Family Cared for at Cincinnati Children’s Speaks Out To Preserve Children’s Access to Care

Progress for Children’s Health Threatened by Proposals to Cut Medicaid, Training for Pediatricians

Monday, July 25, 2011

 A family that has received extensive medical care at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is traveling to Washington, DC, July 25 and 26 to help Congress understand the importance of protecting pediatric care in face of growing budget concerns. Reese Yvon Sunderland, her parents and her twin sister, Ryleigh are among approximately 30 families traveling to the nation’s capital to bring attention to potential new barriers to pediatric health care as part of the National Association of Children’s Hospitals (NACH) Family Advocacy Day.

The Sunderland family learned the value of access to quality pediatric care through firsthand experience. Reese and Ryleigh, were born in May of 2007, three months premature, weighing only two pounds each. They survived a rare twin pregnancy complication known as “Twin-Twin Transfusion Syndrome.” This complication required fetal surgery at Cincinnati Children’s at 18 weeks gestation.

As a result of Reese’s extremely premature birth and severe illness shortly after birth, long term breathing support was required. This long intubation period caused scar tissue to develop in Reese’s trachea and a tracheotomy tube was eventually inserted to help her breathe. She has had numerous surgeries, including a stomach surgery, a heart procedure and two airway procedures. She only recently was able to return home to Hemlock, Michigan, following her second airway reconstruction surgery.

Although decades of advocacy have yielded strides that have improved children’s access to health care coverage, the infrastructure that ensures access to care sustained serious blows in 2011. The Obama Administration’s fiscal year 2012 budget called on Congress to eliminate funding for the Children’s Hospitals Graduate Medical Education Program (CHGME), a federal program that helps children’s hospitals train 40 percent of all pediatricians and 43 percent of pediatric specialists.

CHGME in particular has played a key role for Reese and her family. In fact, Jonathan Ida, MD, a former fellow at Cincinnati Children’s who was part of the team that cared for Reese, will travel to Washington with the family to help policymakers understand the need for graduate medical education funding.

“Dr. Ida is more than a doctor to Reese,” says Jill Sunderland, Reese and Ryleigh’s mom. “Reese runs to him when she sees him. He always took the time to interact with Reese and answer any questions that we had. We hope sharing our story will help protect and preserve quality health care for kids by continuing the funding of training for the next generation of pediatric specialists.”

In addition to CHGME, proposals to slash funding for Medicaid, the largest health care program for children in the country, have gained traction. Congress is discussing proposals to cut the program’s funding by $1 trillion over the next decade and impose a cap on the amount the federal government can contribute.

Survey data show that few people fully understand the extent to which Medicaid is a children’s program. Medicaid is most often associated with nursing home care or care for the disabled. However, data from children’s hospitals show that half of all child patients in children’s hospitals are covered under Medicaid and, according to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, one in three children overall is covered by Medicaid.

About Cincinnati Children's

Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center ranks third in the nation among all Honor Roll hospitals in U.S. News and World Report's 2011 Best Children's Hospitals ranking. It is ranked #1 for gastroenterology and in the top 10 for all pediatric specialties - a distinction shared by only two other pediatric hospitals in the United States. Cincinnati Children's is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is internationally recognized for improving child health and transforming delivery of care through fully integrated, globally recognized research, education and innovation. Additional information can be found at

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Kate Setter