14. Steele Children’s Research Center

By April Bourie

When he came to Tucson almost 30 years ago, Dr. Fayez K. Ghishan saw in this desert city the potential for a world-renowned children’s medical center. 

Today, Steele Children’s Research Center at the University of Arizona is exactly that and so much more.

“When I came to Steele, I promised to make it successful,” said Ghishan, Steele’s endowed director and an international expert in pediatric gastroenterology and nutrition.

“I knew there was opportunity in Tucson to build highly academic research clinics, which would attract top medical students and provide the needed clinical care,” he said. “Now, we are ranked by the National Institutes of Health as a Center of Excellence and are in the top 20% of all pediatric research institutes at colleges of medicine.”

In addition to conducting research, the center’s physician-scientists provide compassionate healthcare for children suffering from various diseases at the Diamond Children’s Medical Center. They also hold specialty clinics in rural areas throughout Arizona. At the same time, the center’s faculty are preparing the next generation of pediatricians, pediatric specialists and researchers.

“Our task is to teach medical students and residents to heal by seeing clinical patients and to make new discoveries,” said Ghishan. “Every day, science is moving and changing, and the Steele Center is at the forefront of all major advances in children’s health.”

Ghishan started at Steele in 1995, three years after it opened with a $2 million donation by the late Daniel Cracchiolo and the Steele Foundation. From the beginning, Ghishan had a vision to build a world-class center of pediatrics here. His vision was three-pronged: recruit top physicians, meet clinical needs, and boost translational research. Today, Ghishan has grown the center into a renowned institution dedicated to advancements in research and therapies for more than 60 childhood diseases.

Steele is the only NIH Center of Excellence located in Arizona focusing on pediatric medical research, and its successes are indeed significant, from creating tools to diagnose diseases earlier to finding new treatments and partnering with other healthcare centers across the country to expand their research opportunity and effectiveness. 

The center’s physician-scientists have made great strides in fighting debilitating pediatric diseases and honing future pediatricians and pediatric specialists, which are greatly needed worldwide today.

Since it was formed, Steele has expanded to 28 labs with 32,000 square feet dedicated to pediatric research and treatments that impact 35,000 children and their families annually. Steele-affiliated labs also have published 600 peer-reviewed scientific journals, many of which have earned global recognition. The center has also obtained grant support of more than $150 million from the NIH and other federal institutions. 

Steele’s partnership with Banner Children’s at Diamond Children’s Medical Center is key to the center’s success as Banner serves as Steele’s clinical arm, where medical students and interns learn how to compassionately treat ill children.

In addition, collaborations between the medical school and professors and researchers within numerous university departments and colleges propel research in cardiology, critical care, endocrinology, gastroenterology, hepatology and nutrition, genetics and developmental pediatrics, hematology/oncology/HCTT, neonatology, pulmonology, and allergy and immunology for all ages.

Ghishan and his colleagues have also created valuable partnerships within the private and public sectors regionally, state-wide and nationally. Between $5 and $10 million annually comes from organizations like the Father’s Day Council of Tucson, Arizona Elks Major Projects, Kids of Steele, Courtney’s Courage, and PANDA (People Acting Now Discover Answers), which honored Ghishan with the endowed directorship in 2020.

The center also received local and regional connections and guidance from volunteer advisory boards located both in Tucson and Phoenix.

“The Steele Children’s Research Center is a vital part of the University of Arizona’s service to our great state,” said UArizona President Dr. Robert C. Robbins. “It has 30 years of incredible impact in the lives of the children and families of Arizona.

“Our expert faculty and researchers are world-renowned leaders in pediatric care, and I am very proud of the work they are doing to tackle the biggest challenges in treating and understanding childhood diseases. I know the Steele Center will build on its 30-year foundation of excellence and I am excited for its future,” 

The world watches as the center discovers effective ways to bring better health to children while sharing its successes to help the rest of the world do the same.


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