Medical treatment is often accompanied by real financial cost. An example: In the Intensive Care Unit, a form of therapy called ECMO (the official name is Extra Corporeal Membrane Oxygenation, for the curious) allows doctors to treat severe infections or trauma by taking over the heart and lungs simultaneously through a machine, which gives sick children a longer timeline to improve. The cost to run the machine is upwards of $100,000 per day. Some kids need the help of the machine 24 hours. Others need it for months.
“We do our absolute best for our kids every day, but our approach is still to treat one child at a time with the full focus of care that they deserve,” says Braner. “Our clinical care helps make disease less of a scourge than it has to be in the lives of our kids.”
OHSU Doernbecher employs teams of researchers who broadly study the mechanisms of disease and their cures. Many conduct focused clinical work with children in the hospital to uncover the specific pathways to their diseases. Many of the children who are admitted to Doernbecher for treatment for conditions including cancer, cystic fibrosis or multiple sclerosis, are offered the chance to participate in approved clinical studies – often times not offered anywhere else in the region – that progress new cures or medical approaches, requiring the kind of financial support given by Doernbecher Freestyle. Over many years, medical research can curb the lethality of diseases. To give an example, says Braner, one type of childhood leukemia carried less than a 50% survival rate about 30 years ago.
“You would have to sit down with the family and tell them that there was a better than even chance that their child would not survive this disease,” he says. “Today, that disease carries a cure rate greater than 90%. That’s the result of research.”
OHSU is Oregon’s only academic medical center, meaning that it educates and trains future health care experts including pediatricians and pediatric scientists. In addition, OHSU’s educational pipeline programs help to expand interest and diversity in science down to the grade school level. Through various school and summer programs that target future physicians, nurses and scientists of every background, race, gender, and socio-economic status, young students are offered the chance to complete job shadows in the clinic or scientific lab, tour hospital facilities or complete experiential internships. A portion of the funds from Freestyle go toward programs to expand the education of OHSU doctors-in-training – known as residents and fellows – to help ensure the future of health care remains bright.
“The education is incredibly important, not only to prepare young doctors, nurses and therapists for the future, but also to open up doors to these careers for young kids in the state who couldn’t otherwise consider it,” says Braner.