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Comer Children's Hospital Celebrates 10th Anniversary

February 17, 2015

The Comer Children's Hospital at the University of Chicago Medicine is marking its first decade of outstanding contributions in the care of children from the Chicago area and elsewhere in the United States and around the world.

When it first opened its doors on Feb. 19, 2005, the 242,000-square-foot facility was called a remarkable fusion of form and function. Designed with input from physicians, nurses, parents and children, Comer Children's Hospital welcomed young patients into a new era of pediatric medicine. The hospital offered the optimal setting for cutting-edge diagnostic, therapeutic and surgical technology in a family-focused environment.

Ten years after the grand opening, dozens of philanthropic supporters, former and current patients, families, community partners and physician-scientists will gather to reflect on a pivotal decade. A reception on Thursday, Feb. 19 will kick off a yearlong 10th anniversary celebration and honor the realization of the vision of the hospital's namesake benefactor, Lands' End founder Gary C. Comer, and his wife, Francie.

Over the next 12 months, events, lectures and art exhibits will showcase Comer Children's Hospital's role in the advancement of pediatric medicine, medical education and care for communities, and offer a glimpse ahead to milestones on the horizon.

"With the 10th anniversary of Comer Children's Hospital, we pause to consider the significant impact the hospital has had on the children we care for, the way we treat childhood disease, the community we serve, and the future leaders we train," said Kenneth Polonsky, MD, executive vice president for medical affairs at the University of Chicago and dean of the Biological Sciences Division and the Pritzker School of Medicine.

The late Gary Comer was a native of the Grand Crossing neighborhood on Chicago's South Side. He and Francie built a remarkable legacy of support for communities near his childhood home, particularly around children's health care and education.

"My wife Francie and I have been determined to find the most effective ways to give back to my old neighborhood," Comer said in January 2006, months before his death. "We have chosen to do that by focusing on fundamental needs such as children's health and education. What could be more important than that?"

The Comers were instrumental partners in the development of Comer Children's Hospital including its state-of-the-art pediatric emergency room, and a center for outpatient specialty pediatric care. Their contributions also have supported the recruitment of leading physician-scientists and scientists and advanced programs toward leading-edge innovations in pediatric medicine.

"This anniversary offers a unique opportunity to acknowledge the contributions of the special people who made all this possible," Polonsky said. "The past decade is a testament to the difference we can make through hard work, generosity and vision."

Today, Comer Children's Hospital is home to nearly 170 highly skilled physicians who provide care in 22 pediatric specialties. Since its opening, the hospital has cared for hundreds of thousands of children, including:

  • 51,000 inpatients
  • 369,000 outpatients
  • 8,000 newborns and infants in Comer's Margaret M. and George A. Stephen Neonatal Intensive Care Unit -- the busiest NICU facility in the Midwest


Comer Children's Hospital has been at the helm of many clinical firsts during its first decade, including the nation's first trans-catheter pulmonary-valve replacement in 2005, the world's first robotic bladder reconstruction of a child in 2008 and the first use of MIBG (metaiodobenzylguanidine) therapy for neuroblastoma in Illinois last spring.

Now, Comer Children's world-renowned researchers have their sights set on the future. Investigators in laboratories devoted to pediatric medicine are working closely with clinicians at the bedside to pioneer advancements in the diagnosis and treatment of childhood diseases. As one of the nation's leading recipients of federal funding for research, Comer's physician-scientists are leading dozens of national research trials, and its young patients benefit from access to promising new therapies years before they become available at other institutions.

"It's this spirit of innovation and collaboration -- the relentless drive to push the boundaries of what's possible -- that has drawn the leading physicians for complex conditions in the world here to Comer Children's Hospital," said John Cunningham, MD, professor and interim chairman of pediatrics at the University of Chicago Medicine and physician-in-chief at Comer Children's Hospital. "What we've been able to accomplish in the last decade is astonishing, and we'll continue to impact the lives of children for generations to come. Because every world-class clinical and research team here is unified by the vision of a world where every child is able to reach his or her full potential."

Read more about University of Chicago Medicine's longstanding tradition of advanced pediatric care dating back to the 1920s here. Read more about Comer Children's Hospital's first decade here.

The University of Chicago Medicine
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