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Building a Top-Tier Team in Pediatric Pulmonary Care




Building a Top-Tier Team in Pediatric Pulmonary Care

Collaboration across the Bay and across different specialties isn’t just enhancing the Pulmonary & Respiratory Care program at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals; it’s a critical strategy for addressing the high demand for pediatric asthma, cystic fibrosis, sleep disorders and other lung specialty care in the Bay Area.

By partnering with colleagues in the emergency room, intensive care, surgical specialties, as well as hospitalists, social workers and other units, the team is better able to streamline inpatient treatment and increase access for more and more children who need care. The fact that all of UCSF Health’s pediatric pulmonologists split their time between Oakland and San Francisco, rather than being mostly based on one side of the bay or the other, further advances these goals. This allows the team to be fully embedded in the communities they serve and exposes them to more colleagues who can help build solutions.

“It's a wonderful opportunity for us to collaborate with colleagues within the division, as well as colleagues from other sub-specialties on both sides of the bay, to promote various programs that support better care,” says Ngoc Ly, MD, MPH, Division Chief of Pulmonary & Respiratory Care at the hospitals.

Growing UCSF Health’s pediatric pulmonology program is a top priority, particularly in Oakland, where the dense urban environment near many freeways has contributed to a higher prevalence of severe asthma in children. The team at UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospital Oakland had approximately 4,000 patient visits in the fiscal year 2017. They are expecting to increase the number of appointments available for children by as much as 10 percent each year, as Ly grows the clinical team further.

“My vision for the pulmonary division is to become one of the top pediatric pulmonary programs in the country. And to do that, I want to expand over the next couple years our clinical research in asthma, cystic fibrosis, sleep and rare lung disease,” says Ly, who’s also a professor in the UCSF Department of Pediatrics.

That vision is already becoming a reality: In just the past year, UCSF Benioff Children’s Hospitals jumped up nine spots to rank No.18 in pulmonology in the 2018-19 U.S. News Best Children’s Hospitals Survey.

Ly has been aggressively recruiting top talent over the past couple years, despite a national shortage of pediatric pulmonologists. “If you look at the United States, there are around 1,000 pediatric pulmonologists, so we're in high demand,” she says. “I’m so proud of the team that we have built at UCSF. Attracting people to the Bay Area is hard because it’s expensive to live here, but we’ve got a group that’s young and talented, working as one division across our San Francisco and Oakland hospitals.”

Ngoc Ly, MD, MPH, Division Chief of Pulmonary & Respiratory Care at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals

 I'm so proud of the team that we have built at UCSF. Attracting people to the Bay Area is hard because it's expensive to live here, but we've got a group that's young and talented, working as one division across our San Francisco and Oakland hospitals.

Ngoc Ly, MD
Chief, Pulmonary & Respiratory Care
UCSF Benioff Children's Hospitals


Having recruited five additional physicians over the last year and a half, and with more new recruits soon joining the team, Ly aims to bring the number of full-time physicians from the current eight, up to 10. The program also is exploring ways to attract residents to the field and to expand fellowship training at the Oakland hospital, as a means of identifying future faculty members.

The growing team – and increasing collaboration – has fueled a robust research program, with roughly 15 projects at any given time, including innovative clinical research into new therapies for patients with severe asthma and cystic fibrosis. It also has enabled the expansion of pulmonary services in both San Francisco and Oakland. Some of the recent developments include:

  • Expansion of the Aerodigestive Clinic to Oakland to provide comprehensive evaluation and treatment of patients with complex airways, lungs, and swallowing and digestive issues;
  • Expansion of the tracheostomy, invasive and noninvasive ventilation program to both hospitals;
  • Expansion of the difficult-to-treat and severe asthma program at both hospitals;
  • The upcoming launch of a new rare lung disease program;
  • Plans for expanding the Pediatric Sleep Laboratory in the East Bay;
  • A grant awarded to the Cystic Fibrosis Center to provide mental health support for patients, and another to develop a number of resources for Spanish-speaking families to better support families dealing with the disease;
  • Partnership with the California Cystic Fibrosis Newborn Program and the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation to provide best practices and standard of care for patients.

Throughout this growth, Ly remains committed to one core mission: helping her patients breathe better. “Working with children and families is the satisfying part,” she says. “I just love that. I can’t ever give up the clinic.”