Children’s Hospital Foundation Heart Center
In 2014, Children's Hospital Foundation pledged $28 million over 10 years to establish the Children's Hospital Foundation Heart Center at Children's Hospital of Richmond at VCU (CHoR). This commitment represents the largest gift ever made in support of a program at the hospital.
The Children’s Hospital Foundation Heart Center is the only one of its kind in Richmond. Working with a full spectrum of specialists in cardiology, anesthesia, surgery, perfusion, pediatrics, nursing, pharmacy, respiratory therapy and others, the CHF Heart Center offers services ranging from fetal cardiology and interventional cardiac catheterization to surgery and transplant.
The multidisciplinary team is led by Dr. Thomas Yeh, the commonwealth's most experienced and accomplished pediatric cardiac surgeon. Their focus is on achieving exceptional outcomes and a healthy future for each patient, utilizing the most advanced diagnostic techniques and medical and surgical treatments.
The Center's team includes:
- Cardiologists (exercise, fetal, general, interventional and adult congenital experts)
- Cardiothoracic surgeons
- Critical care medicine specialists
- ECMO technicians
- Maternal-fetal medicine specialists
- Respiratory therapists
- Transport team members (neonatal and pediatric)
- Therapists (occupational, physical and speech)
- Child life specialists
- Social workers
- Additional pediatric subspecialists as needed
Meet Sonny, Heart Surgery Patient
When Sonny was diagnosed with a congenital heart defect at birth, his family turned to the Children's Hospital Foundation Heart Center. His parents share the journey, which began with the sound of a murmur and progressed quickly to heart surgery at just a few days old.
Q&A with Thomas Yeh Jr., MD, PhD, FACS
From December 2014
Why is it important to establish the Children’s Hospital Foundation Heart Center at CHoR?
Heart programs are the cornerstone of great children’s hospitals. They raise the level of expertise and provide a complete line up of specialists. There’s no reason a city the size of Richmond should not offer her sickest children heart surgery. Imagine, as a new mom or dad, you’ve just been told your new baby needs heart surgery. One in 100 new families will receive that news. Now imagine, at the most stressful moment of your life, you’re also told that Richmond can’t handle it. You’re going to have to leave your home, uproot your child, yourselves and leave your support system to get it done. It is important that Richmond has the capability to handle this.
What kinds of patients are served through the Children’s Hospital Foundation Heart Center?
The Children’s Hospital Foundation Heart Center cares for children with congenital or acquired heart disease and provides services including fetal cardiology, interventional cardiac catheterization and surgery. Congenital heart defects are the most common types of birth defects. Each year, 800 babies are born in Virginia with a congenital heart defect, and nearly 400 of these infants require medical care that may include open-heart surgery within the first year of life. With the establishment of this Heart Center, patients and families can receive their care right in the heart of Central Virginia.
What are your goals for the Children’s Hospital Foundation Heart Center?
The Heart Center is a full service operation up to and including transplant. Children’s Hospital of Richmond at VCU’s multiple specialists have come together as a multi-disciplinary team to optimize patient care. We want to ensure that children with heart disease receive the care they need to thrive into adulthood.
How will you work with other pediatric specialists to provide comprehensive care to patients?
Broad exposure from working at some of the world’s great pediatric heart centers has given me opportunities to see the culture of many different institutions and schools of thought. Now, we will meld the best of all our experiences, synergizing with the deep expertise that has already been here in Richmond with my colleagues in pediatrics, cardiology, anesthesia, adult cardiac surgery, perfusion, nursing, pharmacy, respiratory therapy and so many others. Excellent care is our primary focus, but whenever we see ways of improving what we do for children, we will research those ideas for their promise.
What was involved in your training to become a board-certified cardiothoracic surgeon?
After graduating from Duke University and completing medical school at Johns Hopkins University, I completed my PhD in molecular biology and medical residency in general and cardiothoracic surgery at VCU. When I left VCU, I was fortunate to train at a wonderful children’s heart center, the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto. From there, my career took me as assistant professor to Kosair Children’s Hospital at The University of Louisville, to associate professor at Dallas Children’s Hospital and Parkland at the University of Texas Southwestern, and most recently as professor and chair to lead the complex rebuilding of Tulane’s Pediatric Heart Center after it was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina in New Orleans.
Having been a medical student at VCU, what does it mean to return to Richmond and work at the hospital that trained you?
The lessons I learned here form the very heart of what I believe it means to be a great doctor. To graduate VCU is to feel there is nothing you haven’t already done or can’t learn to take care of. It’s a badge of honor that we all wear proudly. For me it’s a perfect circle—to train here, to teach here, to save children’s lives here, to give back what VCU and Richmond gave to me. I’m quite sure it’s my life’s greatest honor, and I could not be happier to be home again.