Surgery Department

What is a Pediatric Surgeon?

Pediatric surgeons specialize in the surgical care of children. They are surgeons who, by training, are oriented toward working with children (babies on up to teenagers) and understanding their special needs. In addition to completing training and achieving board certification in general surgery (which normally takes five to six years of post-medical school training), pediatric surgeons complete two additional years of training exclusively in children’s surgery. They then receive special certification in the subspecialty of pediatric surgery. Pediatric surgeons are primarily concerned with the diagnosis, pre-operative, operative and post-operative management of surgical problems in children. Neonatologists, pediatricians and family physicians will recognize conditions that need surgery. Pediatric surgeons then work with them, cooperate with all of the specialists involved in a child’s medical care, to determine whether surgery is the best option for the child.

What is the Focus of Pediatric Surgery?

Pediatric surgeons use their expertise in providing surgical care for all problems or conditions in children that require surgical intervention. They also specialize in the following areas:

  • Neonatal - Pediatric surgeons have specialized knowledge in the surgical repair of birth defects, some of which may be life-threatening to premature and even full-term infants.
  • Trauma - Because trauma is the number one killer of children in the United States, pediatric surgeons are routinely faced with critical care situations involving traumatic injuries sustained by children.
  • Pediatric Oncology - Pediatric surgeons are involved in the diagnosis and surgical care of children with malignant tumors as well as those with benign growths.

Problems Diagnosed or Treated

The Surgery team manages all neonatal and pediatric surgical disorders including:

  • Birth Defects
  • Appendicitis
  • Hernias - a protrusion of the bowel from the abdomen into an area where it normally would not be
  • Hydroceles - a collection of fluid in the scrotal sac (by the testicle)
  • Testicles that are undescended
  • Gastroesophageal reflux – stomach acid backing up into the esophagus
  • Thoracic problems such as chest wall abnormalities (including Pectus excavatum)
  • Thoracic and abdominal tumors
  • Endocrine disorders
  • Pediatric Trauma - Learn more about our pediatric trauma program and preventions efforts by Arkansas Children's. 

Many times, laparoscopic surgery can be utilized. Laparoscopic surgery refers to any surgical procedure using a fiber optic device that allows the surgeon to operate without the use of an open incision. Instead, the surgeon makes several small incisions through which the instruments are passed. This minimizes scarring for the child and helps to speed recovery.

The Surgical Team Is Part of A Larger Team Here For Your Child

In addition to the pediatric surgeon, there are a number of dedicated professionals that will help care for your child. Each member of the team has special training in pediatrics--whether they’re the surgeon, radiologist, nurse or anesthesiologist.

Sam Smith, M.D., attending surgeon:

Dr. Smith was born and raised in Magnolia, Arkansas, completing his undergraduate work at the University of Arkansas. He entered medical school at UAMS after his third year of college and graduated with honors in Surgery in 1980. He completed his General Surgery Residency at UAMS with one year spent in Boston Children’s Hospital as an Assistant Resident in Pediatric Surgery. He completed his Pediatric Surgery Fellowship and Critical Care Fellowship at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in 1989, and stayed on as attending staff at the University of Pittsburgh and the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, serving as Director of Nutritional Support Service and Co-Director of the Surgical Research Laboratory.

Dr. Smith rejoined the UAMS Department of Surgery in 1992, as chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery. He serves as Chief of Surgery and Director of the Trauma Program at Arkansas Children’s. He was promoted to full professor in Surgery and Pediatrics and has been Vice Chairman of the Department of Surgery since 1997. He is also the Pediatric Surgery Fellowship Program Director at Arkansas Children’s.

Dr. Smith’s clinical interests are newborn and trauma surgery. His principal research interests are the role of bacterial attachment in the prevention of infections in the premature infant.

