Category Archives: Staff profiles and news

Five Question Friday: Meet clinical educator Song Khang

five_question_friday111For Five Question Friday, we’d like you to meet Song Khang. She’s a clinical educator on the sixth floor at Children’s – St. Paul.

Song Khang is a clinical educator at Children's – St. Paul.

Song Khang is a clinical educator at Children’s – St. Paul.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have been at Children’s for about nine years.

What do you love most about your job?

First and foremost, I enjoy taking care of patients and families. I like that every day is a different experience, even if I am taking care of the same set of patients. I like that I am helping my patient and families and knowing that I always try to provide the best care I can every time I am working. I enjoy learning, and with this job I learn something new every day. Lastly, I enjoy precepting and orienting nurses. I feel that good orientations are important for nurses and have a long-lasting impact on their nursing careers.

Why did you go into nursing?

There is such a variety of work that you can do when you go into nursing. Nurses are needed in so many settings. You can be in the hospitals, clinics, homes, schools, parishes, corporations, etc. I went into nursing because I like with working with people, especially kids. I like that nursing focus on a holistic approach and so we are not just caring for our patients’ bodies, but their mind and soul, too. And I like working at Children’s because I get to do both of those things.

subscribe_blogDo you have a favorite memory from working at Children’s?

My most-favorite memory is a funny one. One evening, one of our patients was sad and we just could not get her out that mood. So another nurse, one of our certified surgical assistants (CSA), and I decided we were going to make her laugh. We decided to surprise her and dance to “Gangnam Style” in her room. It worked because she laughed and afterwards told us she thought we were silly. But she said that with a smile on her face.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

When I am not working, I spend time with my husband and my two little dogs.

Five Question Friday: Mignon Miller


For this week’s edition of Five Question Friday, we are pleased to introduce Mignon Miller, a speech-language pathologist and part of our cochlear-implant team who generally practices at Children’s – Woodbury clinic.

Mignon Miller has worked for Children's for eight years.

Mignon Miller has worked for Children’s for eight years.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

While I have worked for Children’s over the past eight years, my pediatric background spans the past 15 years. Before coming to Children’s, I worked at the Northern Voices Oral School for the Deaf in Roseville and Lifetrack Resources as an audiologist and a speech-language pathologist. It also was my privilege to serve as the president of the Minnesota chapter of the Alexander Graham Bell Association (AGBell), a national organization serving deaf and hard-of-hearing children and adults who use oral communication.

What does a typical day look like for you?

In my role as a speech therapist, I work with children who have speech difficulties so that they can talk to and be understood by others, including children with Down syndrome, autism, deafness/hearing impairments and brain injuries. My expertise includes the use of devices to communicate such as iPads, Dynavox (a synthetic speech-generating device), and Picture Exchange Communication System (PECS). Finally, I am trained to assist children who struggle to process auditory information through a specialized program called Fast ForWord. Every day is something different, and I love the variety of kids.

You work with cochlear-implant patients. Tell us more about the rehab offerings you provide for these patients.

At this time, we have three sites (St. Paul, Minneapolis and Woodbury) that provide speech, language and auditory rehabilitation for children using cochlear implants. At these sites, we provide parents with a speech-language pathologist specifically trained in working with children using cochlear implants and hearing aids. We provide services using a variety of communication methods, including spoken language and sign language. We empower families on how to work with their child at home, guiding them through the cochlear-implant process, communication choices and educational placements.

subscribe_blogIf you weren’t working in pediatrics, what do you think you would be doing?

I would probably be a teacher or a professional student (I love to learn new things).

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love to be outside! I enjoy all sports, but I especially love swimming, biking, hiking and skiing with my family. I serve on the board for the Hands and Voices Advisory Committee that represents the diverse community of families with children who are deaf, deaf-blind or hard of hearing in Minnesota.

Five Question Friday: Dr. Stefan Friedrichsdorf

Five Question FridayNo parent wants to see his or her child in pain. Our interdisciplinary pain program is one of the largest of its kind in the U.S., combining drug and integrative (nondrug) therapies to ease pain in babies, children and teens. Stefan Friedrichsdorf, MD, the medical director of Children’s Department of Pain Medicine, Palliative Care and Integrative Medicine, tells us more about this unique program and how we’re expanding to care for more children in pain in this week’s Five Question Friday.

