Rare National Certification for Pediatric Asthma Program

First in Arizona

Dr. Deepti Deshpande, director of the Pediatric Asthma Program, and longtime patient Ashanti Terry.The Terry family was new to Tucson in 2007 when their daughter Ashanti, then 5, had an asthma attack so severe she was intubated and hospitalized for a week, near death.

Now 13, Ashanti is thriving at her Oro Valley school, stays active and plays the viola. She has never again had such a terrifying experience with her asthma – a testament to her own determination, the vigilance of her parents and excellent medical care. 

“We got the resources we needed to keep her asthma under control, and we ran with it,” said Ashanti’s mother, Keyshanna Terry, a nurse, respiratory therapist and an asthmatic herself. “We connected with great doctors, got educated about her triggers and got her on the right meds.”

Last month the Pediatric Asthma Program at Banner – University Medical Center Tucson was re-certified by The Joint Commission, the national health-care quality improvement and accrediting body, with a gold seal of excellence following a rigorous, day-long survey. Banner – UMC is the first hospital in Arizona with this elite certification.

One of the program’s strengths is its focus on  asthma education, including videos now under production  specifically for children and families. The short video clips, in Spanish and English, feature Tucson asthma patients like Ashanti instructing other youngsters and families about the disease, how to use an inhaler correctly, how to watch for triggers for asthma attacks, etc. These videos will be available soon for all children and families with asthma.

“It is very important to educate patients and families about asthma, to empower them,” said Deepti Deshpande, MD, MPH, medical director of the Pediatric Asthma Program. “The true reward of education is that kids with asthma can live healthier lives.” 

 “I still remember Ashanti as that funny, spirited and strong little girl in the Pediatric ICU,” Dr. Deshpande  added.  “It is a point of pride for me to see her return to our program to educate other children on how to take care of their asthma.”

Approximately 200 Southern Arizona children are hospitalized for asthma each year at Banner Children’s – Diamond Children’s Medical Center, Dr. Deshpande said. Hundreds more are treated and released through the hospital’s Emergency Department.

“The program that Dr. Deshpande has created and sustained is extremely effective, since very few children hospitalized at Diamond Children’s are hospitalized again for their asthma,” said Mark Brown, MD, a pediatric pulmonologist at Diamond Children’s and the UA College of Medicine – Tucson. “This is a wonderful gift for the children, their families and the community.”

Dr. Deshpande said the hospital’s Pediatric Asthma Program is strengthened by nationally recognized pediatric pulmonologists and cutting-edge asthma research at the Arizona Respiratory Center and the UA Steele Children’s Research Center, centers of excellence at the UA College of Medicine.

 “We are fortunate to have this wealth of resources in Tucson,” Dr. Deshpande said.  “They have made us a national leader in pediatric asthma care and research.”