UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital is ranked No. 1 in Florida, five specialties among nation’s best

University of Florida Health Shands Children’s Hospital continued its remarkable run as one of the Southeast’s premier pediatric medical centers as U.S. News & World Report Tuesday ranked it as Florida’s No. 1 children’s hospital, with five pediatric specialties earning the elite distinction of being rated among the nation’s best.

The U.S. News 2022-23 Best Children’s Hospital survey includes the highest-ever rankings for pediatric pulmonology and lung surgery, listed as the 18th best in the United States, and neurology and neurosurgery, ranked No. 34.

Three other pediatric specialties also were nationally recognized. They are diabetes and endocrinology (No. 13), cardiology and heart surgery (No. 26) and cancer (No. 49).

Cancer, cardiology and heart surgery, diabetes and endocrinology, and pulmonology and lung surgery are the highest ranked children’s programs in Florida. 

“I’m proud of everyone on our team who contributes to making UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital the best in Florida,” said David R. Nelson, M.D., UF’s senior vice president for health affairs and president of UF Health. “This ranking is a reflection of the culture of compassion and commitment to excellence that pervades everything we do.”

Overall, the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital was ranked the 8th best in the nine-state Southeast region. The hospital is tied for first in Florida.

“Having an ill son or daughter in the hospital is one of the most trying times in the life of any parent,” said Colleen G. Koch, M.D., M.S., M.B.A., dean of the UF College of Medicine. “Families travel from throughout Florida and the Southeast to bring their children to us. That’s an act of trust we do our best to earn each and every day by providing outstanding care that is nationally recognized. Our faculty and staff should be proud that their hard work has earned this honor.”

Desmond Schatz, M.D., interim chair of the UF College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics and interim physician-in-chief of UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital, said he is proud that pediatric caregivers provide such outstanding care using the most advanced therapies.

“When a parent chooses a hospital for their sick child, they want specialized expertise, convenience and the most knowledgeable medical professionals available,” said Schatz. “They want the best, and that’s who we are. This ranking reflects incredible skill and the dedication that our clinicians, researchers and staff offer patients and families on a daily basis.”

Neurology and neurosurgery climbed 11 spots from last year’s ranking.

“This external recognition is a testament to the meticulous care that the pediatric neurology and neurosurgery team consistently strives to provide for our patients,” said Lance S. Governale, M.D., chief of pediatric neurosurgery and the L.D. Hupp Associate Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics. “We are very proud of our team members and look forward to continued excellence.”

Marc G. Schecter, M.D., a professor and director of pediatric pulmonary medicine in the UF College of Medicine’s department of pediatrics, said his division attracts patients from throughout Florida and the Southeast.

Pulmonology offers numerous subspecialties, from the severe asthma program to specialists in neuromuscular diseases and cystic fibrosis, with a family-centered, culturally appropriate approach to individualize treatment for children.

“It’s a collective effort to be ranked this highly among our peers,” said Schecter, an internationally recognized pediatric lung transplant expert. “It’s a testament to the group and all of the hard work that everyone puts into research and patient care every day. The division continues to be focused on creating programs that are patient-centered.”

This is the fifth straight year that the pulmonary division is listed among the nation’s top 50 programs.

The pediatric cardiology and heart surgery specialty has been ranked one of the best in the nation for 12 years running. 

 “Every member of our team should be proud of their hard work and dedication to our patients,” said Mark S. Bleiweis, M.D., director of the UF Health Congenital Heart Center. “We take on some of the most clinically complex cases that come to our hospital from across the state, and we deliver the best care and outcomes possible to each patient. The team dynamic through collaboration, skill and creativity in problem-solving are a few of things that make our team so strong. I am thrilled to work with our entire team.”

Pediatric diabetes and endocrinology is the UF Health Shands Children’s Hospital’s highest ranked specialty at No. 13, another strong showing for a team with a national and international reputation in research, clinical care, education and advocacy in Type 1 diabetes.

“The division of pediatric diabetes and endocrinology is proud to again be ranked among the very best programs in the entire country,” said Michael J. Haller, M.D., a professor and chief of pediatric endocrinology. “Our ranking reflects our team’s dedication to patient care, our commitment to training the next generation of clinicians, scientists, and educators, our passion for advocacy and our success in performing cutting-edge research.”

Cancer has consistently ranked among the nation’s top programs for much of the past decade.

William Slayton, M.D., chief of the department of pediatrics’ division of hematology/oncology, said his team is especially proud of its efforts to reduce central line-related bloodstream infections, noting it has gone nearly a year without such an infection. 

The division also is using nanoparticle vaccines in a new clinical trial to treat children with glioblastoma, an aggressive brain cancer. 

“Our motto is that we move mountains for our kids,” Slayton said. “It’s just so important that we deliver for them, offering all our skill, experience and compassion. We take the job to heart. As a result of our outstanding supportive care, we are a destination cancer center for children in our region and throughout the country.” 

UF Health Shands CEO Ed Jimenez said he marvels at the commitment to medicine and excellence displayed by faculty and staff even amid the continued challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Receiving this external validation at a time of a pandemic is gratifying,” he said. “But at the same time sobering because it’s a reminder that while the pandemic has been front and center, every day, our teams have still had to face the task of treating kids with cancer, kids with devastating injuries, kids born with heart ailments. And every day our people deliver greatness. I am so proud of them. And quite honestly, just in awe of their greatness. I do have a front row seat to greatness.”

The U.S. News Best Children’s Hospital rankings are compiled from clinical data and a reputational survey of 15,000 pediatric specialists across the country who are asked where they would send the sickest children in a variety of specialties. Among the measures U.S. News uses to calculate rankings are patient safety, infection prevention and adequacy of nursing staff.

This year, U.S. News also has included a novel measure of a hospital’s equity, diversity and inclusion in its analysis.