Stefan Friedrichsdorf, MD

Stefan Friedrichsdorf, MD

How long have you worked at Children’s?

In August 2015, it will be 10 years.

Describe your role.

I work with the groovy and outstanding interdisciplinary team from the department of Pain Medicine, Palliative Care and Integrative Medicine at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics in Minnesota — one of the largest and most comprehensive programs of its kind in the country. The pain and palliative care program is devoted to control acute, chronic/complex and procedural pain in all inpatients and outpatients in close collaboration with all pediatric subspecialties at Children’s. The team also provides holistic, interdisciplinary care for children and teens with life-limiting or terminal diseases and their families. Integrative medicine provides and teaches integrative, nonpharmacological therapies (such as massage, acupuncture/acupressure, biofeedback, aromatherapy, self hypnosis) to provide care that promotes optimal health and supports the highest level of functioning in all individual child’s activities. I see pediatric patients as inpatients, in the interdisciplinary pain clinic, in the palliative care clinic, or in the community/at home.

What are some of the conditions you treat?

We are committed to fulfilling the “Children’s Comfort Promise” — we will do everything possible to prevent and treat pain. This includes managing acute pain (e.g., postoperative, cancer), chronic pain (headaches, functional abdominal pain, fibromyalgia, Complex Regional Pain Syndrome) and/or procedural pain (e.g., needle pain caused by vaccinations, lab draws or intravenous access). In addition, if children have a life-threatening disease, we help to make sure that children can live as long as possible, as well as possible.

Children’s recently celebrated the opening of the Kiran Stordalen and Horst Rechelbacher Pediatric Pain, Palliative and Integrative Medicine Clinic. What are some of the unique features of this new space and how do they benefit our patients?

subscribe_blogThis spectacular clinic is the first one of its kind in North America providing a “healing environment” specifically designed for children and teenagers. It uses natural materials, such as wood floors and rocks, and eliminates environmental stressors such as noise, glare, lack of privacy and poor air quality. The clinic connects children and their families to nature with views of the outdoors, nature sound, interactive 3-D water elements and natural lighting. The space engenders feelings of peace, hope, reflection and spiritual connection and provides opportunities for relaxation, education, humor and whimsy. The space will contribute to heal patients and their families, who are often at a difficult point in their lives. This holistic space shows a first glance of the future in health care in America.

What’s one interesting fact about you?

I am trained in clinical hypnosis and teach that to children nearly every day. Also, I have worked as a newspaper delivery boy, factory worker, remotely talented actor, assistant nurse, journalist, paramedic, EMT, lifeguard and youth-group leader. I am happily married to Ruth, and we live in Minneapolis with our three young and very active children.

Five Question Friday: Meet our Interpreter Services team

Five Question FridayLast year, our Interpreter Services team translated more than 72,000 patient encounters in 64 languages. In honor of Interpreter Services week at Children’s, we have a special edition of Five Question Friday, featuring one question from five different interpreters! Get to know these individuals and learn more about the important role they play for patients and families.

Max Barquero-Salazar in the manager of the Interpretive Services team.

Max Barquero-Salazar in the manager of the Interpreter Services team.

Max Barquero-Salazar, Interpreter Services Manager

What’s one thing you’d like people to know about Interpreter Services?

Interpreter Services is composed of a variety of professionals from different fields. There are lawyers, architects, dentists, doctors, social workers, teachers, MBAs, musicians, etc.

The level of professionalism and commitment is extremely high; in fact, I believe any of the interpreters could be trained to perform other roles within the organization.

Sheila Rojas began working formally as a medical interpreter in 2011.

Sheila Rojas began working formally as a medical interpreter in 2011.

Sheila Rojas, Spanish interpreter

How long have you been interpreting?

I started working formally as a medical interpreter in 2011. Previously, as part of my role as a child psychotherapist, I assisted Latino families for 11 years to help them communicate with government agencies, the court system, schools and health care facilities. I am grateful for the opportunity to combine both jobs in the present.

