Physician Profile: Jayesh Thakker, M.D., MBA

This is part of our ongoing series featuring physician-leaders to help the entire medical staff learn more about these colleagues.

  • Division Chief, Pediatric Critical Care Medicine, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center
  • Medical Director, Pediatric Intensive Care Unit, Nebraska Medicine
  • Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Nebraska Medical Center

As a child growing up in India, as early as 5 years old, Jayesh Thakker, M.D., MBA, knew he was going to become a doctor. He credits the influence of those extended summer visits with his maternal grandparents and time spent steeping in the aura of his grandfather, a physician trained in ayurvedic (holistic) medicine.

“I used to visit his clinic, and I saw how people admired and respected him,” Dr. Thakker said. “The feeling of happiness I saw on their faces after they had treatment and came back for follow-up, that is what started influencing me. My parents, also, used to tell us that we should always help people – and I thought what a great way to help people, what a great way to live your life.”

A drive to make the greatest impact drew Dr. Thakker to pediatrics and then to the pediatric intensive care unit (PICU).

“You have these parents bringing in their children, and the family is in great distress; sometimes the child is near death. When they get better from that state and leave the ICU – and they all have smiles – that, to me, is the greatest impact you can have.”

After attending medical school in Mumbai at top-rated Seth G.S. Medical College, Dr. Thakker did an internship and Pediatrics residency at Mumbai’s King Edward Memorial Hospital. From there, he made the move to the United States, drawn by a desire to practice critical care with the latest technology. He completed a second residency at Cook County Hospital in Chicago, Ill., and then a pediatric critical care fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin in Milwaukee.

In 1995, fresh out of fellowship, Dr. Thakker was tapped to set up an ICU at Mount Sinai Hospital in Chicago. Three years later, the PICU fully functional, Dr. Thakker and his wife, Angeli Thakker, DDS, had to make a move so Angeli could attend an advanced program for international dental graduates.

“Chicago did not have a program, so we started looking for a place where I could get a good opportunity, and my wife could get admission to one of these programs,” Dr. Thakker said.

They chose Omaha, home of Creighton University School of Dentistry and Children’s Hospital & Medical Center.

“The thing I really liked about Children’s – the people I met were extremely open and very welcoming, and I knew the leadership was really focused on doing what is right for children and the community. I thought, ‘How can I beat something like this?’”

Now, 22 years later, Dr. Thakker says he’s never looked back.

“What makes life interesting is all the challenges you come across – and I have never been scared of challenges. I take challenges head on. If it is a good thing to do, then we should do it.”

Division Chiefs Announced

Sookyong Koh, M.D., Ph.D., has joined Children’s as division chief of Pediatric Neurology. Prior to joining Children’s, Dr. Koh was a pediatric epileptologist and professor in Pediatrics at Emory University in Atlanta. Dr. Koh received her medical degree and her Ph.D. in Neurobiology from the University of Rochester School of Medicine in Rochester, N.Y. She completed Pediatrics and Pediatric Neurology residencies at Tufts New England Medical Center in Boston and completed her Clinical Neurophysiology fellowship at Massachusetts General Hospital and Boston Children’s Hospital, Harvard University in Boston. She was an attending physician and director of the Neurobiology Program and associate professor in Pediatrics at Northwestern University in Chicago. She is a professor and division chief in the Department of Pediatrics at UNMC College of Medicine.

Ioannis Kalampokis M.D., Ph.D., MPH, has been named division chief of Pediatric Rheumatology. Prior to joining Children’s, Dr. Kalampokis was an assistant professor of Pediatrics at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine/Children’s Hospital of New Mexico. He received his medical degree from Charles University in Prague, Faculty of Medicine, Hradec Kralove, Czech Republic. He earned his master of Public Health (MPH) degree from State University of New York (SUNY) at Downstate, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and his Ph.D. in Immunology from Duke University in Durham, N.C. Dr. Kalampokis completed Pediatrics residencies at SUNY and Long Island College Hospital, both in Brooklyn, and a Pediatric Rheumatology fellowship at Duke University Medical Center. He is an associate professor and division chief in the Department of Pediatrics at UNMC College of Medicine.

Prox Card Readers Installed to Help Prevent Medical Elopement

As part of ongoing efforts to avoid patient elopement, Med/Surg units have been installing proximity card readers at all entrances and exits. Elopement is defined as a patient who leaves the hospital when doing so may present an imminent threat to the patient’s health or safety because of legal status or because the patient has been deemed too ill or impaired to make a reasoned decision to leave.

