[June 2007] Forty years ago, many parents of babies born with a congenital heart defect received a grim diagnosis, but today Alan H. Friedman, MD, can offer them much better news. “Early and accurate diagnosis, coupled with our modern treatment, catheterizaion laboratory techniques and surgical expertise, have really revolutionized our field,” he says.
Friedman, who has directed the pediatric echocardiography laboratory at Yale-New Haven Children’s Hospital since 1994, spends much of his time immersed in the non-invasive imaging of cardiac disease in children. Using echocardiography, which he calls his field’s “workhorse,” he and his colleagues diagnose and treat congenital heart disease, the most common of all congenital defects in children. “Just about 1 percent of all newborns have some abnormality of cardiac structure,” he says. It can be very mild, such as a small ventricular septal defect, or much more significant, such as transposition of the great arteries. “Prior to the modern era of pediatric cardiac surgery, these were lesions that were not survivable, but nowadays with early diagnosis and surgery, our patient population with congenital heart disease has a greater than 95 percent survivability.”
The newest tools in Friedman’s arsenal include intracardiac echocardiography, in which tiny probes are placed into the vessels of small patients to examine the heart, and 3D echocardiography, which creates three-dimensional images that are extremely useful in surgical preparation and assessing cardiac structure. Advances in diagnosis and treatment have meant that Friedman has witnessed a sea change in outcomes for his patients during his 16-year career. “It’s been a great time to be a pediatric cardiologist,” he says.
- Originally published in the June 2007 issue of Yale Practice.
Name: Alan H. Friedman, MD
Title: Professor and associate chair, Department of Pediatrics; director, pediatric residency program; director, pediatric echocardiography laboratory.
Area of expertise: Diagnosis and management of fetal and neonatal cardiovascular disease.
Place of birth: Detroit, Mich.
College: University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.
Med School: Wayne State University School of Medicine, Detroit.
Training: Residency and chief residency in pediatrics at Children’s Memorial Hospital, Chicago; fellowship in pediatric cardiology at Yale.
Family: Married to Jennifer Friedman, who is pursuing a master’s degree in library science; four children: Sydney, 15; Jake, 13; Tess, 7; Dylan, 21 months.
What is most challenging to you in academic medicine? Balancing the short-term solutions to difficult issues, with the long-term challenge of moving important clinical and educational programs forward.
What is most rewarding? Working with residents and fellows. It’s stimulating because they’re extremely bright and it’s exciting for me to be challenged and pushed by them. What do you like most about your practice? Working with children of all ages and their families toward achieving the healthiest cardiovascular outcomes; helping children with congenital heart disease integrate into the normal activities of childhood and adolescence.
Personal interests or pastimes? Visiting NYC with my family and watching as many Detroit Tigers games as I can.
Last book read: Clemente: The Passion and Grace of Baseball’s Last Hero, by David Maraniss.
What would you do to improve our clinical environment if you had a magic wand? In many ways, the wand has begun to wave as the Children’s Hospital and the medical school have worked together in remarkably effective ways to energize faculty recruitments and strengthen vital programs. With our growth, however, comes the necessity for more space in which to care for our pediatric patients.