need to help children obtain the best possible care.
“I’ve always been interested in education and medical assistance for children because they’re our crop of tomorrow. If you help children, you help build a strong country. And you can do that by supporting research that helps cure disease. There’s nothing worse in this world than a child suffering from a debilitating illness. Children are so innocent, and it’s our responsibility to help them. That’s why I do it,” he said, noting that he drew his inspiration to help others from legendary industrialist Ernest Tener Weir (1877-1958).
E.T. Weir was a symbol of the American Dream. Armed with only an 8th-grade education, he began his rise to the top of one of the world’s wealthiest steel companies as an office boy for U.S. Steel Corp. By 1905, at age 28, Weir was general manager of a tin plate mill near Pittsburgh. That year, he and J.R. Phillips bought a tin mill in West Virginia. In 1909, Weirton Steel relocated, built ten more mills and founded the boomtown of Weirton, West Virginia (where Mr. Rangos grew up). By 1915, Weir had 50 mills and was the world’s second leading producer of tinplate, used to make food cans. The first 20 years of the company’s operations exceeded production expectations. In 1929, the Great Depression led Weir to merge his company with Michigan Steel and the interests of M.A. Hanna, forming a new steel corporation, National Steel, to become the fifth largest steel company in America. National Steel steadily supplied products for the United States military during and after World War II. With annual revenues of $1.1 billion and a labor force of 3,800 employees, it was once the country’s seventh largest U.S. steel producer. U.S. Steel Corp bought National Steel in 2003, and became the largest steel producer in the United States. Weir also started People’s Bank and the Bank of Weirton (now WesBanco). Among other philanthropic causes, he donated $450,000 to establish the Mary H. Weir Public Library in 1956, and approved construction for the Weir High School Stadium.
“What E.T. Weir did for me as a young boy is something that has stayed with me all my life, and it’s something I’ll never forget. He set an example. He was an accomplished man of industry who really cared for the under-privileged. He built the Weirton Christian Center, with a gymnasium, a pool and a library, where I spent time competing in youth athletics and reading the Encyclopedia Britannica. I just thought, ‘Here’s the owner of a large independent steel company. Why does this man care about me?’ Then I realized that maybe I should try to be more like him,” Mr. Rangos said.
“Where I grew up, we learned to mingle with each other by learning that we all had things in common. Interscholastic sports at Weir High were a big part of my life. As a child, I knew someone cared enough for me to be medically examined for the Athletic programs and the Boy Scout camp I participated in. One of those exams found a heart murmur when he was 12. Had that not been found, my condition could have destroyed my heart muscle,” he said.
“I ended up graduating from Turtle Creek High School in Pennsylvania, but I just want to say that someone in Weirton always looked after us. That always made me wonder why someone cared and looked after us. And as I became an adult and prospered in my business endeavors, I thought back to those times, and I asked myself, ‘Why don’t I do the same thing E.T. Weir did?’ And that inspiration is what led me to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh,” he said.
“Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh is one of the few that won’t turn any child away. The extent to which they care for disadvantaged children, regardless of race, color or creed, made a huge and lasting impression on me,” he added.
When Mr. Rangos first got involved, Children’s was struggling with its operating budget. “Children’s had financial difficulties at times, and things were dicey for a while,” he said.
But he kept a steady hand behind the wheel, and consistently told his fellow board members to have courage. “We needed to stick with it to see things through. I knew that if we were patient and just stayed focused, we would eventually overcome our problems,” he said.
Always ready to give credit where credit is due, Mr. Rangos also noted that a number of hospital employees also worked very hard to ensure that Children’s steady climb to the top would be a successful trek, citing Amanda Barnhardt as a shining example among those hardworking employees.
“Mandy worked for the event-planning division under the Hospital Foundation, and she organized many important events. She would always do all the tough work. She had a lot of courage, and came to the forefront, and she did a remarkable job. She was very integral to our ultimate success. Mandy wasn’t in it only for herself. She really cared about the institution. You have to be selfless when you work at a hospital, and she was one of those selfless people I’m thinking of,” he said.
“The employees raised $1 million. They would go to companies and the general public and obtain financial aid. It had become a very important event in the city of Pittsburgh, and the bulk of the money went to Hospital’s program. The employees worked very hard, and some very important donations came in, so that destitute children could also receive the care they need,” Mr. Rangos added.