Richard Jackson, M.D., attending surgeon:

Dr. Jackson received his medical degree at West Virginia University School of Medicine in 1983 and completed his general surgery residency at West Virginia University, Morgantown. He then completed his Pediatric Surgery and Trauma/Surgical Critical Care fellowships at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, PA, and is board certified in General Surgery, Surgical Critical Care, and Pediatric Surgery. His clinical interests include general pediatric surgery, trauma, critical care, newborn surgery, ECMO, and Robotic surgery. His research interests include mucosal gut barrier in the neonate, small bowel transplantation, and multi-organ system failure.

Sid Dassinger, M.D., attending surgeon:

Dr. Dassinger received his B.S. at Birmingham-Southern College and a medical degree from the University of Alabama School of Medicine (UAB). He completed his general surgery training at Vanderbilt University and pediatric surgery fellowship at LeBonheur Children’s Hospital/ St Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis, TN. His interests are congenital diaphragmatic hernia, resident education, and minimally invasive surgery.

Todd Maxson, M.D., Chief of the Trauma Program

Dr. Maxson is a board certified pediatric surgeon. He completed his undergraduate work at Texas A&M University and attended medical school at the University of Texas Medical Brach in Galveston. He completed his general surgery residency at the University of Arkansas, and then went on to finish a pediatric surgical residency at the Baylor College of Medicine. Dr. Maxson is nationally known as a traumatologist, serving in many national and local expert capacities, as well as an actively practicing pediatric surgeon at Arkansas Children's and in previous states. He also serves as the State of Arkansas consult on trauma for the Department of Health.

Darlene Houser, surgery scheduler: Darlene is the surgery scheduler for the Department of Pediatric Surgery. She has worked at Arkansas Children’s in multiple roles since January 1989 and has been a part of the Pediatric Surgery team for 15 years. Darlene will assist your family with its scheduling needs, and you may meet her in the outpatient clinic at the time your child’s surgery is planned.

Preparing for Surgery

  • Tell your child as clearly as you can why he or she is going to the hospital and what will happen during the hospital stay. Help your child to know he or she is not here for punishment and that you will stay at the hospital the entire time.
  • Plan ahead as you may be here for some time. Make plans to bring money for your meals in our cafeteria or bring your meals with you. If your child is admitted, then your child’s meals, diapers and pajamas are provided.

The night before surgery, be sure to give your child a bath and shampoo to reduce the risk of infection. It is extremely important that your child follows the feeding schedule given to you prior to your child’s surgery.

How do I find Same Day Surgery and the Pediatric Surgery Clinic at Arkansas Children's?

Same Day Surgery is located on the 2nd floor of the main hospital. Enter through the front doors of the main hospital building and take either the elevator or stairs to the 2nd floor and follow the signs for Same Day Surgery. Patient parking is free and available directly in front of the main hospital.

The Pediatric Surgery clinic is in Clinic #3, located on the first floor of the Sturgis Building Specialty clinic center. The Sturgis Building directly adjacent to the main hospital building. Patient parking is free and available directly in front of the main hospital.

How can I learn more about common pediatric surgery conditions?

You or your child may have additional questions about his or her condition before, during, and after he or she is scheduled for surgery. The links listed below may help your family find answers to commonly asked questions about pediatric surgery diagnoses and/or procedures:

Ongoing Pediatric Surgical Research at Arkansas Children's

The Pediatric Surgeons are not only highly trained surgeons, but researchers as well. They are supported by the ACRI and work in conjunction with UAMS researchers. Our team is currently involved in many areas of research, which includes projects about:

  • Necrotizing enterocolitis
  • Gastroesophageal reflux disease

How to Contact Us

We encourage you to contact our surgery nurses at (501) 364-4852 with any questions about your child’s condition that is currently being treated by our team. This is the fastest way to receive information about your child’s condition or problem.

If you are uncertain if your child has a condition that needs to be evaluated by the Pediatric Surgery team, please visit your pediatrician first, and they will determine if a referral to our team is appropriate. If your child has been seen in the Pediatric Surgery clinic or treated in the hospital by our team, and you need more information, we are available to you either by phone. 

Call us: 501-364-4852 *

* We encourage you to contact our surgery nurses at (501) 364-4852 with any questions about your child’s condition that is currently being treated by our team. This is the fastest way to receive information about your child’s condition or problem.