Touayim Thoj

Touayim Thoj

Touayim Thoj, Hmong interpreter

What’s one thing you’d like users of interpreters to know?

I just want them to trust me that I will do a good job.



Katie Nielsen

Katie Nielsen

Katie Nielsen, scheduler

What is the best thing about Interpreter Services?

Our staff is highly committed to patients and their linguistic needs. They are proactive about educating hospital staff when interpreters have not been used with families who need them.


Safiya Jama

Safiya Jama

Safiya Jama, Somali interpreter

What’s one thing you’d like users of interpreters to know?

I would like to remind them not to use family members/minors for interpretation, in order to be consistent and accurate.

Five Question Friday: Ellen Wade

five_question_friday111Many parents would agree that getting kids to eat healthy can be a challenge. Whether a child has general nutrition issues or complex medical needs, a pediatric dietitian can help provide comprehensive nutrition assessments, treatment and follow-up to make sure he or she gets the nutrition needed to grow and develop.

Ellen Wade

Ellen Wade, MEd, RD, LD has worked

Ellen Wade, MEd, RD, LD, a pediatric clinical dietitian for the Minneapolis sixth floor, PICU and Children’s Home Care Pharmacy, tells us about her role and why she loves her job.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at Children’s for 13 years, and I have been a dietitian for 30 years.

What does a typical day look like for you?

My electronic medical record task list will profile the patients I need to visit for the day, and then I prioritize my day into tasks. My planned day seldom turns into my actual day as new challenges develop for patient needs and plans change to make things work for the parents.

How did you decide to go into pediatrics?

I have always worked in a teaching hospital with multidisciplinary teams. Once I started my family, pediatric nutrition fit as the next logical step in my career. Being a parent of three children has helped me with compassion for parents in the raising of their children.

Q4_mighty_buttonWhat do you love most about your job?

The top 5 reasons I love my job:

5. I hear a good story of how Children’s helped a parent’s child or the child of a friend, every day.

4. I work with an excellent medical team, every day.

3. I meet one new patient/family, every day.

2. I am able to teach nutrition principles, every day.

1. I help a child in a small way, every day.

What is one interesting fact about you?

My hometown is Deerfield, Ill. I have lived in the Windy City, the Motor City, the Indy City, the Arch City, the Quaker Oats City, and I moved to the Twin Cities the year of the Halloween blizzard.

Five Question Friday: Dr. M. Jennifer Abuzzahab

five_question_friday111November is American Diabetes Month, so we caught up with M. Jennifer Abuzzahab, MD, to learn more about her role at Children’s and what families should know about childhood diabetes.

M. Jennifer Abuzzahab, MD, is a pediatric endocrinologist.

M. Jennifer Abuzzahab, MD, is a pediatric endocrinologist.

What is your role at Children’s and where do you work?

I am a pediatric endocrinologist. This means that I study hormones (the text messages that run around in your blood). My primary clinic is at the St. Paul campus, but I also see patients at the Woodbury location and at the Minneapolis clinic.

How did you decide to go into pediatrics?

I love the resilience of kids and the positive energy that they exude; it helps me get through the busy days. I also really like seeing kids grow up.

What are some of the conditions you treat?

I see kids with conditions such as diabetes (high blood sugar), hypoglycemia (low blood sugar), thyroid problems, multiple hormone deficiencies following cancer treatment, and growth and puberty disorders. Basically anything that would fit into a Dr. Seuss book: “too much,” “too little,” “too tall” or “too small.”

November is American Diabetes Month. What’s one thing you want families to know about childhood diabetes?

Q4_mighty_buttonAlthough there is more type 2 (adult) diabetes in teenagers, the majority of kids still have type 1 diabetes. This means that they have to check their blood sugar several times a day and take a shot of insulin every time they eat – every day, even on vacation. It also means they can have cake and ice cream at birthday parties, but just like everyone else, shouldn’t have cake and ice cream every day.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up?

A doctor… family legend is that I wanted to be a “baby doctor” when I was 3. Both my parents stand by this (and their decision to give me the first name of Mary, but never, ever use it).