Anyone opening an exit (stairwells, reception door, service elevator door or visitor elevator door) without using a prox card will trigger an alarm at nursing stations. Security will respond to ensure the patient remains safely in the hospital. The first floor to implement the elopement alarms was 6 Med/Surg, effective March 1. More Med/Surg floors will be added to the system in the coming months.

Click here for more details

If you have questions, please contact Keri Milliken, Jason Burrows, M.D., Jodi Holck or Rich Holter.

Lab Bulletin: Eltrombopag Interference

Ortho Clinical Diagnostics, the manufacturer of the chemistry analyzer (VITROS) and a majority of the assays used by Children’s Laboratory, issued a notification regarding the potential for interference of Eltrombopag with two of their assays. The assays affected include Total Protein (TP) (LAB118) and Conjugated and Unconjugated Bilirubin (Bu/Bc) (LAB1440).

Eltrombopag was identified as a spectral interferent at the wavelengths that these VITROS assays are measured.

Eltrombopag is used to prevent bleeding episodes in patients who have chronic immune thrombocytopenic purpura (ITP), chronic hepatitis C and are treated with interferon, and also in treatment of aplastic anemia.

Orders:  Total Protein (TP) (LAB118) and Conjugated and Unconjugated Bilirubin (Bu/Bc) (LAB1440)

Specimen requirements:  No change.

Performance:  No change. 24/7

Please direct any questions to George Bedrnicek, M.D., Children’s Pathology at 402-955-5528.

Child Health Research Institute to Lead COVID-19 Vaccine Trials in Pregnant Women & Children

Physician-scientists in Omaha will be on the leading edge of research to ensure a safe, effective COVID-19 vaccine for pregnant women and children. The Child Health Research Institute (CHRI), a pediatric research partnership between University of Nebraska Medical Center (UNMC) and Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, will be leading two new COVID-19 vaccine trials in these unique, important populations. Both studies are sponsored by Pfizer.

The first trial is a randomized, placebo-controlled study evaluating the safety, tolerability and effectiveness of a vaccine candidate against COVID-19 in pregnant women and their newborns. Kari Simonsen, M.D., MBA, chair of the UNMC Department of Pediatrics and pediatrician-in-chief at Children’s, will serve as the site primary investigator; Teresa Berg., M.D., associate professor of Obstetrics and Gynecology at UNMC and director of Maternal-Fetal Medicine, will be the lead co-investigator. Participants will be patients from the Olson Center for Women’s Health who intend to deliver their baby at Nebraska Medicine. The global study aims to recruit 4,000 pregnant women; it is anticipated around 50 women will be enrolled from the Omaha site. The vaccinated mothers and their babies will be followed until the baby is 6 months old. After a child’s birth, maternal participants who received the placebo will be unblinded and able to receive the vaccine. 

The second trial is a pediatric study, evaluating a vaccine’s safety and efficacy in healthy children ages 5 to 18. Dr. Simonsen will serve as site primary investigator. CHRI will partner closely with Children’s Physicians primary care offices to recruit study participants starting in late spring or early summer; however, children not cared for at these locations may also be enrolled. This global study will involve around 6,000 pediatric participants. The Omaha site plans to enroll around 50 children. Vaccine administration will take place at Children’s Specialty Pediatric Center, led by Children’s Pediatric Infectious Disease specialists.

“COVID-19 vaccine studies for pregnant women and children build on the knowledge gained from the completed adult studies. These important trials provide necessary safety and effectiveness information to expand implementation of COVID-19 vaccines to these groups. We are proud to contribute to these global efforts,” says Dr. Simonsen.

Stephen Dolter, M.D., Named Chief Medical Informatics Officer

After an extensive national search, supported by the Isaacson Miller search firm, and including interviews with key stakeholders across Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, we are pleased to announce Dr. Stephen Dolter was selected and has accepted the position as Children’s Chief Medical Informatics Officer (CMIO).  Dr. Dolter has served in the role in an interim capacity since September 2020 following the retirement of former CMIO Dr. Corey Joekel.  Dr. Dolter will begin the role in a permanent capacity effective Monday, March 1, 2021.

“Since stepping into the interim role, Dr. Dolter has proven himself as a great collaborator and intellectual thought leader,” states Jerry Vuchak, Children’s Chief Information Officer.  “In a short time, he has worked to help resolve issues, strengthen technology governance, and enhance communication.”  “Dr. Dolter’s guidance and leadership will be critical in advancing technology solutions to support positive patient outcomes, operational improvement, and innovation in conjunction with the Children’s Strategic Plan.  We are very excited to advance our informatics solutions with Dr. Dolter” says Dr. Chris Maloney, Children’s Chief Clinical Officer and Physician-in-Chief.

