Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Chief Returns to Roots to Build Vibrant Program

As the new chief of the Pediatric Cardiology Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children, Oscar Benavidez, MD, MPP, has returned to the spot where his medical career began.

“It’s a place where I learned to take care of patients and a lot of what I do is based on what I learned at Mass General,” Benavidez says, reflecting on his Harvard Medical School education. “This place has always had a special place in my heart as far as my clinical development.”

During medical school Benavidez found his match in pediatric/congenital cardiology, a specialty for patients with complex cases, some of which begin as prenatal diagnoses and continue throughout childhood and into adulthood.

“When you are dealing with a baby’s heart or a child’s heart, you form a close bond with the family and one that lasts for a long time,” Benavidez adds.

The Pediatric Cardiology Program at MassGeneral Hospital for Children (MGHfC) provides a variety of diagnostic and therapeutic services from fetal cardiology (testing for expectant mothers whose children may be at risk for cardiac abnormalities) to pediatric congenital and acquired heart disease, to adults with congenital heart disease.

As patients grow into adults, the MGHfC team provides a smooth transition to services offered through the Heart Center at Massachusetts General Hospital.

Trusted, Quality Care

As the leader of the MGHfC cardiology program, Benavidez aims to “create a place that’s trusted, reliable and valued in the care of patients,” he says, adding, “I’m very excited to be here and eager to build this program to be another vibrant part of pediatrics and of this hospital.”

Dr. Benavidez brings with him expertise in imaging, an essential component of pediatric cardiology. Patients with suspected cardiac abnormalities are often diagnosed using non-invasive imaging procedures including fetal echocardiography, transthoracic and transesophageal echocardiography, and cardiac MRI.  

Benavidez’s longstanding interest in improving the quality of care delivered to patients has driven his research in patient safety and quality of care in pediatric/congenital cardiovascular care. This research has examined outcomes of congenital heart surgery admissions and risk factors and implications of diagnostic errors in non-invasive imaging. Much of Benavidez’s work has been grant funded.

At his previous organization, Children’s Hospital Boston, Benavidez spearheaded case conferences to evaluate and explain diagnostic errors, driving process improvements. Nationally he sits on committees developing the definition and measures of quality and safety in pediatric/congenital cardiovascular care.

Remarkable Field

The emergence of non-invasive diagnostic tests over the last decade marks an important milestone in the advancement of cardiology care, which Benavidez says has evolved significantly over the past 30 years. When clinicians first began repairing cardiac lesions, the strategy was to perform a number of smaller operations with the goal of putting off larger operations until later. That focus shifted in the 1970s to repairing the whole problem early.

“It’s really a remarkable field,” Benavidez says. “It has every aspect of medicine that you can think of; from fetal prenatal care to care of children and adults with complex cardiac disease, it has components from preventative care and non-invasive imaging to critical care and interventional/surgical aspects of care. I could not imagine doing anything else.”

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