For more than 40 years, Elizabeth (Liz) Heyne, PA, PsyD, has been a tireless provider and passionate advocate for the needs of her tiny patients and their families. As a certified physician assistant in the Thrive Clinic at Children’s Health in Dallas, she encounters tremendous need on a daily basis.
The infants cared for in the Children’s Medical Center Dallas Level IV NICU are often preterm, very small, have complex medical issues and face a high risk of complications in their first years of life. These already challenging circumstances are frequently compounded by extreme poverty, homelessness, teen motherhood and drug addiction.
Early in Liz’s career, she realized that the challenges facing her patients’ families were daunting, so in 1979 she co-founded the Low Birth Weight Clinic, now known as the Thrive Program, to provide continuity of care for NICU graduates following their discharge from the hospital. The program began with eight patients and has grown into a comprehensive, interdisciplinary care program that served more than 1,200 patients in 2018 with 4,800 visits.
The Low Birth Weight Development Center is another program founded by Liz in response to the needs of families who have, or are at risk of having, low birth weight infants. The Center provides family-centered, community-oriented support services such as teen parenting and infant mental health and research programs.
“Liz’s dedication to the tiniest of patients – and their mothers – is only one example of her kind heart and benevolence,” said a colleague. “Liz is the epitome of compassionate caregiving, bringing hope and comfort to every patient and family she encounters.”
The mother of now-grown preterm twins describes the emotional turmoil she felt as the very young mother of two infants, one with life-threatening medical issues, and the compassion she received from Liz. “Not only did she meet the needs of the babies and my family, but the emotional support she gave was beyond measure,” says the mother. “Elizabeth always made us feel like we were the only family she was there to take care of.”
Put simply, Liz sees a need and she meets it. Whether that means providing a double stroller for a new mother struggling with premature twins, becoming fluent in Spanish so she can better communicate with her patients, or identifying a lack of mental health resources and going back to school for a PsyD in infant mental health so she could address the need in her practice, Liz meets all those needs with extraordinary compassion.