A Partnership Based on Common Goals

Published on 
December 9, 2020

A $5 million gift from the Wyss Foundation is helping the Children’s Orthopaedic Center provide high-quality care to more kids in need.

By Marla Lehner

Portrait of Hansjörg Wyss
Hansjörg Wyss has used his considerable resources to support the causes he loves: nature conservation, innovative solutions that empower communities, and medical advances that improve lives.

Pushing boundaries is part of childhood. Kids climb to the highest tree limb, leap off playground structures and compete fiercely during team sports. But these risks can lead to serious injuries. In emergency rooms around the country, orthopedic injuries are among the most common issues for pediatric patients.

When a child—whose young body is still growing—suffers orthopedic trauma, it’s imperative for that child to receive care from a specialist who understands a child’s development. Children have growth plates and areas of active bone growth that are more susceptible to injury. Delayed or imprecise treatment can cause long-lasting consequences, such as improperly healed bones and crooked limbs that must be surgically repaired later in life.

“Almost every week, a patient is referred to Children’s Hospital Los Angeles because they could not receive timely or specialized pediatric care elsewhere,” says David L. Skaggs, MD, MMM, Chief of the Children’s Orthopaedic Center.

To address the community need for specialized orthopedic care for children, the Wyss Foundation recently made a generous $5 million gift to support Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. Funding for the Hansjörg Wyss Orthopaedic Trauma Initiative will enable the Children’s Orthopaedic Center to increase access to orthopedic care for trauma-related injuries, as well as hand and upper extremity disorders; make capital improvements; and provide 24-hour coverage through on-call orthopedic specialists serving the Emergency Department. As the only freestanding Level 1 Pediatric Trauma Center in Los Angeles County, CHLA sees some of the highest patient volumes in the region.

“Part of our mission is to expand care—more rooms, more doctors—and to support the ability of Dr. Skaggs and his team to take care of patients,” says Stephen A. Schwartz, a board member of the Wyss Medical Foundation. “Another key reason we decided to support CHLA was its dedication to caring for underserved communities.”

A history of innovation

The Wyss Foundation and the Wyss Medical Foundation were created by Hansjörg Wyss, a Swiss entrepreneur who founded Synthes, a successful medical device company, in 1977. When Wyss came to the United States as a young man to attend Harvard Business School, he fell in love with the natural wonders of the U.S. At the same time, he had a passion for discovery, innovation and social causes, which has manifested in his philanthropy.

Since selling Synthes in 2012, Wyss has used his considerable resources to support the causes he loves: nature conservation, innovative solutions that empower communities, and medical advances that improve lives.

“Mr. Wyss is a big advocate of social causes,” adds Schwartz. “That’s always been part of his DNA. So the direction of the Wyss Foundation and the Wyss Medical Foundation is based on his personal values.”

One of those values is to address health care equity, especially for vulnerable children and families like many of those cared for at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.

“Mr. Wyss sees this gift as an opportunity to make an important impact on pediatric orthopedic care,” says Schwartz. “We know the unique role the hospital plays in the Greater Los Angeles area and are pleased to help make a difference in the lives of underserved and underinsured kids.”

Impressed by CHLA’s dedication

Led by Dr. Skaggs, the Children’s Orthopaedic Center is among the top five pediatric orthopedic programs in the country, according to U.S. News & World Report. Its experts treat the full spectrum of orthopedic conditions, including fractures, spine disorders, neuromuscular weakness, tumors, and hip, hand and joint abnormalities. The team conducts research that is adopted by surgeons around the world and provides pediatric-focused training for residents from three of the four orthopedic surgery residency programs in Los Angeles.

Schwartz recalls meeting Dr. Skaggs through professional contacts and says they “hit it off immediately.”

“I was taken by his commitment to excellence and his strong sense of purpose,” says Schwartz. “Dr. Skaggs is a man of action. He’s very driven.”

When Schwartz visited Children’s Hospital Los Angeles in 2019, he was struck by the institution’s mission, values—and atmosphere of compassionate care.

“There’s this underlying sense of dedication that is hard to miss when you walk through the halls of the hospital,” he says. “I was impressed with the fact that CHLA can be vibrant and successful and offer the best of the best for its patients while still being a safety-net hospital. That meant a lot.”

The Wyss Foundation’s decision to support CHLA was ultimately based on the alignment of the two organizations’ goals, Dr. Skaggs’ stellar reputation and the ability to effect change together.

“At CHLA, there is an objective, a purpose and clearly a big need,” says Schwartz. “Also, Dr. Skaggs has the vision to expand orthopedic care for more kids from vulnerable families.”

Dr. Skaggs, who holds the Associates Endowed Chair for the Chief of the Children’s Orthopaedic Center, says the Wyss Foundation’s support will allow the Center to meet the needs of more children and provide timely, high-quality care.

“We thank the Wyss Foundation for its visionary leadership and devotion to uplifting the most vulnerable members of our community,” says Dr. Skaggs. “As a hospital, our mission is to create hope and build healthier futures, and this gift enables us to do so today and for many years to come.” CHLA-Imagine-2016-Butterfly-Icon.png

How you can help

To help support Children's Hospital Los Angeles, please visit CHLA.org/Donate.