PROVIDING FREE CARE
Children’s does many things it does not get compensated for, so the CHP Foundation finds ways to help the money flow because there is a lump sum of uncompensated funds the Hospital expends every year, and the Foundation helps Children’s continue rendering free services and care by alleviating that financial pressure.
The Free Care Fund is one of several programs administered by the Foundation (e.g., Kids Helping Kids Schools Campaign, Special Occasion Program, Family Life Fund, Pennies from Heaven Fund, Grateful Families and Children’s Miracle Network). FCF was established before Mr. Rangos got involved, but he helped transform it, and it started making an even greater impact.
Historically, Mr. Barrett explained, the Free Care Fund is something in which people in Pittsburgh and supporters of the Hospital take great pride. It helps Children’s provide care when families can’t afford it due to lack of insurance or a child’s chronic illness, or because the cost of care exceeds what insurance will pay.
“That’s where the Free Care Fund comes in. Many, many children in this region were uninsured, and the Foundation was the only source of payment. We would get a phone call from the Hospital telling us about a family that needed money for medicine and other forms of medical treatment, and we would arrange for a check to be sent to the pharmacy or Hospital or wherever it needed to go in order to take care of the family’s needs,” he said.
“It’s obviously a little more complicated that that today. We’re still providing what ultimately amounts to free care for people, but it’s different in the sense that a lot of it is represented by under-compensated care. Around 40-50 percent of our kids are on public assistance, and the state throws in a little bit of money, but that doesn’t even begin to remotely cover costs of the care the kids need when they come here. That’s why programs like the Free Care Fund are so important to the Hospital’s mission. Funds from the Foundation’s programs help make all of that possible. We provide funding to the Hospital that helps backstop a lot of that uncompensated or under-compensated care,” Mr. Barrett said, stressing that other programs also help Children’s provide first-rate services and care.
“The other thing we do, which doesn’t necessarily qualify as ‘free care,’ is the support we provide the families of sick children. In a way, calling us a ‘children’s hospital’ can be viewed as a misnomer. Yes, our patients are children, but when a child is sick, the whole family is sick. The child’s parents, brothers and sisters are also dramatically affected,” he said.
“The kids who come here generally don’t have broken bones. We do get some of those cases, of course, but they often have a deadly form of cancer, or they have a severe genetic disorder. Or they need a new heart, kidney or liver, and they could be living here for months or even years waiting for the new organ and post-transplantation care. We have a Ronald McDonald House on Children’s campus with 60 units in it. If families don’t have the financial resources to pay for their child’s care, they live there,” he said, noting that even physicians from other great hospitals bring their children to Pittsburgh.
“We have a family that literally bought a house in Pittsburgh. The father works in Boston – he’s a doctor at Boston Children’s. The wife and son live here, while the father and their other son commute back and forth from Pittsburgh to Boston. And they’re doing that because they have a child who needs a new heart, and this is the best place in the world for children to get a heart transplant,” he said.
Ultimately, Mr. Barrett said, the Hospital takes care of all children, regardless of whether their families have enough medical insurance or not, and the Foundation plays a large partnership role in helping Children’s do that.
“We partner with the Hospital to help free up its budget, and we do that in different ways. Some money comes directly from the Free Care Fund, but some people prefer to give to Family Life, for example, and in that situation, if we help support the Family Life program, which costs millions of dollars, that ends up saving the Hospital millions, which it can reapply to another area. There’s also a greatest needs fund, which is basically unrestricted money for the Hospital, which can allocate it toward free care, or use it to provide primary care in poor communities,” he said.
“So the other piece of the puzzle is that we provide a lot of care for families, and that ranges from counseling services to other uncompensated services like Family Life. And those services are also something we spend a lot of time supporting. We don’t get paid for those, but those services are very important, and that’s also what helps make Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh a children’s hospital, as opposed to a regular adult hospital,” he added.
