Shands

UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital ranked nationally in the 2019-20 Best Children’s Hospital rankings released in June by U.S News & World Report.

The hospital was ranked in five medical specialties: pediatric cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, neurology and neurosurgery and pulmonology and lung surgery.

UF Health Shands’ pediatric cancer program rose to No. 25 (up 24 spots from last year). The pediatric cardiology and heart surgery program moved up eight places to 11th in the nation, according to a press release from UF Health Shands. The diabetes and endocrinology program rose to No. 19 (up from 27th). Neurology and neurosurgery ranked 42nd (up from 50th) and pulmonology 22nd (same as last year).

The hospital’s pediatric cardiology and heart surgery program was the highest-rated in Florida for the fourth consecutive year. Cancer, diabetes and endocrinology and pulmonology also ranked the highest in Florida. The neurology and neurosurgery program is the second-highest ranked program in Florida.

Ed Jimenez, the CEO of UF Health Shands, said the high rankings showcase the great medical care and research happening at the hospital. In pediatric heart surgery, Shands has one of the best survival statistics in the U.S., and more people are trusting them to do complicated surgeries on small and sick children.

“We’re proud that this is another external validation that there are amazing things happening here that are of a national scale,” he said.

Jimenez said understanding the need to care for families as a whole, hiring talented staff and improving science research are what help make UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital a nationally ranked children’s hospital.

“Other children’s hospitals in the state of Florida that families trust send their patients here,” he said. “It’s because the teams here often give hope where hope doesn’t exist.”

Dr. Desmond Schatz, the interim chair of pediatrics at UF Health Shands, said the rankings are exciting and show a commitment to patients to provide excellence at every level.

“It’s a team effort and a team approach,” he said. “It’s recognition that we are making [a commitment] to improve the lives of each and every child and to do that at the personal level.”

Boston Children’s Hospital (No. 1) and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (No. 2), among others, ranked higher than UF Health Shands. The ranking system only ranks 10 children’s hospital’s overall, and UF fell outside of the honor roll. The other top-rated hospitals have much bigger programs, more patients and more health care providers than UF Health Shands, Schatz said.

Despite that, the rise in the specialties’ rankings are still spectacular for the Shands’ size and number of patients, he said.

“My hope would be that all our subspecialties will continue to grow and be ranked because that’s what we all want to do is to provide the best possible care for everybody,” Schatz said.

The cardiology and heart surgery program is now close to the top 10 in the nation, coming in at No. 11. The advancements of the doctors, the complicated cases and the decreased mortality rate are a testament to the team and the reason why so many people throughout the state and beyond the state are referred to the program, Schatz said.

Rankings like this help build a program of integrity and a program where people want to come back because they can trust the doctors and the health care system, he said.

Ocala resident, Karen Butler, 52, has relied on UF Health Shands more than once for her children, even though her family lives outside of Gainesville.

She took her son, Christian, to UF Shands Children’s Hospital when he was 13 after leaving different emergency rooms in Ocala in several times without a diagnosis. At UF Health Shands, he was diagnosed with a partially collapsed lung.

“They were quick. They were informative. They let me know what was going on,” she said. “They were amazing with him.”

Butler’s son spent four weeks in the hospital because the fluid around his lungs was infected.

“I could not have asked for a better hospital and better nurses,” she said. “Even the football team came by and did an art project with him.”

Butler thought the ratings were spot on. She has six kids and has had many emergency room visits. UF Health Shands has been the best, she said.

“Shands is the only one I trust anymore,” Butler said, “because you should be able to trust your local hospitals, but you can’t.”