Wilton doctor will lead new Stamford pediatrics institute

A $20 million investment by the Steven & Alexandra Cohen Foundation will soon provide a new pediatric specialty center at Stamford Hospital, and Wiltonian Dr. Gerald Rakos is set to lead it.

A long-time newborn medicine specialist, and Stamford Hospital’s Department of Pediatrics chairman, Dr. Rakos has pursued a long career in service to children, which began during his third year in medical school.

“The bulk of my clinical care has been as a newborn specialist in the newborn intensive care unit. I still have folks that come back here and show me pictures of kids that are grown,” he said.

The Cohen Children’s Institute at Stamford Hospital will provide three-fold benefits to the hospital, including a new pediatric-focused emergency department, and “fully integrated” pediatric units for inpatient and outpatient services.

“The biggest difference is the opening of the pediatric emergency department,” Dr. Rakos said in his office Monday. He also noted doctors who specialize in pediatric emergency medicine receive much more training in treating children than general emergency doctors.

“The folks that are going to be in the pediatric emergency department first do three years of pediatric training, then three years in a fellowship doing pediatric emergency medicine… its really an order of magnitude difference,” he said.

While Stamford Hospital already treats pediatric emergency cases, the new center will allow it to open a dedicated and nuanced department for children.

In addition to receiving specialized training, Dr. Rakos said “as pediatric doctors, we’re trained how to approach children in a non-threatening manner. We try to put them at ease, and allay the anxiety of parents as well. Part of that task is built into the bricks and mortar of the place. It will be designed differently and have a different look. Even if the rooms are the same size, the colors will be different. Science goes into the design to allay anxiety.

“The decor is different, the play rooms are different, and treatment rooms are different and geared towards a kid.”

The Cohen foundation’s investment into Stamford will also help the hospital improve and update departments for inpatient and outpatient pediatrics.

The Cohen Children’s Specialty Center, an outpatient center, will be located at the hospital’s Tully Health Center, while a pediatric inpatient center will be created in Whittingham Pavilion following the opening of the new Stamford Hospital in 2016.

These additions will help “specialists see kids with chronic diseases, or kids who just need a specialist if it’s a unique problem that is not necessarily chronic.”

The pediatric outpatient center has been around since 2006, Dr. Rakos said, though this new investment will help fund a “complete gut” of the area. “It’s pretty much a complete renovation all the way down to the studs.”

An important aspect of a successful children’s unit, Dr. Rakos said, has to take into account the extensive family support pediatric patients often have.

“Every patient in the hospital has some support, but kids always have a lot,” he said, explaining that extra services must be provided for family and friends in the hospital, as well.

Stamford 2016

In addition to the newly announced Children’s Institute, Stamford Hospital is in the process of building an entirely new hospital building, set to open in 2016.

Allowing for high-tech medicine, and a more calming and welcoming environment for patients and families, the new Stamford Hospital will remain a nonprofit, comprehensive healthcare provider in lower Fairfield County.

Information: stamfordhospital.org.