Five Question Friday: Brian Brooks

Five Question FridayBrian BrooksThis week, Children’s is celebrating our chaplaincy team as part of Spiritual Care Week. We’re pleased to introduce you to Brian Brooks, Children’s chaplaincy and bereavement manager.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have been at Children’s for almost 19 years. January will be 19 years.

Describe your role.

In my role, I lead the team of chaplains in providing spiritual care to the patients and families that we serve. I also provide spiritual care directly to patients and families. Chaplains care for patients and families from all faith groups and help patients and families find hope, strength and healing on their journey of illness or injury. Another of my roles is the bereavement coordinator for Children’s. Bereavement services provides bereavement followup for two years to all families who have experienced the death of a child at Children’s. Bereavement services provides hospital memorial services, grief groups and other supportive events for bereaved families.

What do you love most about your job?

I enjoy working with a great team of colleagues, not just the chaplains, but the entire medical team, physicians, nurses, social workers and child life specialists, to name a few. In my role as bereavement coordinator, I recruit employees from many different areas of the hospital to help create and implement the programming that supports bereaved families.

Oct. 20-24 is Spiritual Care Week. What’s one thing you want people to know about chaplaincy at Children’s?

As chaplains, we care for people wherever they are on their journey of life. We don’t require that people be religious. Chaplains meet people on the human level, listening to the hopes and fears of our patients and families (and staff as well) and help them find the inner strength that they need to meet the challenge facing them. We help them explore the spiritual issues that are raised by their illness or injury. We also help people to explore how they might find new spiritual or community resources that will help them on their journey. Our role is support and care for people just as they are.

subscribe_blogWhat is your favorite book or movie?

One of my favorite movies is “The Matrix.” I had a teenage patient who kept telling me about the movie and that I needed to watch it. I really didn’t want to see it, but I finally agreed one day to watch the first half-hour of the movie with him during an infusion in the clinic. I hoped he would quit asking me to see the movie! Needless to say, I was immediately taken in by the spiritual themes of the movie that seemed so overt when I finally watched it. I am grateful that my patient didn’t give up on me!

My favorite book is “The Purpose Driven Life.”

Five Question Friday: Brooke Blaschka

Five Question FridayEvery October, we celebrate National Respiratory Care Week to recognize our respiratory care professionals at Children’s. This week, we introduce you to Brooke Blaschka, a respiratory therapist who has worked at Children’s for just over two years.

Brooke Blaschka

Brooke Blaschka

What is your role? I am registered respiratory therapist. I work in all areas in all units at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota on the Minneapolis campus.

What do you love most about your job? The thing I love most about my job is being able to help the patients. Even if it’s one patient a day, at least I know that I played a role in their recovery process and that they might be one step closer to going home with their families.

What drew you to working in respiratory therapy? I always knew I wanted to take care of kids, so I did some investigating as to what I could do, other than nursing, that would give me the opportunity to work with children. I wasn’t sure what respiratory therapy was until I actually started the program, but when I found out I fell in love, so I stuck with it.

When you were a kid, what did you want to be when you grew up? When I was a kid, I wanted to somehow work with kids of all ages; it just took me sometime to figure out how I was going to do that.

How do you spend your time outside of work? Outside of work, I love to take my dog for a walk, I love to read, and I love to spend time with family “up north” at the cabin.

Nurse with inspirational story receives lifetime achievement award

Be Ho, RN, surgery, is the recipient of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine's Outstanding Nurses 2014 Lifetime Achievement award.

Be Ho, RN, surgery, is the recipient of Mpls.St.Paul Magazine’s Outstanding Nurses 2014 Lifetime Achievement award.

By Erin Keifenheim

Be Ho, staff RN, surgery, knew she wanted to be a nurse when she was 4½ years old, yet she never imagined that following her dream would lead her on a journey to flee her home country and start a new life halfway around the world. Now celebrating her 34th year at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota, Be recently was named the 2014 Lifetime Achievement winner in the annual Mpls.St.Paul Magazine Outstanding Nurses awards for her amazing nursing skills and perseverance to follow her dream.

