As you approach the Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pediatric Care Center, the first thing to catch your eye is all the color. Bright flowers line the sidewalk. The windows are streaked with oranges, blues, yellows and greens. As light pours through, the floors and walls feel alive with color. Inside, hallways are color coded so it’s easier for families to find their examination rooms.
It looks different from the typical pediatrician’s office because it is different. The Karabots Center, which opened in January 2013, was built to respond to the needs of the West Philadelphia community where it’s located.
As the CHOP Care Network continues to expand, the Karabots Center is a model. Not every building will look the same, but each will be planned in a similar way: in collaboration with patient families and community leaders.
Early Head Start, which works with prenatal families and families with children 0 to 3 years old, has airy spaces for children to play on the second floor. Child development and mental health manager Evelyn Ridgeway, PhD, encourages Kamiyah Wilcox, 3, to play in ways that enhance her development.
“We thought a lot about what type of building would best suit the community,” says Amy Lambert, senior vice president, CHOP Care Network. “We invested the time to solicit feedback from a lot of stakeholders to get different perspectives.”
For the Karabots Center, the collaboration resulted in a two-story, 52,000-square-foot environmentally sustainable building with 56 child-friendly exam rooms, plus space dedicated to radiology, hearing and vision testing, and a phlebotomy laboratory. It is steps from the subway, and there’s plenty of free parking. There’s a cozy corner where volunteers from the Reach Out and Read Program, which is headquartered at Karabots, read to children before and after doctor visits. Because families receive a pager when they check in, they can take advantage of spacious, light-filled waiting areas without delaying their appointment.
“We like that even when you’re inside, it’s like you’re outside because of the nice view out the windows,” says Noelle Walker after daughters Strawberry, 11, and Kiwi, 6, (shown in the top photo) receive their flu vaccines. “The care is as good as ever, and it’s more convenient for us.”
In addition to being conveniently located steps away from the Market-Frankford elevated train line, the building was built to be environmentally sustainable and is Silver LEED-certified. There are more than 300 solar panels on the roof that supply 10 percent of its electrical needs, triple pane windows that reduce heat transfer, multizone programmable lights and temperature control, porous surface in the parking lot, and even bike racks and showers to encourage employees to cycle to work.
The Karabots Center currently accommodates 64,500 patient visits a year, along with the 45 pediatricians and nurse practitioners and 90 residents and fellows who care for them. On the second floor, CHOP’s Early Head Start Program features a play area where parents learn to engage their toddlers in ways that enhance development. Other CHOP programs that primarily serve West Philadelphia — the Refugee Clinic, Community Asthma Prevention Program, Domestic Violence Education Program and Family Planning Program — also call the Karabots Center home.
Bringing these programs together, in the place where their participants’ children receive care, creates opportunities to improve that care.
“We want our leadership in pediatric medicine to extend to the innovative way we deliver care and to how our facilities lessen the stress for families receiving services and facilitate collaboration among our staff,” says CHOP CEO Steven M. Altschuler, MD. “These are more than family-friendly, state-of-the-art buildings. They serve as laboratories to foster advances in care.”
The CHOP Care Network is expanding or constructing new Specialty Care Centers in King of Prussia and Chadds Ford, Pa., and Princeton, N.J. Each will be unique, but each will be shaped by two influences: the CHOP model of excellence in care and the community it serves.