Dr. Dolter has been a pediatric hospitalist at Children’s since joining the organization in 2007 and has worked with the Children’s Medical Informatics Team since 2012.  Throughout his tenure, he has collaborated with physician partners including the former CMIO to advance our clinical solutions to help ensure a high level of provider satisfaction.  

In addition to his duties as CMIO, Dr. Dolter will continue to provide clinical services as a Pediatric Hospitalist on a part time basis.  Please join us in congratulating Dr. Dolter and in giving him your support as he assumes his new role.

Q & A with Zeb Timmons, M.D.

Recruiting success was a theme of 2020 and continues to build in 2021. As we welcome many new division chiefs to our organization in 2021, we will feature content on new physician-leaders to help the entire medical staff learn more about these colleagues.

  • Chief, Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine
  • Assistant Professor, Department of Pediatrics, Division of Emergency Medicine, UNMC College of Medicine 

“Our goal is – when you come into our emergency department, you’re getting the same top-of-the-line, evidence-based care that you’d get at the most prestigious children’s hospitals across the country.”

Dr. Timmons arrived at Children’s in August 2020 after spending more than a decade at Phoenix Children’s Hospital. He is excited about the future of the Division of Emergency Medicine — a future that includes the September 2021 debut of a state-of-the-art emergency department in the new Hubbard Center for Children.

What drew you to pediatric medicine?

“I was pretty confident early on that I wanted to practice pediatrics, so I could serve the most vulnerable populations. I really enjoy working with kids. Kids always seem to want to get better and get back to doing what they like to do. That’s not always true of adults.”

What was it about pediatric emergency medicine that intrigued you?

“To be an emergency doctor, you have to be a ‘jack of all trades,’ where you know a little bit about everything and you get to see everything. You’re not really pigeonholed into the microcosm of a specialty. As an ER doctor, I still get to do the critical care type of medicine that I enjoy, but I also get to be a diagnostician, which is my favorite thing – trying to solve the puzzle or crack the case.”

You arrived at Children’s in September 2020. How have you been working to enhance the Division of Pediatric Emergency Medicine?

“When you step into our Pediatric Emergency Department, you should be getting the exact same level of care that you’d be getting at any major children’s hospital across the country. We’re more than capable of emulating that care. I see that as my number one, two and three responsibilities as division chief, and I’m doing everything in my power to make sure that’s the reality day in, day out. We’re doing that through targeted hiring, a sharper focus on research and innovation, and the building of a stronger academic infrastructure with the creation of a new fellowship. In September, we’ll be moving into a state-of-the-art emergency department in the new Hubbard Center for Children. We’re doubling our bed capacity and redesigning the way we triage and flow patients through the department to make it as streamlined as possible.”

What excites you in terms of research capability at Children’s?

“Even though Children’s is smaller than Phoenix Children’s Hospital in terms of patient numbers, the research infrastructure through our partnership with UNMC is much stronger than any place I’ve been before. I’m looking forward to strengthening that partnership with our department, in particular, turning us into the ones that are not only practicing the best cutting-edge medicine, but also creating and innovating it.”

For you, what do you consider a successful workday?

“With emergency medicine, you’re, often times, meeting people on the worst day of their lives. If you can offer them some kind of solace and make that experience just a little bit better, a little more comfortable, I feel like I’ve done my job for the day.” 

You and your wife, Jaci Timmons, M.D., a hospitalist at Children’s, have a young family. How are you all enjoying Omaha so far?

“We have a 4-year-old, a 2-year-old and a 3-month-old – all boys. We love the community. It’s the kind of community we’re very excited to raise our kids in. We can’t wait to experience some more of the arts, culture and restaurants that Omaha has to offer. Right now, we pretty much go to the zoo because you can spread out there. We’re also getting used to snow again. Our kids love it. All they want to do is go out and play in the snow.”

Duress Cart Available to Monitor Staff Safety

The safety of staff, patients and families is paramount at Children’s. A recent partnership between Security and Med/Surg leadership has resulted in a new duress cart. The duress cart allows staff to monitor the safety of other staff who are caring for patients with a potential for violence. Staff will wear a “panic button” on a lanyard that they will press if a patient acts out or they find themselves in a situation where they need help. The alarm is loud enough for the entire unit to hear, including within closed offices. 

The portable cart has a transmitter that can be plugged into any wall outlet on the unit. It connects to up to five wireless transmitters worn as a personal pendant on a breakaway lanyard by a one-on-one sitter or other staff member assigned to be alone with a patient. Each lanyard coincides with a color, and nursing staff will coordinate the color and patient room number. In the event this alarm occurs, nursing staff and leadership from the unit can provide guidance on which room needs immediate help. To request a duress cart, please call Security at 402-955-5300.

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