Be’s inspirational story starts in Vietnam, where she was born. When her father had abdominal surgery in the French-run hospital there, Be was mesmerized by the French nurses with their blue eyes, long eyelashes and surgical gowns, and the kindness they showed her family. She knew from that moment that she would become a nurse someday. At the age of 9, she pleaded with her parents to send her to nursing school. She cried so much that they finally arranged a meeting for her with the director of a local hospital. He convinced her to hold off on becoming a nurse until she was old enough. Finally, when Be was 17, she couldn’t wait any longer.

“At that time, nursing was looked down on as a career,” Be said. “Girls were supposed to stay at home. Nurses were viewed as the ones who did the dirty work – changing diapers and cleaning wounds. I didn’t dare tell my family I was applying for nursing school.”

Instead, Be lied to her parents, telling them she was going to visit her cousin in the capital, but she actually took the entrance exam for nursing school. Three months later, she didn’t have the heart to sneak away again to find out the results. However, her neighbor had gone to see the results of his fiancée’s exam and saw Be’s name on the list. He came over to congratulate her, thus breaking the news to her parents. Her mother cried and was resistant, but her father persuaded her to allow Be to go to nursing school – he knew she would be a wonderful nurse; he was right. Be went on to graduate second in her class. And because she always knew she wanted to work with children, she took a job at a children’s hospital in Saigon. She eventually went on to become the hospital’s director of nursing.

In 1968, Be received a scholarship to travel to England for intensive nursing care training. In 1972, she visited Minneapolis with a group of young patients who needed open-heart surgeries. The Children’s Heart Fund, now Children’s HeartLink, sponsored her to escort the patients and care for them while they were here. During that trip, she formed relationships with the staff at Children’s – Minneapolis who thought very highly of her and recognized her potential.

Be Ho, RN, a Vietnam native, wanted to be a nurse since she was 4 years old.

Be Ho, RN, a Vietnam native, wanted to be a nurse since she was 4 years old.

Back in Vietnam, the war was continuing. Because Be had traveled outside the country multiple times, the communist leaders suspected her of being a spy.

“Every week I had to write an essay to the communist government saying that I was the country’s enemy,” Be said. “One day I was brave enough to ask why I was being forced to write these letters. They told me ‘because you are such a good nurse.’ It was very hard for me to say I was an enemy when all I wanted to do was provide nurturing and loving nursing care – just like the French nurses I saw as a child.”

Eventually, Be became worried about her future in Vietnam. Her colleagues at Children’s Heart Fund attempted to evacuate her in 1975, but she couldn’t bear to leave without saying goodbye to her family. Though she feared for her life, she said a tearful goodbye to her friends and remained in Vietnam. A few years later, she knew it was time to escape. She contacted her U.S. colleagues for assistance, under the guise that she needed to have open-heart surgery in Japan.

“I had to lie again to escape Vietnam. If I was caught, I would be sent to a concentration camp,” Be said. “I told the hospital I was working for that my grandmother was dying, when she had actually died before I was born.”

Arrangements were made for Be to travel by boat to a refugee camp in Thailand.

“I had to leave without saying goodbye to my family. I wanted to protect them in case the communist government came looking for me. I wrote a letter to my dad and left. It was very scary,” she said. “I didn’t know anyone. It was getting dark. We had to hide under coconut leaves on the boat to disguise ourselves from the communist police who were chasing us. When we finally made it to international waters, I was so happy I cried.”

Be spent five months in the refugee camp, where she worked as a clinic nurse and as a translator for the U.S. delegation. It was there that she also met her now husband, who found her in the crowd of new arrivals and arranged for her to have a place to sleep. While the camp provided safety, she knew there was more out there for her, and soon she was sponsored to work in the U.S. In August of 1980, Be arrived in Minnesota.

“I knew I wanted to work at Children’s Hospital,” Be said. “It was a place of comfort for me. I talked with the director of nursing, but because my nursing papers and transcripts were thrown overboard by pirates during my escape, I had no official paperwork. They hired me as a nursing assistant in the PICU, and I was so grateful.”

Subscribe to MightyWith the help of a Children’s scholarship, Be went back to school full time and got her associate’s degree in nursing from Minneapolis Community and Technical College. She was then hired as a registered nurse at Children’s and worked on 4 East (now the sixth floor), before eventually transferring to surgery.