In addition to the Free Care Fund and other programs, Mr. Barrett pointed out, Children’s further excels by offering a number of community outreach programs promoting the health and wellbeing of children and communities – from providing early literacy support to helping a father find a home for his family:
- Child Advocacy Center, providing services to protect children and strengthen families by recognizing and documenting child abuse, while remaining a child friendly and family-friendly resource. The center also offers comprehensive medical care and case management for children who are in foster care or kinship care, or who have been in the foster care system and have been reunited with their biological parents.
- Community Education Program. Community education classes are held throughout the Pittsburgh area to educate parents and their children about pediatric health concerns, injury prevention, child development issues and parenting.
- Family Care Connection Centers. Seven centers offer a wide range of support services for at-risk families to ensure that parents and children receive the social services and support they need to develop healthy lifestyles and secure greater access to healthcare.
- PPG Healthy Stories Program. In partnership with the PPG Industries Foundation and other local donors, this year-round program teaches children to read; distributes gift book packets; and encourages storytelling through workshops for parents and caregivers.
- Injury Prevention, which endeavors to reduce the occurrence, severity and consequences of injuries and accidents for children, and to provide education, research and advocacy for safer communities.
- Kisumu Urban Apostolate Programes – Pandipieri, Children’s farthest outreach effort, located in Africa in the poorest area of Kisumu, Kenya.
- Ronald McDonald House Charities/Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Care Mobile. A “Doctor’s Office on Wheels,” the RMH/CHP Care Mobile brings primary pediatric care and health education to medically under-served neighborhoods. The Care Mobile travels to local schools to offer primary care services free of charge.
Mr. Rangos himself looked back fondly on all the struggles and accomplishments which helped bring Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh to the top of the medical world.
“We did a lot of things. There have been many deeply concerned citizens and a lot of successful and creative programs over the years. We had the Cruise for Kids program, where the (NFL’s) Pittsburgh Steelers would come and raise $250 thousand each time. (Actress) Jamie Lee Curtis helped raise $5 million a year five years in a row,” he said.
Ms. Curtis befriended Lori Tull, a 13-year-old heart transplant patient at Children’s Hospital in 1983. In 1999, she hosted Children’s first black-tie gala fundraiser for pediatric cancer research, and met Katie Westbrook, a 13-year-old cancer patient at Children’s who wanted to be a lawyer.
Sadly, neither girl lived long. Lori died at 19, and Katie died at 15. But both girls fought very courageously, Mr. Rangos said, and Ms. Curtis stood by them, and established an endowed chair at the Hospital for pediatric transplantation.
“Healthcare is such an important facet in human life. Whether you can be happy and do all things God has entitled you to do as a human being depends so much on good health. So we need to be focused on the dynamics of physical wellbeing: good nutrition, preventive medicine and affordable healthcare,” he said.
Mr. Rangos practices what he preaches. He established an award-winning preventive medicine program in his own company.
“We were in friendly competition with other companies nationally. I gave incentives to my employees to lose weight. A healthy employee makes the best employee. I gave thousands in cash bonuses, and got millions in return in terms of productiveness. I didn’t invent the wheel on this. It’s simply important for any employer to be concerned about the health and wellbeing of his employees,” he said.
But for Mr. Rangos, helping children is what counts most. To that end, helping a pediatric hospital attain excellence is paramount, and that’s why he places so much emphasis on research.
“It’s all about research. Children’s Hospital wouldn’t have become such an extraordinary success without that focus on research. The merger with UPMC was also very important. It was a match made in Heaven. Being big and sharing resources broaden your ability to serve public better. More jobs were also created as a result – close to 3,000 – and it helped make Children’s an even greater hospital,” he said.
“Children’s really is a state-of-the-art 21st Century Hospital, and it’s a special place. Kids treated there don’t want to leave because of the comfort level and tremendous care. Kids that were incapacitated due to a debilitating illness – who never dreamed that they could receive this kind of care – are given another chance at life. That’s why Children’s occupies such a special place in my heart. And as I became more involved, I learned more about doctors and their dedication. By and large, doctors and nurses are incredible people. Many people have egos, but at Children’s, egos get put aside, and people all pull on the oars together,” he added.
The above was written by Evan C. Lambrou, who served as editor of the National Herald, the country’s oldest and largest Greek American newspaper, from 2004 to 2009. People who wish to donate to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh can do so online by clicking here, or by calling the CHP Foundation at 412-692-3900.