Dancing, watching sports, chatting with friends — all of these activities and more are enjoyed by 15-year-old Amari Hall, a larger-than-life teen born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), which severely limited his heart’s ability to pump blood throughout his body. When Amari’s condition recently grew critical, the Children’s Heart Program team at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital (UMCH) came together to perform a lifesaving heart transplant, allowing him to once again shuffle his dancing feet as he left the hospital.
Amari is just one of countless children whose outcomes have dramatically improved through the efforts of cardiologists, surgeons, caregivers, and researchers at the UMCH Children’s Heart Program. Thanks to a new $5 million fundraising campaign for the program, this remarkable team will now have the opportunity to help thousands more children with heart disease in the future.
Offering every expertise in the diagnosis and management of pediatric heart diseases, the Children’s Heart Program features highly specialized resources designed to meet the unique needs of young patients with cardiovascular conditions. The program provides the very latest treatment strategies, resources, and technologies, including sophisticated imaging technology needed to diagnose babies with congenital heart disease in utero, and to determine prenatal care and birth plans that give infants and mothers the best outcomes.
While the team members bring a wealth of preeminent experience to the care of pediatric heart diseases, the team is also on the leading-edge of scientific investigations into the causes and best possible treatments for children’s heart conditions. Chief among these investigations is a first-ever clinical trial led by surgeon and scientist Sunjay Kaushal, MD, PhD, who co-directs the Children’s Heart Program alongside pediatric cardiology expert Geoffrey L. Rosenthal, MD, PhD. In the trial, Dr. Kaushal, an associate professor of surgery at the University of Maryland School of Medicine, is treating babies born with HLHS, using stem cells to regenerate their hearts — and ultimately giving new hope to kids like Amari Hall.
“We’re hoping this therapy will be a game-changer,” says Dr. Kaushal, “not only for children with HLHS, but for those who suffer from other types of congenital heart disease as well.”
This high-level research coincides with the Children’s Heart Program’s patient outcomes, “which have been objectively measured and externally validated as excellent,” explains Dr. Rosenthal, who also serves as division chief of Pediatric Cardiology.
In addition to routinely measuring outcomes, the team also spends the critical time necessary to deeply understand and analyze them, helping to further hone their skills and advance the overarching quality of care they provide to patients.
“Our vision for the Children’s Heart Program is to provide state-of-the-art cardiovascular care to every child with heart disease in Maryland and beyond,” says Dr. Rosenthal.
Joining in this effort are seven prominent pediatric cardiologists, specializing in areas such as non- invasive imaging, electrophysiology, and interventional cardiology. All of these extraordinary clinicians share Dr. Rosenthal’s dual commitment to outstanding care and community outreach.
“One reason I came to the University of Maryland Medical Center was to reconnect with what I saw as my personal mission in health care,” Dr. Rosenthal says. “I not only wanted to offer compassionate, cutting-edge care to children with complex heart conditions, but I also wanted to engage with the community that surrounds the hospital and ensure that every child has access to quality cardiac diagnostics and interventions. And every one of our cardiologists wants to go out in the community and do the same thing.”
An equal amount of dedication exists among program researchers, who constantly seek to make scientific advances that extend to as many children as possible. These investigators study the broad spectrum of factors that contribute to pediatric heart diseases, such as childhood obesity and pediatric hypertension. They also focus their research on ways to reduce and prevent sudden death in infants and children.
In just a decade, the Children’s Heart Program has emerged as a leader in pediatric cardiology and makes groundbreaking discoveries, maintains high-quality patient outcomes, and brings comprehensive and compassionate care to critically ill children.
Philanthropy is essential to continue the expansion of the Children’s Heart Program and the remarkable work of the medical team.
Our $5 million campaign goals include: recruiting expert faculty to focus on prenatal treatment and care; establishing an endowed research fund to support Dr. Kaushal’s groundbreaking work in stem cell research; and purchasing advanced equipment to meet the evolving needs of the patient population. The opportunity to further develop the efforts of the Children’s Heart Program will undoubtedly benefit countless pediatric heart patients in Maryland and beyond.
Your support is needed to ensure the Children’s Heart Program has the continued funding to advance our innovative research and give every child access to the most advanced cardiovascular care they deserve.