Be is now the urology team leader in the surgery department and works with surgeons and staff to make sure they have the instruments and supplies needed for a variety of surgeries. She works to onboard new surgery nurses in urology and across other services, too.

“With every patient she works with, Be is calm, comforting and compassionate,” said Pat Buzzell, patient care manager for the surgery department. “She takes care of the whole family, reassures them and educates them so surgery isn’t a scary experience. She comes in on her days off to conduct patient family tours, and she often stays late to check in on patients. She does whatever it takes to make families comfortable, using her cheerful personality to calm their fears and put them at ease.”

Be still has a deep love for Vietnam and returns there on medical missions to provide care for children at the hospital where she used to work. She has recruited Children’s surgeons and staff to join her on these trips, where they provide education to medical teams and perform surgeries.

“Be gives everything to her patients, whether they are here or in Vietnam,” Pat said. “She works tirelessly to advocate for them, and she doesn’t give up. Because of the journey she has had and how hard she has worked to get here, Be refuses to settle for anything less than perfection. She believes in hard work and practice and has earned the respect of the surgeons, anesthesiologists and all staff on our unit. Be says it’s an honor to work with kids – I say it’s an honor to work with Be.”

Now almost 70 and pondering when to retire, Be gets emotional when she thinks about potentially leaving Children’s – her second home.

“I am so grateful to Children’s Hospital for all they have done for me,” she said. “Without them, I wouldn’t be here now. This country took me in, but this hospital gave me a second chance for my life. I love Children’s Hospital from the bottom of my heart.”

Thank you, Be, for your heroic journey to follow your dream and for all you have done for Children’s patients and families over the years. On behalf of Children’s, we are proud to celebrate you as the Mpls.St.Paul Magazine 2014 Lifetime Achievement winner.

Be Thi Ho: Mpls.St.Paul Magazine Outstanding Nurse, 2014 from mspmag on Vimeo.

Red-Vested Rockstar: Josh Purple

Children's volunteer Josh Purple

Children’s volunteer Josh Purple

Meet Josh!

Why he rocks:

My volunteer work at Children’s Hospital began about 20 years ago. I got started thanks to my younger sister, who asked me to draw cartoons at the daycare center at which she worked. A mom, who happened to be a nurse at Children’s, was picking up her kids at the daycare. She saw me drawing the big cartoons, and asked if I would be interested in drawing at the hospital; I thought it was a great idea! I was then introduced to Kathi Rokke (a Children’s Hospital legend!). Kathi was kind enough to give me a shot and allowed me to draw cartoons on her “Porky Pork Chops Show” at the hospital. I have been a part of Children’s ever since!

With what other cool ventures have you been involved?

In the past, I have worked as a ballroom dance instructor at The Dancer’s Studio in St. Paul. A dance highlight was working with the James Sewell Ballet company at the Minnesota Opera for the show “Aida,” performing overhead lifts with the ballerinas. I have also done fire eating and fire juggling for the Holidazzle Festival! I did commercial and film work for about 10 years, getting my SAG-AFTRA card, with a highlight being a “Grease” parody TV commercial with Amy Adams. I currently work as a freelance artist, creating 3-D graphics and animation.

Check out some of his incredible work.

What’s your favorite thing to do outside of volunteering?

Subscribe to MightyArt! I love spending my free time doing art and animation.

If you could create a new candy bar, what would be in it and what would you name it?

If I could create a new candy bar, it would be a giant purple crayon, packed full of magic and fun. I’d name it “The Kid’s Club House Rocks!” It would instantly transmogrify the surrounding area to be filled with Muppets, Dr. Seuss poems and characters.

Share a favorite volunteer experience or story.

Every Children’s Hospital cartoon show and event for the past two decades; I cannot give enough credit and thanks to everyone in the Star Studio and at Children’s! Special shout-out to Amy, The Dude, Ben, Seth, Tanya, Kathi, Sharon, Ingrid, Benjamin, Christi, Diane, Laura, Kendall, Sandy and all of the volunteers. All of the kids and all of the extraordinary staff are the best of the best! Thank you!