Author Archives: erin.keifenheim

Five Question Friday: Get to know Children’s – Minnetonka patient care manager

five_question_friday111Our Children’s – Minnetonka campus offers a wide range of services, including surgery, radiology/diagnostic imaging, endocrinology/diabetes, ENT, gynecology, neurosurgery, audiology, and physical, occupational and speech therapies for families in the west metro. Erin Curtis, RN, BSN, is the patient care manager for the surgery center in Minnetonka, where teams perform more than 3,200 outpatient surgeries each year. Erin tells us more about her role and her amazing team in this week’s Five Question Friday.


Erin Curtis, RN, BSN, enjoys spending time at the cabin with her kids.

How long have you worked at Children’s Minnesota?

I have been at Children’s for 10 months; it will be one year in January.

What do you love most about your job?

The part of my job I love the most is rounding on the families after their children have had surgery. They are usually very satisfied with their services here and have great things to say about the staff. It really makes me smile that the staff do such a great job to impact these families and children’s lives with such a great experience when surgery is not always ideal.

What do you think makes kids amazing?

I think kids make themselves amazing. They are each such unique individuals with their own little personalities. I love their innocence and great view of the world. Their amazingness also pushes me further to be the best I can be for them, because often times we are their advocate.

subscribe_blogWhat was an example of a time you saw a Children’s Minnesota team or team member living out our values?

I feel that our team members really advocate for the child. I have seen the team go above and beyond multiple times to arrange for a history and physical to be completed so the child can go ahead with surgery. The doctor or anesthesiologist doesn’t have to do this, but I love when they do and put the needs of the child first. When rounding on a family recently, they expressed how satisfied they were with their nurse and how she explained everything to them and they really felt well-prepared through the whole process — so glad to have remarkable staff living the values every day!

If you could travel anywhere in the world, where would you go and why?

The cabin; it’s always my happy place where my kids love to be.

Children’s nurse’s work picture perfect

Jonathan Matters is a registered nurse at Children's cancer and blood disorders clinic.

Jonathan Matters is a registered nurse at Children’s cancer and blood disorders clinic.

September is Childhood Cancer Awareness Month, and all month long we’ve been sharing photos of some of our shining stars from our cancer and blood disorders program on our social media channels. These beautiful photos are the work of Jonathan Matters, a registered nurse who works in our cancer and blood disorders clinic. Get to know more about Jonathan and what inspired his photography project in this week’s Five Question Friday.

five_question_friday111What is your role at Children’s?

I am a registered nurse working at the cancer and blood disorders clinic in the infusion center. I spend a lot of time administering various infusions like chemotherapy, blood products and antibiotics as well as assisting with sedated procedures like lumbar punctures and bone marrow biopsies. I work closely with a large group of professionals dedicated to helping people affected by these horrible diseases. It takes an army of nurses, doctors, child life specialists, social workers, therapists, clinic assistants, volunteers and many more to support children and their families through treatment. I am extremely proud to be part of that team.

How long have you worked at Children’s?

I have worked at Children’s since 2007 when I started as an inpatient nurse on eighth floor, which was the hematology/oncology unit back then. I began in the clinic in 2012.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I spend my time outside work with my family. My wife and I have 2-year-old and 4-month-old daughters who make our lives rich beyond belief as well as very, very busy. I love photography, which mixes well with our beautiful daughters. I also photograph various hematology/oncology charity events such as Camp VIP, St. Baldrick’s, Pine Tree Apple Tennis Classic, Shine Bright Bash and the CureSearch Walk.

You created a moving photography series of patients from our cancer and blood disorders program. Can you tell us more about this project and what inspired you?

In late August I approached our hematology/oncongology medical director, Dr. Susan Sencer, about an idea for a project for Childhood Cancer Awareness Month. I was inspired by a powerful image of a patient with her mother that was burned into my mind. That mental picture had everything: innocence, strength, beauty, love. Anyone who works with these kids sees this kind of thing often. I wanted to take a photo for each day of the month to show people on the outside what childhood cancer really looks like. Most people don’t really know, and many simply don’t want to know. I thought if I could capture even a fraction of the beauty and strength of these children it would go a long way making people more aware and perhaps even encouraging them to donate to the cause. It happened that Dr. Sencer was meeting with Jimmy Bellamy, Children’s social media specialist, that very afternoon and could relay the idea. He had a parallel project called Shining Stars that was meant to raise money and promote Shine Bright Bash. It was a perfect match. I spent the next several weeks bringing my gear to the clinic and working quick portrait sessions into busy infusion days.

subscribe_blogWhat do you think makes kids amazing?

