It's a timely achievement. Although many congenital heart defects were once fatal in childhood, dramatic improvements in surgeons' ability to repair such defects has increased the number of U.S. adults living with them to more than one million. Yet a successful childhood surgical repair does not cure most congenital heart disease patients, doctors have learned. And congenital defects can interact with cardiovascular problems acquired with age.
"These are patients who need ongoing monitoring and treatment to help them navigate the risks of living with lingering heart problems," said cardiologist Daniel Murphy, MD, who was instrumental in advocating for the new subspecialty to be formally recognized. The population of adults living with heart defects they were born with is growing by about 20,000 people per year as adolescents graduate to adult care, he noted. And such patients are seeking care at destination programs like Stanford's.
"This new board certification exam is the result of over a decade of really hard work by leaders in the adult congenital cardiac community," Murphy said. "It enforces training and knowledge standards that we think these patients have a right to expect when they seek medical care from a specialist."
The Stanford physicians who obtained their board certification are George Lui, MD, the program's medical director and a clinical assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine and pediatric cardiology at the Stanford University School of Medicine; Ian Rogers, MD, clinical assistant professor of cardiovascular medicine and pediatric cardiology; Doff McElhinney, MD, professor of cardiothoracic surgery; Anne Dubin, MD, professor of pediatric cardiology; Kara Motonaga, MD, clinical assistant professor of pediatric cardiology; Scott Ceresnak, MD, assistant professor of pediatric cardiology; and Nikola Tede, MD, a pediatric cardiologist who sees patients at California Pacific Medical Center through its alliance with Stanford Children's Health.
Stanford's program, a collaboration between Stanford Health Care and Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital Stanford, has a long history as a national leader in the care of adult congenital heart patients. "This is a field which requires people to bring a lot of different kinds of skills, experience and knowledge to their interactions with patients," Murphy said. "I'm really proud of our physicians. Their success validates the training we have here and shows that we're on the right track for providing care for this important group of patients."