Nemours Children’s Health — Caring for Pediatric Patients “Well Beyond Medicine”
Dr. Sudha Raman, a 2023 Women of Influence Award Winner and Medical Director of the Nemours Children’s Health Specialty Care Network in PA, talks about caring for more kids and going well beyond medicine.
Nemours Children’s Health is transforming the idea of what it takes to keep children well, by looking beyond medicine. “We are looking at this as a mission that’s ‘Well Beyond Medicine,’” says Dr. Sudha Raman, a neonatologist and one of our inaugural Women of Influence. “More and more, we know that medical care impacts 20% of health, but nearly 80% of children’s health is driven by other behaviors that we call social determinants of health.” Those social determinants occur in the child’s home, school and community. Dr. Raman and her colleagues throughout Nemours Children’s not only provide world-class care, but they also aim to address the social, economic, behavioral and environmental factors that affect kids every day. Through communication with patient families and caregivers, they help ensure that children have access to healthy foods and clean water, safe housing and anything else that may impact a child’s health. In the late 1930s, philanthropist Alfred I. duPont left his fortune to begin what is now Nemours Children’s Health with a mandate to do whatever it takes to prevent and treat disabling childhood conditions. “We are always mindful of that legacy that started Nemours Children’s Health,” says Raman. “That mission is always front and center to us. It’s about creating a healthier future—for all kids.”
Successfully going “Well Beyond Medicine” requires Raman and her colleagues to set up a trusting relationship with patient families and caregivers. “We are working together as a team to keep the child healthy,” says Raman. “For example, we make sure that the families are literate about the child’s health and what they need. We also make sure there is great coordination across the continuum of care. It’s about keeping a child healthy and not just treating them when they are sick.” The goal is also to reduce any barriers that prevent access to care so that children can get all the preventative care that they need. “At Nemours we are all about reducing disparities and having families of every race, ethnicity, gender, and language preference welcome at our sites to receive the care that they need from our specialists,” she continues. Nemours also has community health workers that go out to see patients in their homes to manage their well-being and care coordinators who, as their title describes, coordinate the proper care for patients, like setting up appointments with specialists or connecting them to higher levels of care. “We are focused on a model of care that’s a value-based, whole approach to taking care of a child,” says Raman.
In addition to being an attending neonatologist at Nemours Children’s Hospital, Delaware, Raman is also the Ambulatory Care Center (ACC) Medical Director for the Nemours Children’s Pennsylvania Specialty Care Network. In this role, she is instrumental in helping Nemours expand its reach of care throughout Southeastern Pennsylvania. “At Nemours, we currently take care of about 85,000 kids in Southeastern PA,” says Raman. “We’re expanding our access through the creation of new pediatric specialty centers, so we can serve even more children in the region.” Raman was a leader in opening Nemours’ newest center of care in Broomall, which began seeing patients in May of this year. (More about the Broomall location.) She is currently working on a new specialty care site in Malvern, which is set to open in March of 2024. “Pediatric specialty access is very strained these days, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic,” says Raman. “And so to be able to have our specialists practice close to home for many families is something that I am so happy about. We see the importance of meeting families in their communities and being able to extend our services across the breadth of the Philadelphia region, from Abington down to Malvern.”
One of Raman’s many responsibilities is acting as a link from Nemours’ main hospital in Wilmington, Delaware to the community, hospital partners and pediatric practices in Southeastern Pennsylvania. “I’m spreading the message that Nemours is more than our hospital, we are also your child’s neighborhood specialist,” explains Raman. “With our Pennsylvania locations, patient families won’t always have to travel to Wilmington in order to receive excellent specialty care.” When it opens next year, Malvern’s ambulatory care center will be Nemours’ largest specialty care center in PA. The location will have an outpatient surgery facility alongside 22 specialties, various diagnostic testing services like EKGs, EEGs, Ultrasound, X Rays, a sleep study center, and more. Raman has played a large role in the facility planning of Pennsylvania locations to ensure that more than just the locations, but the spaces themselves meet patient families’ needs. “We take a lot of input from our Family Advisory Council, which is represented by parents that have had experiences at Nemours with their own children,” says Raman. “They help us make sure it’s a nice, safe and welcoming space for all our patients.”
As Nemours Children’s Health continues to expand in Southeastern Pennsylvania, Raman will carry on spreading the news of the excellent care being provided by the health system. “The most pleasure I get out of my life’s work is the interactions that I have with our patients and families,” says Raman. “I remind myself every day that when parents place their child in our care, there is so much trust, as well as responsibility that goes along with that. I never take that for granted.”
This story was written by Tara Behan Marmur. Nemours Children’s Health supports the Main Line Parent Community.