One thing that consistently amazes me about these kids is their resilience. Treatment puts massive physical and mental strain on these children. Both the disease and the cure assault their minds, bodies and spirits and yet they remain largely intact. All the different personalities also amaze me. No one child is the same but each one is incredibly complex and interesting. They have so much character despite their young age and the fact that they are undergoing a process that would bring a strong adult crashing to their knees. Some are hilarious, some are serious, some are quiet, and some are chatty. You get to know them and their parents very well because you see them at regular intervals over a period of years. You learn how to work with their unique personalities. It is both challenging and rewarding on a scale that few people can appreciate. When I tell people what I do for a living, the No. 1 response is “I couldn’t do that.” They don’t know how amazing these kids are and how rewarding it is to work with them. They don’t understand what it is like to go home with absolutely no doubt that your work meant something to someone.

Children’s employee has worn many hats in 20 years

five_question_friday111Desiree Wallace is a familiar face at Children’s. She’s celebrating her 20-year anniversary with the organization this year and has worked in a variety of roles — as a child life specialist, a family relations liaison, an organizational development consultant, a Lean consultant and currently as a human resources business partner. Get to know Des in this edition of Five Question Friday.

Desiree Wallace has worked in a variety of roles in the past 20 years at Children's.

Desiree Wallace has worked in a variety of roles in the past 20 years at Children’s.

What is your role at Children’s?

I am a human resources business partner. My primary role is to support leaders of various divisions and help them achieve their goals, specifically when it comes to people management. I am successful when my areas attract and retain the best talent on their teams, when teams feel they have skills and tools to do their best work, and when leaders feel confident they have the information and competencies to be high-performing managers and directors.

What’s an example of a time you saw a Children’s team member or team living our values?

I didn’t have the pleasure witnessing this example but was copied on an acknowledgment to a manger about his employee. The message came from Bieta, a unit operations coordinator in pre-op, who is REMARKABLE and works hard every day to collaborate and coordinate volunteers and interpreters for families in the waiting room. She sent this message: “It had been a particularly busy day on our unit and Osman (interpreter) was a tremendous help. He was troubleshooting printer issues, directing patient traffic, filling in until another interpreter arrived — all on top of his own duties. He goes above and beyond the call of duty with each and every family.” My thanks to them both for JOINING TOGETHER to meet our patient and family needs.

subscribe_blogWhat do you love most about your job?

I am passionate about the mission of Children’s. I love my current job, and every position that I’ve had here, because I get to make a difference, and Children’s makes me feel like that contribution is valued.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

I love spending time with friends, trying new restaurants, taking gym classes and playing volleyball. My time to do these things is limited, however, because the other way I get to touch lives and make a difference is by being the full-time night manager at Ronald McDonald House – Oak Street.

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

At which point of my childhood? I wanted to be a detective, then a lawyer, then an engineer (but only because the boy I had a crush on me told me I should because I was good at math and science). I ultimately thought I would be a child psychologist… and kind of am!

Children’s Susan Sencer named Top Cancer Doctor by Newsweek

Dr. Susan Sencer

Dr. Susan Sencer has been part of Children’s hematology/oncology program for 25 years.

Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota congratulates Dr. Susan Sencer for her recognition as a “Top Cancer Doctors 2015” by Newsweek.

Dr. Sencer has been part of Children’s hematology/oncology program, the largest in the Upper Midwest, for 25 years. She has been the program’s medical director for the past 12 years. Dr. Sencer has a special interest in complementary and alternative therapies and has been instrumental in founding the integrative medicine and pain and palliative care programs at Children’s.

Dr. Sencer was one of 55 doctors in Minnesota named to the list, which is published by Newsweek in conjunction with Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. The list was compiled through peer nominations and extensive research led by Castle Connolly Medical Ltd. of nearly 100,000 nominations.

On behalf of Children’s, and our patients and families, we are proud to congratulate Dr. Sencer on this accomplishment.

German man biking from Pacific to Atlantic oceans visits Minneapolis

German cyclist Jörg Richter is biking from Washington to Connecticut to raise awareness of rare pediatric illnesses.

