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Craniofacial Center: Patient and Family Involvement Comes First

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Dr. Michael Cunningham hugs patient Dana Jensen

Dr. Michael Cunningham hugs patient Dana Jensen after she presented his award.

Dr. Michael Cunningham, medical director, Craniofacial Center, was one of three clinicians honored with Children's prestigious Family Choice Award in the fall 2005.

He was chosen from more than 100 nominations submitted by patients and families. The annual award recognizes individuals, teams or departments who exemplify the best of family-centered care and who make a difference for families in their experience at Children's.

Dr. Cunningham describes his Family Choice Award as the "single most important achievement of my career" – a clear insight into just how much he loves what he does.

A physician at Children's since he was a pediatric resident in 1988, the 17-year veteran is known for his sense of humor and being able to connect with patients and families on a "real-person level."

He treats me like a person – he talks to me instead of everyone else.

patient Dana Jensen

Not surprisingly, it was a patient, 11-year-old Dana Jensen, who asked her mom if they could nominate "Dr. C" for the award.

A patient at the Craniofacial Center since she was 10 weeks old, Dana presented the award to Dr. Cunningham, explaining, "He treats me like a person – he talks to me instead of everyone else."

In a touching gesture right after her tribute, Dana sang her number-one nominee a song entitled "You Are My Hero."

Parent comments on Dr. Cunningham's award certificate reflect his passion for empowering patients and families to be part of the healthcare team: "You model partnership at its best – listening, appreciating the whole picture of our lives and working with us each step of the way.

"You teach us the importance of involving our children in their care, and, as an extra bonus, we get to see the gleam in your eye as you delight in our children."

Over the last 7 years, the Craniofacial Center has received the coveted Family Choice Award on two other occasions: in 1999, the entire Craniofacial Center received a team award, and, in 2003, Cassandra Aspinall, social worker, was presented with an individual award.

"These awards are particularly meaningful for us," says Dr. Cunningham. "They validate the center's philosophy of including patients and families in discussions and decision-making about their own healthcare."

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