Kajori Thusu, MD
As the interim medical director of Children’s Hospital Central California’s Regional Level III Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), Dr. Kajori Thusu cares for premature infants with compassion and skill – a combination that contributes to exceptional outcomes and high parent satisfaction.
Dr. Thusu joined the medical staff at Children’s Hospital in 2001 and was appointed interim medical director in March 2009. The nurses and staff enjoy working with her because she is intimately involved in the unit.
“She knows the heart of the unit,” said Clinical Nurse Specialist Stacie Venkatesan, RNC-NIC, MSN. “She’s there answering questions and making sure what she feels needs to be done for the patient is done. If physicians are making rounds and they’re busy and a baby needs a procedure, call Dr. Thusu, she’ll do it. It doesn’t necessarily have to be her patient because she cares about them all, which I think is amazing.”
Also key to Dr. Thusu’s leadership style is her commitment to keeping the communication lines open. Nurses feel comfortable talking to her about their concerns and ideas.
“We all have to get along, that’s the only way we can work together,” Dr. Thusu said. “They shouldn’t feel like they are bothering me if they are calling me. It’s like we’re family here.”
Dr. Thusu is committed to building upon the NICU’s achievements. Given the evolving nature of neonatology, there is always something new to make care better. Currently she is working with a California State University, Fresno graduate student to study patients through the Hospital’s High Risk Infant Follow-Up Program. They are studying how kicking at six months correlates with walking in a preemie, and how spoon use in preterm infants influences hand coordination. Her team also is investigating further research opportunities in newer therapies for prevention of infections and management of hyperbilirubinemia. Dr. Thusu’s previous work has been published in the “New England Journal of Medicine” and the “American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.”
“Patients who couldn’t have been cared for in any other part of the Valley come here,” Dr. Thusu said. “It’s been a very challenging and a very satisfying experience. I absolutely love it.”
Children’s Hospital’s NICU excels at treating seriously ill babies, performing better than many other Level III centers in California and across the nation. Children’s Hospital’s mortality rate for neonates weighing less than 1,500 grams is 13.1 percent compared to a national average of 19.3 percent. NICU graduates are also surviving without some of the major complications such as severe retinopathy of prematurity, necrotizing enterocolitis and severe intraventricular hemorrhage.
“These fragile babies respond very well to medical care and when they do make it, they have a whole lifetime ahead of them,” Dr. Thusu said. “Some of these babies were so sick that they probably wouldn’t have made it if they hadn’t come to this facility. It’s really a wonderful feeling to know you made a difference in their life.”
Dr. Thusu reminds everyone that it takes a team to carry out an effective, comprehensive medical plan that produces remarkable results. She directs a group of more than 260 specialty-trained staff members who treat almost 1,000 cases a year. These board certified neonatologists and nurses are committed to providing the best care possible.
That commitment includes an aggressive approach to constant improvement. The NICU belongs to The Vermont Oxford Network’s NICQ Quality Improvement Collaborative. Children’s Hospital has partnered with 42 other NICUs to share and compare data in order to expand quality and safety. Dr. Thusu serves as medical lead overseeing and coordinating all Collaborative efforts.
“She is always thinking about what can make things better,” Venkatesan said. “It doesn’t matter if it’s our main objective or if it’s getting parents more involved, she’s asking the questions before they are posed to her.”
Dr. Thusu stresses that families are a vital part of these babies doing well. Following rounds, she often can be found talking with parents even if she is not their child’s physician. She attends “Meet the Doctor” nights and knows most of the families at the annual NICU reunion picnic.
“I like to talk to them as much as possible and give them information because information is key,” Dr. Thusu said. “The more you talk to these families, the more involved they seem to get.”
Ashley Larios’s daughter, Lucy, was born at 23 weeks and spent four months at Children’s Hospital. She has fond memories of Dr. Thusu, who was one of her daughter’s physicians.
“She made us feel like she really cared for the well-being of our daughter,” Larios said. “She explained everything to us thoroughly and didn’t sugarcoat anything. When your child is in the hospital, you want a doctor who is going to do all they can to save your child and we felt like she was doing that.”
Dr. Thusu is known to strongly encourage new mothers to breastfeed, a practice that studies link to reduced mortality and morbidity in preterm infants. “I think once they get into the pumping routine and they realize how gratifying it is, they want to do it,” said Dr. Thusu, noting that many mothers later thank her for her suggestion.
Dr. Thusu is board certified in neonatology and pediatrics by the American Board of Pediatrics and is a fellow of the American Academy of Pediatrics. She graduated from Medical College Calcutta in India and completed her internship, pediatric residency and a fellowship in neonatology at the Institute of Medical Education and Research in India. She also completed a residency in pediatrics and a neonatal-perinatal medicine fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Buffalo in New York.
Dr. Thusu volunteers with March of Dimes and serves on the advisory committee for the Alta Family Health Clinic in Dinuba. She resides in Clovis with her husband, Kuldip, and their two children and enjoys gardening, crocheting and sewing.