German cyclist Jörg Richter is biking from Washington to Connecticut to raise awareness of rare pediatric illnesses.

subscribe_blogErin Keifenheim

The Cancer and Blood Disorders Clinic at Children’s – Minneapolis received a special visit today from Jörg Richter, a German cyclist who is biking from Washington to Connecticut to raise awareness of rare pediatric illnesses. Richter, who works for German health care insurance agency AOK, took a leave from his job to make the 4,000-plus mile journey across the country. He set out in early June, marking the start of his journey by dipping the rear wheel of his bike in the Pacific Ocean near Seattle. Throughout the next month, he traveled through Idaho, Montana and North Dakota before reaching the Twin Cities on July 20.

Richter has been an active cyclist for many years and first had the inspiration to cycle around the world when he was 8 years old. Now at age 55, he decided to cross the item off his bucket list when two close friends died unexpectedly.

Children's oncologist Joanna Perkins , MD (left), and Jörg Richter stand outside the Children's Speciality Center in Minneapolis.

Children’s oncologist Joanna Perkins, MD (left), and Jörg Richter stand outside the Children’s Speciality Center in Minneapolis.

“I decided that was the moment to get it done and not put off my dream,” Richter said. “So many kids and adults aren’t able to fulfill their dreams because of their diseases.” Richter said he hopes his trip will help give children with rare diseases a better chance to fulfill their dreams.

Throughout his journey, Richter has enjoyed the scenery and wildlife he has encountered — including a roadside visit from a bear in the Cascade Mountains. But the most enjoyable part of his trip has been the people he has encountered and the hospitality he has been shown.

“I’m always meeting people who welcome me and invite me to stay,” he said. Complete strangers have stopped him along his route to talk about the Bavarian flag on the back of his bike; others have donated to his cause, paid for his meals or helped him find lodging. All have been supportive of his goal to raise $20,000 for the Care-for-Rare Foundation, which reached out to Children’s to arrange the special visit.

Richter expects to make it to his final destination in Connecticut by Sept. 7, with stops along the way in Chicago, along the Great Lakes and Niagara Falls. Once he reaches the East Coast, he’ll mark the end of his journey by dipping the front wheel of his bike in the Atlantic Ocean, completing his West-to-East Coast tour of the United States.

Richter has been documenting his journey on the AOK Facebook page.

Five Question Friday: Meet nurse (and video director) Becky Bogan

five_question_friday111In honor of National Nurses Week, we are introducing you to Becky Bogan, RN, who has worked on our Hematology/Oncology unit in Minneapolis for 14 years. In addition to her day job caring for pediatric cancer patients, Becky recently added video director to her résumé. Over the past few weeks, Becky carried a handy cam around her unit, learned how to edit on the fly and, along with nurses, providers and the entire Hematology/Oncology team, created a video set to the tune “Fight Song” as a show of support for kids battling cancer and blood disorders. Get to know more about Becky and what she loves most about being a nurse.

Becky Bogan, RN, has worked at Children's for 14 years.

Becky Bogan, RN, has worked at Children’s for 14 years.

What is your role and where do you work?

I have been a registered nurse on 7th floor (Hematology/Oncology unit) in Minneapolis for 14 years.

Why did you become a nurse?

  • Cliché answer: because I have always loved kids
  • Funny answer: because kid “messes” are smaller than adult “messes”
  • Sentimental answer: because my mom is a nurse and I saw how she always cared for everyone around her. I truly did (and do) want to be just like her.

What do you love most about your job?

So many things!

  1. The kids! I am amazed, daily, at the strength, resilience and fight in these kids. I really believe they are superheroes disguised in “kid” bodies!
  2. My coworkers. They are some of the best. They make coming to work, even on the tough days, possible. There is nothing better than knowing your teammates are there for you.
  3. The work we do. There is nothing more rewarding than making a difference.

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

The kid quotes. Example: The 4-year-old boy who put on his call light at 2 a.m. one night and asked, “Could you please go turn those babies off?”

subscribe_blogWhat’s one thing you want people to know about nursing?

Nursing is a difficult profession… but also one of the most rewarding! As nurses, we have the privilege of being there for the patients and families 24 hours a day. We are there for them in their times of greatest need and also times of greatest joy. Gaining the trust of a patient and family, and making these amazing connections, is one of those unforgettable rewarding moments of a nurse’s job.

How do you spend your time outside of work?

Spending time with my husband and two boys (ages 2 and 4). Since my 2-year-old wakes up at 4:30 a.m. EVERY DAY, our days are long and full of excitement. If anyone has any sleep training tips, please help! I definitely will never write a book on that subject.

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.