News Stories

Real-Life Superheroes

Pediatric surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis share what makes their patients superheroes in their eyes.

Surgeons at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis provide the best quality care to all patients, of all ages. Pediatric surgeons, specifically, care for a very special kind of patient at the School of Medicine: children. These young patients exhibit qualities that amaze and impress Washington University surgeons every day. Courage, resilience, curiosity—these characteristics make children much more than good patients. In the eyes of pediatric surgeons, these children are superheroes!

Shaina Eckhouse, MD

Assistant Professor
Division of Minimally Invasive Surgery
Favorite Superhero: Wonder Woman

All of my patients have the superpowers of the most durable fighters. They have super strength to fight the disease of obesity. It takes a durable and determined fighter to combat a tough chronic disease like obesity, which is why my patients are so strong. Weight loss surgery can help give my patients the best weapon to fight their disease.

With the growing epidemic of obesity in children, there is a need for access to bariatric surgery for teenagers, which is supported by the recent policy statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. Seeing teenage patients do well after bariatric surgery is inspiring.  My patients come off chronic medications, insulin and sleep apnea machines with improvements in their energy and activity.

The Weight Loss Surgery Team works in collaboration with the Healthy Start Clinic to offer care to patients with severe obesity and associated co-morbid conditions.  Our team optimizes medical, nutritional, educational and behavioral support to teens interested in losing weight.  Our partnership allows us to better care for the patient and their family. Bariatric surgery is the most effective treatment for the disease of obesity for motivated teenagers and their family.

As the first accredited Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Accreditation and Quality Improvement Program for adolescent bariatric surgery in the state of Missouri, the Weight Loss Surgery Team offers a multidisciplinary approach to treating the disease of obesity with the best outcomes possible and less risk. As part of our accreditation, we are continually performing quality improvement to ensure the best possible results for our heroes.

We perform two different surgeries, the sleeve gastrectomy and the Roux-en-Y gastric bypass. These surgeries are performed using a minimally invasive approach, which means small incisions. In most cases, the choice of surgery is based on what the superhero and their parents feel most comfortable with after trying to make sure they understand the differences between the surgeries and the benefits and risks associated with each.

The best support parents can provide is love and support towards their child in their weight loss journey. Obesity is a complicated disease that is affected by multiple factors, including genetics, hormones, environment, culture, behavior and lifestyle. Some of the changes that help optimize long term success with weight loss are more successful if the whole family is supportive.

Baddr Shakhsheer, MD

Assistant Professor
Division of Pediatric Surgery
Favorite Superheroes: Superman and Quailman

Children have many superpowers! The number one superpower I see is resilience. Children deal with adversity with great strength and courage, often demonstrating grace even in times that are difficult. I admire this superpower! Children also have the superpower of curiosity, a true sense of wonder. They ask insightful questions that show us how they see the world and understand it in the most wonderful way.

My joy in working with children is because of their endless energy and creativity. Children are curious. They often push me to not only understand their medical process, but to find a way to explain it to them and ease their process through the health care setting. My wife and I have two children and, to me, our children represent hope—the future of our society. They are our greatest products and our loveliest investments in the future.

In addition to general pediatric and thoracic surgery, I am the surgeon in the Washington University Pediatric Colorectal Center. I often help to treat children with anorectal malformations and Hirschsprung Disease. For these disorders, I try to utilize minimally invasive techniques for pullthrough and PSARP procedures in order to help children achieve continence. I also perform a variety of procedures for children with Inflammatory Bowel Disease—Crohn’s Disease and Ulcerative Colitis, and other causes of bowel disease.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital is a stand-alone pediatric facility that provides all the resources of a top children’s hospital. In addition to the expertise of the physicians from Washington University School of Medicine, we provide care that is focused on the child’s experience and the effect on the family. Our Child Life Services has the sole mission to promote positive healthcare experiences for children and their families. They use a variety of approaches to help ease any fear and anxiety associated with the healthcare process.

I believe that every patient should be treated like one of my family members. I believe in joint decision making and in understanding the impact of treatment on the patient and the patient’s family. I think that through these endeavors we build trust, the foundation for any good relationship. St. Louis Children’s Hospital shares and supports this philosophy: children and family first—and creates an environment to help these values thrive.

Parents and family are the best sidekicks to superhero children. They are great advocates for the superheroes. They can help by asking questions and interpreting superhero concerns so that the relationship between the superhero and the healthcare team is one of true trust.

Alison Snyder-Warwick, MD

Assistant Professor
Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery
Favorite Superhero: Wonder Woman

My patients have every kind of superpower imaginable. Some that I see most often are: bravery, motivation, tremendous healing powers and resilience to adversity. These powers are so impressive and so important!

I perform many different procedures for superhero patients. Cleft lip and cleft palate repairs, smile surgery, nerve repairs and reconstruction, and many other procedures. This list is long, but all of these procedures help superheroes with functional needs while trying to optimize aesthetics. The overall goal is to help the child fulfill their potential with great self-confidence.

St. Louis Children’s Hospital has a team of providers who specialize in the care of children. We all want the experience for children to be positive. We love what we do, and that passion shows in our commitment to make the experience more positive for your family, while also fulfilling the needs of your child. The team is tremendously skilled—I trust them to the care of my own superheroes!

Parents can empower their kids to be their best superhero. I don’t like to hide information from children—I want them to be a part of the process and get all of their questions answered. By talking directly with the child, I can be sure I have addressed their concerns, as well as those of their parents. Everyone should have the chance to speak and ask their questions.

I am lucky to work with children! What I find most inspiring is the positive attitudes I see in my patients. Kids want to get back to being kids and doing the fun things kids do, and I find that optimistic drive to be most important in their recovery. Plus, I get to have a lot of fun and laughter in my daily work!