Children's Heart Program Expands

For immediate release: November 28, 2011


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Surgeon-Scientist Contributes to Strength of Department of Surgery with NIH-Funded Research

The University of Maryland School of Medicine and the Children's Hospital at the University of Maryland Medical Center has added four new physicians, including a pediatric heart surgeon, increasing the hospital's ability to treat complex pediatric heart disease patients.

Sunjay Kaushal, M.D., Ph.D., is the new Head of the Section of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery in the Division of Cardiac Surgery. Dr. Kaushal specializes in pediatric cardiovascular thoracic surgery, neonatal surgery, valve repair, and adults with congenital heart disease. Dr. Kaushal receives funding from the NIH to investigate treatment options for hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a highly lethal congenital disorder that carries a 15% mortality rate before affected children reach school age.

“Dr. Kaushal's work with the Children's Heart program will help to build a nationally recognized center of excellence in pediatric cardiac care,” said Stephen T. Bartlett, M.D., professor and chair, Department of Surgery, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Additionally, he adds even more research energy to the growing scientific programs of the Department of Surgery, which is currently ranked 9th in the United States in annual NIH funding. The ability to conduct more research means more potential treatment options for our patients, and that's a critical focus for all of us.”

In addition to NIH funding, Dr. Kaushal has earned a Howard Hughes Medical Institute Physician-Scientist Early Career Award, a Thoracic Surgery Foundation for Research & Education (TSFRE)/NIH Career Development Award, and a grant from the Saving Tiny Hearts Society.

“This expansion of the Children's Heart program speaks volumes to the importance we place on providing the best care for our families,” says Geoffrey Rosenthal, M.D., professor and director, Pediatric and Congenital Heart Program, University of Maryland School of Medicine. “Our goal continues to be to provide the most compassionate and comprehensive care to patients with heart disease from before birth through adulthood.”

Also joining the program is non-invasive imaging specialist, Alicia Chaves, M.D.  Dr. Chaves specializes in diagnosing fetal heart disease and caring for babies before and after birth. She will work closely with community obstetricians to identify congenital heart disease in utero and create advanced care plans for mothers and infants before, during and after birth.

Sudhir Vashist, M.D., specializes in electrophysiology, which is used to help doctors search for and identify heart rhythms and abnormalities. Dr. Vashist specializes in caring for children with heart palpitations, fainting, chest pain and exercise-induced symptoms.

Pediatric cardiologist, Phat Pham, M.D., treats children with complex medical problems. He focuses on treating patients through interventional cardiology instead of surgery, when possible.

“These fine new team members are crucial in making sure we deliver the latest and best care to our patients as they come to us increasingly with cardiac needs for fetal through adult congenital care,” says Steven J. Czinn, M.D., professor and chairman, Department of Pediatrics, University of Maryland School of Medicine and chief of pediatrics, University of Maryland Medical Center.

“The addition of these clinical faculty members is important in protecting our most vulnerable pediatric patients,” says E. Albert Reece, M.D., Ph.D., M.B.A., dean of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. “The research that this team will generate will surely benefit families both within our center and across the nation who are in need of the most progressive options for their children.”