Newswise — LOS ANGELES (June 14, 2022) -- Inside the new, 23,000-square-foot Guerin Children’s, walls are painted in cheerful yellows, greens and blues. Artificial skylights are timed to brighten and darken as the sun rises and sets. Interactive-art installations feature whimsical characters, and a playroom and family lounge area contribute to the playful energy of the space.

The facility is so bright and equipped with so many fun features that it’s easy to forget Guerin Children’s was built to care for sick children. And that’s no accident, said Ophir Klein, MD, PhD, inaugural executive director of Cedars-Sinai Guerin Children’s.

“The hope is that by experiencing this environment, it will help children heal better. The physical space and what’s in it will be an important part of their care,” Klein said.  

As Cedars-Sinai employees, donors and community leaders toured the new, 26-bed pediatric healthcare facility recently, Klein spoke with a tour group about the medical center’s ambitions for Guerin Children’s, which offers highly specialized care for children in specialties including cardiology, cancer, neurology, orthopaedics and genetics.

“Our vision is to have a program which is going to become a real national and international destination–that’s going to be one of the best places for tertiary and quaternary pediatric care in the country,” he said. “We want to combine the best clinical care with translational science academics so that we can bring the latest advances to patients.”

The new center was launched following an unprecedented $100 million gift–the largest lifetime gift in Cedars-Sinai's 119-year history–from the Shapell Guerin Family Foundation. The foundation’s president, Vera Guerin, along with her husband, Paul, and their children, Dana, Lisa and Michael, are longtime supporters of Cedars-Sinai.  

“So, it's come to that time where Paul and I needed to think, What type of legacy did we want to leave and to whom?” said Vera Guerin, the immediate past chair of the Cedars-Sinai Health System Board of Directors. “What was the best way to impact the present and future for us? And for succeeding generations? After some deliberation, we both concluded that first and foremost, we wanted our gift to benefit children's health and quality of life.”

The gift also honors the memory and legacy of Vera Guerin’s parents, Nathan and Lilly Shapell, both Holocaust survivors. Guerin says her father helped smuggle children out of a Jewish ghetto, which influenced the family’s desire to support a new pediatric healthcare facility and to include some special features to help families coping with a sick child.  

"We intend to establish Guerin Children’s as an international destination for children and their families and as a leader in pediatric care and research in the United States," said Thomas M. Priselac, president and CEO of Cedars-Sinai. "The support and vision of Vera Guerin and the Shapell Guerin Family Foundation will have a lasting impact on the health of generations of children and families."

At Guerin Children’s, each of the 26 patient rooms is furnished with a full pullout bed as well as a reclining easy chair that lies flat so two adults, whether parents or other caregivers, can comfortably stay overnight with their child-patient. 

“I've spent many hours in uncomfortable chairs that most hospitals provide. I've spent sleepless nights wandering cold hallways,” said Dana Guerin, whose own daughter successfully battled a serious illness. “I know firsthand what families face when dealing with a sick child, and I learned very quickly how an ill child affects the entire family unit. This not only gave our family a deep desire to address the difficulties for our patients and families, but it also gave us insight into a broken system that desperately needed to be modernized.”

Maureen Chin, MSN, RN, associate director of the Department of Pediatrics, said the space includes several features designed specifically to help children momentarily forget they are hospitalized. There is a movie theatre/game room with comfortable seating, a large screen, and a darkened ceiling equipped with twinkling lights. The halls feature specially curated child-friendly art installations. Chin’s favorite: a wall of 3D clouds “that allows children who may not be able to go outdoors to get an outside feel.”

Each patient room also has a window that looks out onto Cedars-Sinai’s Healing Gardens. For children who can go outdoors, the gardens will soon have a play area and conversation corners.

Scheduled to open to patients in late summer, Guerin Children’s will offer the highest quality patient-facing clinical care while incorporating leading-edge research and academics, Klein said.

“Los Angeles is a huge region, and it deserves to have the highest level of care,” said Klein. “We’re looking to provide the best possible care to the kids of the city and the region.”

Read more on the Cedars-Sinai Blog: Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Dr. Moise Danielpour, Pediatric Neurosurgeon