The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children's Hospital Turns 20

New Jersey's premier children's hospital celebrates two decades of world-class pediatric care.

The 20th anniversary of The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (BMSCH) at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital is measured not only in years but also in young lives improved and saved. Since 2001, BMSCH has delivered standard-setting, nationally recognized care to children and families in New Jersey and throughout the region. In partnership with Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School, the hospital offers leading-edge therapies that are based on the latest clinical research and provided by nationally recognized physicians and nurses.

Ambitious Goals

Prior to BMSCH’s founding, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital (RWJUH) offered a variety of pediatric health services. Yet these were decentralized, located in various units throughout the institution, says Bill Arnold, President and CEO of RWJUH. At the turn of the millennium, RWJUH leadership had a vision: “We wanted to build a world-class facility to not only capture the services we already had but to continue to grow as a children’s hospital for New Jersey and beyond,” Arnold says.

A team from RWJUH visited children’s hospitals throughout the country, noting best practices to incorporate into BMSCH’s design. Frontline staff as well as an advisory council of patients and families were included in the design and decision making. The goal was to create an institution with services so comprehensive that no child would ever need to leave New Jersey for care. In the end, the resulting four-story building (expanded to seven stories in 2004) quickly began drawing patients from both local communities and the broader region, including New York and Pennsylvania.

Extensive Services

Sally Radovick, MD
Sally Radovick, MD

At BMSCH, patients and their parents find “all of the resources for taking care of children,” says Sally Radovick, MD, Professor of Pediatrics, Chair of the Department of Pediatrics and Physician-in-Chief. “For example, we have our own pediatric intensive care unit, a pediatric surgery suite and pediatric anesthesia, all staffed by subspecialists who focus only on children. We also have pediatric emergency room doctors, all fellowship-trained, board-certified subspecialists.”

BMSCH’s services include all specialties and subspecialties that comprise pediatrics today, making the hospital unique in the state. “Not only do we have these disciplines, but we have depth in the number of faculty in each division,” Dr. Radovick says. BMSCH also is one of only three Level 2 trauma centers in the state and one of just two hospitals in New Jersey offering pediatric ECMO, a mechanical system that pumps and oxygenates a patient’s blood outside the body, which can assist the heart and lungs of a critically ill newborn or child.

BMSCH cares for the psychological well-being of hospitalized patients as well. It has the state’s largest child life program, with specialists offering interventions from art therapy to in-person and virtual therapeutic play sessions. Family-centered care is a primary focus. “The goal is to partner with children and families in all our hospital initiatives,” says Barbara Romito, MA, CCLS, Director of the Child Life Program at BMSCH. To that end, BMSCH’s administration listens carefully to its family and youth advisory councils.

Next door to the hospital is PSE&G Children’s Specialized Hospital, a preeminent pediatric rehabilitation facility, says William Faverzani, FACHE, Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer at BMSCH. “They are our partner in taking care of children, especially those with longer-term conditions,” he says.

The campus further includes the Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School’s Child Health Institute of New Jersey, a biomedical research center devoted to investigating the mechanisms underpinning pediatric diseases. “No one else in the state has a campus such as we do for children, between the long-term care rehabilitation hospital, the medical school and the research institute, literally all within the same quadrangle,” Faverzani says.

Recognized Expertise

In the course of the COVID-19 pandemic, BMSCH has come to be a world leader in the research and treatment of multisystem inflammatory syndrome in children (MIS-C), a serious condition in which the heart, lungs, brain and other areas of the body can become inflamed due to the coronavirus. “Our experts have published about 16 manuscripts and obtained four research grants, with more coming,” Dr. Radovick says. “We’re now starting COVID vaccine trials in children less than 11 years old. That’s very important, especially as children are starting back to school this fall.”

BMSCH will only grow more in the future while continuing to be a major innovator in children’s healthcare. “We are continuing to recruit additional pediatric specialists such as pediatric neurosurgeons,” says Faverzani. “We are going to increase our capabilities in areas such as neuroscience and, working with the Cancer Institute of New Jersey, building our hematology oncology program.”

Other programs will be enhanced in the future. “Each year, we’ve become better,” Faverzani says. “We’re quite proud of what we’ve done and, more importantly, where we’re heading.”

Two Decades of Progress and Innovation

From the start, The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital has been at the forefront of pediatric care.

2001 The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital (BMSCH) at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital opens.

2002 Specially designed pediatric critical care ambulance is added, providing a mobile pediatric intensive care unit to transport the most medically fragile children.

2003 Regional Perinatal Center designation is received, giving BMSCH the capability to provide a continuum of care from infancy to adolescence.

2005 State-of-the-art Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) opens. The unit combines highly skilled neonatologists, nursing staff and allied healthcare professionals who are experienced in the care of premature newborns.

2006 Bristol Myers Squibb formally announces a $5 million gift to fund new centers of treatment for AIDS, rheumatic disease and pediatric obesity at BMSCH.

2008 BMSCH earns the Pinnacle Award for Excellence in Patient Satisfaction from Press-Ganey for consistently ranking among the top 1 percent of all children’s hospitals nationally in patient satisfaction.

2010 Neurosurgeons from BMSCH and University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey-Robert Wood Johnson Medical School perform the nation’s first laser-assisted brain tumor ablation technique for an intracranial ependymoma in a pediatric patient.

2012 Became the first hospital in New Jersey to be verified as a Pediatric Trauma Center by the American College of Surgeons.

2013 The Center for Advanced Pediatric Surgery opens.

2018 Geoffrey the Giraffe arrives.

2019 The newly renovated Pediatric Emergency Department opens. The state-of-the-art, family-friendly facility is separate from the Emergency Department for adults and designed specifically to meet pediatric patients’ needs, including the addition of a sensory room.

To learn more about The Bristol-Myers Squibb Children’s Hospital at Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital, call 732-828-3000.