Dr. Mark Gilger, Pediatrician-in-Chief at The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio, points to a file on his desk. It contains an applicant who wants to become a Nurse Practitioner at the hospital. She’s from the Valley, came from humble roots, and fell in love with the community she served at The Children’s Hospital as an ER nurse. She worked with her supervisors in that department to further her education while retaining her position and is now pursuing a career at the hospital. As Dr. Gilger explains, “She’s passionate about taking care of this place.”

This story resonates with the history of the hospital and the commitment of the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word to care for the children of this city while furthering their medical training to achieve that end. “That’s how it’s supposed to be done,” says Dr. Gilger, “And it’s how this place has always been operated.”

As a child in New York, he remembers being fascinated at how the doctors healed his brother’s congenital foot deformity. After being treated, his brother ran without problem and started playing sports. That experience set Dr. Gilger on the path to medicine, which took him through Creighton Medical School in Omaha, Nebraska and Pediatrics at The University of Rochester.

Pediatrician-in-Chief at The Children’s Hospital Dr. Mark Gilger poses for portrait. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio 

After serving for some time with the Indian Health Service for the Cocopah and Qeuchan tribes, Dr. Gilger pursued an opportunity with Baylor College of Medicine at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston. As Vice-President of Pediatrics, he took the program there from number four to number one in the country.

In 2012, he was tasked with overseeing the new partnership between Baylor and The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio as Pediatrician-in-Chief. Upon coming to San Antonio, he felt a palpable energy that was unique to the hospital. “It was the earnestness of the mission,” he explains, “It was permeating the walls. There was something different here.”

He was impressed by the sincerity and intellect of the Sisters of Charity. The Sisters receive medical training and many have Masters Degrees and Doctorates. One of the things that attracted him to the hospital was the fact that the Sisters of Charity, who are deeply dedicated to the care of children, own the hospital. He felt that because of this the mission was in capable hands.

“The only real thing in life is change,” he admits, “And I think Baylor is a place that adapts to change.” Through the new academic partnership with the hospital, Dr. Gilger has added 180 physician faculty members and 36 Baylor Residents training to become pediatricians. He reflects on the fact that this not only increases the quality of care in the center city, but also creates a sizeable economic impact for San Antonio through high-paying jobs.

The Children’s Hospital has added specialties from Metabolic Genetics to the city’s first Pediatric Rheumatologist. In a stunning display of technological advancement, the Pediatric Cardiology Imager is able to create 3-D models of patients’ hearts from MRI and CT scans. Surgeons are able to interact physically with these models and strategize their operations beforehand.

The Pediatric Cardiology Imager is able to create 3-D models of patients’ hearts. Photo courtesy of The Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. 
Bod Pod technology is used to help measure skeleton and muscle health. Michael Cirlos / Centro San Antonio

“To me academic means state-of-the-art medicine,” reflects Dr. Gilger on the partnership, “That’s what this city really deserved, and that’s what we got.”

Dr. Gilger explains that the advantages of medical technology are not isolated to the field of healthcare. For San Antonio to attract talent in high tech fields, it needs to provide high tech healthcare to the children of those potential workers.

A perfect example was bringing in the city’s first Pediatric Rheumatologist to The Children’s Hospital. Beforehand, a skilled worker whose child was in need of that specialty might very well have passed up on San Antonio to live in a city where that specialty was available. San Antonio has become competitive for high tech talent, thanks in part to the faculty Baylor brought to The Children’s Hospital.

“One of the best things that’s happened is not all the pretty new buildings,” Dr. Gilger says of the hospital’s growth, “but the people who have come here ." 

Read Part 1 of this story here.

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