Honoring Our Past to Build a Brighter Tomorrow for Children

Honoring Our Past to Build a Brighter Tomorrow for Children

Time Capsules Symbolize How Our Rich History of Collaboration Transforms Care 

Nearly a century ago, a group of hospital leaders, clergy, construction workers and philanthropists gathered to celebrate the laying of the cornerstone for the expansion of what is now Cincinnati Children’s.

They marked the occasion by enclosing a time capsule with several artifacts, including photos of previous buildings, a written history of the hospital and an address given at the ceremony.  

Unearthed almost 100 years later, the items represent more than simply expanding our space to accommodate a growing community. They also represent expanding the mission of the medical center—pinpointing the very moment in history when we committed to improving patient care through education and research. 

Another special item in the 1925 time capsule was a photo of William Cooper Procter, who served as president of the hospital’s Board of Trustees for 13 years. He was a visionary leader whose transformational gift of $2.5 million (valued at $40 million today) helped us grow from a small community hospital to one of the top medical and research centers in the nation.  

Proctor gave to support research because he knew that scientific discovery drives great care. He also knew that philanthropy and collaboration were two critical components to becoming a global leader in child health. 

World-Class Care Is Fueled by Charitable Partners 

Collaboration with donors continues to be a foundational component in advancing research and transforming care. Take for instance our development of a new, first-of-its-kind liver research center —thanks to a recent gift of $1.5 million from the Peter and Tommy Fund. 

The fund was first established in the 1980s by Carmela Colucci after losing her two young sons, Peter and Tommy, to a rare genetic illness called progressive familial intrahepatic cholestasis (PFIC). The condition causes damage to liver cells and a buildup of waste in the bloodstream that can lead to cirrhosis and end-stage liver disease. 

In most cases, a transplant is the only option. However, the procedure that may have saved the boys’ lives was unheard of at that time. In 1973, merely one day after losing her second child to the devastating illness, Carmela learned that surgeons had performed the very first liver transplant.

Although her sons were not able to benefit from modern research, she set out to do everything she could to help support innovative medical and surgical advances for other children and families facing this diagnosis. 

In their tireless pursuit, Carmela and her family met with William Balistreri, MD, an expert in liver disease. That first meeting marked the beginning of a yearslong collaboration and support of his work. Dr. Balistreri’s work and the Colucci family made a transformational impact on care in 2020, when they reached out to discuss an innovative idea—establishing a new Undiagnosed and Rare Liver Disease Center at Cincinnati Children’s. 

“When we opened the Liver Care Center in 1985, everyone was excited about liver transplantation—and as excited as I was about establishing that program, I’ll be more excited when we close because we have found cures for these diseases,” Dr. Balistreri says. “I feel the same way about this new research center. We want to find causes and cures for 
these patients.” 

Bold Research Initiatives Yield Treatments and Cures

For more than 25 years, experts within our Pediatric Liver Care Center have worked to provide life-saving and life-changing care for children with liver conditions, and the program is recognized as one of the best in the world. The new Undiagnosed and Rare Liver Disease Center, which officially opened earlier this year, focuses on scientific research and clinical studies to improve outcomes and find cures. 

Our integrative approach to discovery will help us better understand the causes of the disease and ultimately lead to novel therapies and even eliminate the need for liver transplantation for children with PFIC. 

Support from the Colucci family will enable us to build on this expertise to incorporate clinical care, research, advocacy and educational components. In the near future, we will focus on exciting goals such as building a patient registry, establishing a PFIC-dedicated clinic, and developing new drugs to potentially halt the progression of disease. 

In the long term, we’ll embark on studies of new potential therapies and establish a national-international alliance to advance clinical PFIC research. 

“For patients and families, we’ll work together to find answers—from identifying genetic causes for the disease, to making a diagnosis, to providing personalized therapies,” says Akihiro Asai, MD, PhD, one of our pediatric hepatologists and researchers. 

Ultimately, the new research center aims to fulfill Carmela Colucci’s wish in memory of her sons—that no child will suffer or die from pediatric liver disease. And our unique expertise in collaboration—among donors, researchers, care providers, patient-families and other institutions—will continue to be a key factor in achieving our ambitious goal. 

Paving the Way for a Healthier Future 

Achievements like this new center serve as inspiration for what we plan to memorialize in a new commemorative time capsule. A project which, once again, marks a momentous milestone. 

Our present-day time capsule will commemorate 100 years since the establishment of the Department of Pediatrics at the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine. Currently ranked No. 2 in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report, it’s comprised entirely of staff members from Cincinnati Children’s—including in-house physicians, researchers and others who hold academic appointments. The Department of Pediatrics exemplifies our commitment to advancing medicine through collaboration and education. 

The time capsule will also honor Benjamin Knox Rachford, MD, the first physician in the city to devote his practice to children and the first chair of the Department of Pediatrics. 

With the help of chief-of-staff, Patty Manning, MD, more than 40 groups selected new contents to send 100 years into the future, such as Pfizer and Moderna COVID-19 vaccine vials, a 3D heart model, copies of prominent research articles, and many more items that reflect these extraordinary times and our progress in improving child health. 

The current B.K. Rachford Chair, Tina Cheng, MD, MPH, led the celebration. 

“Collectively, we’ve made important contributions to child health in our missions in clinical care, research, education and community/advocacy work,” says Dr. Cheng, who is also the director of the Cincinnati Children’s Research Foundation and chief medical officer of the medical center. “It’s a momentous time in history as we are facing a pandemic and planning for the future amid many societal shifts.”

By looking back on past accomplishments made possible through the collaborative efforts of our institutions, our community and the charitable partners who continue to help us advance care, we can see the progress we’ve made together. And we can see that our greatest achievements for children are yet to come. 

For more information on how you can support this research, please contact James Cleetus at  513-636-1166 or

Living Proof that Bold Research Leads to Medical Innovations

In 1988, Dr. Balistreri and his colleagues beamed as they sat next to a cooing baby girl. That little 9-month-old didn’t know how special she was. 

She was the recipient of our first-ever segmental liver transplantation—a groundbreaking surgery that saved her life and made history. We were just the second hospital to perform the innovative procedure.

The pioneering technique divides a large donor organ into multiple pieces for transplant, dramatically increasing the supply of donor organs.

And because organs for donations are scarce, especially for infants, this discovery has changed the face of pediatric medicine.