Path of a Dream
By Wanda C. Miller-Hance, MD
Thank you for the distinctive privilege and great honor to serve as the elected president of the Congenital Cardiac Anesthesia Society (CCAS). I am humbled by the opportunity to continue working with you to further advance the mission of CCAS.
First, I would like to express my most sincere appreciation to our immediate past president, Dr. Nina A. Guzzetta, for her dedication and contributions to CCAS. On a personal note, I am grateful to her for guidance and for being such an outstanding role model. I would also like to honor our past presidents for their leadership and our board members for their tireless efforts. Through the years, their commitment and passion have been an inspiration to me. All of these leaders and the support of the membership have served to develop this organization into an extraordinary professional society.
Next, I would like to welcome our new Directors-At-Large, Dr. Katherine L. Taylor (Hospital for Sick Children, Toronto) and Dr. Kelly Chilson (St. Louis Children’s Hospital). They, along with the entire CCAS leadership, are eager to serve and hear from you.
Because this is my first newsletter, I would like to provide you with a bit of background about who I am, what my career path has been, and what my vision is as CCAS president. I was born in New York City and spent the early years of my life in the Spanish Harlem neighborhood, also known as “El Barrio.” My parents were working-class folks who, after marrying, left their home in Puerto Rico hoping for a better future; neither had completed an education beyond a junior high school level. Because I suffered from severe asthma as a child, my parents decided to move back to the island, hoping that a more favorable climate would alleviate my condition. So, we packed our belongings and headed there; I was five years old at the time. Sadly, the move did not help my health much, but it did allow me to grow up in an environment that even today represents a hybrid between the US and Latin America.
One day while attending elementary school, I watched a television program in which a model of the human heart was being disassembled to display various congenital heart defects. The presenter was the Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at the University of Puerto Rico School of Medicine/Pediatric Hospital at the time, Dr. Amalia Martinez-Pico, whom I had the honor of meeting many years later. As I watched, I decided that one day I wanted to become a pediatric heart specialist. Of course, I later realized that first I would have to obtain an incidental medical degree!
After attending three years of college at the University of Puerto Rico to earn my bachelor of science degree, I decided to pursue my medical education in the mainland US. In 1981, I graduated with my medical degree at the University of Wisconsin-Madison—a beautiful place, although a bit chilly for someone who grew up in the Caribbean! Next, I completed a residency in pediatrics at Children’s Medical Center/University of Texas Southwestern Medical School in Dallas and then completed a fellowship in pediatric cardiology at Texas Children’s Hospital/Baylor College of Medicine in Houston. I spent additional time at both institutions doing research related to muscle biology. In 1991, I joined the University of California San Diego as a pediatric cardiologist and worked there for several years before considering a career in anesthesiology.
As a trainee and then later as an attending physician in pediatric cardiology, I was often drawn to the operating room and the perioperative setting. With time, I became enamored with the possibility of an academic career that would combine the two specialties of pediatric cardiology and pediatric cardiac anesthesiology. I reached out to Dr. Paul R. Hickey, Anesthesiologist-in-Chief at Boston Children’s Hospital, for his input. Following his advice, I pursued residency training in anesthesiology at Massachusetts General Hospital and was given the opportunity, within the context of my residency, to spend a year of training in pediatric cardiac anesthesiology at Boston Children’s Hospital and the Hospital for Sick Kids in Toronto. After completing my residency in anesthesiology, I joined the University of California San Francisco, where I worked before coming back to Texas Children’s Hospital in 2002. I am extremely fortunate to have seen my dream of becoming a pediatric cardiac specialist come true and to be able to practice in two different yet tightly intertwined specialties of pediatric cardiac anesthesiology and pediatric cardiology. What an amazing journey!
When I reflect on how CCAS began in 2005 and how much the organization has evolved since then, I am in awe! Today, we are a thriving professional society with well over 1,100 health care members. We have a website that features extensive educational resources and have established the Dolly D. Hansen Educational Fund to serve the educational mission of CCAS. In addition, we offer an outstanding, high-quality, intellectually stimulating program at our national annual scientific meeting, such as the one held in Houston last spring, led by Dr. Kirsten C. Odegard. We have created a comprehensive Society of Thoracic Surgery (STS)-CCAS database and actively collaborate with other societies with whom we share common goals.
With the support of our Board of Directors and the Society for Pediatric Anesthesia, one of my immediate goals as president is to appraise our bylaws and consider necessary revisions driven by our progress. Coinciding with the growth of CCAS, we envision the need for changes in our organizational structure to address areas such as membership, research, and quality improvement. Other important goals, such as CCAS’ engagement of trainees and the expansion of networks through social media, are also at the top of our agenda. Because membership represents an important building block in our organization, we will continue to work toward expanding our membership, at both the national and international levels, so that new members can share their unique and valuable perspectives. As an organization, we strive to expand our global presence and look forward to establishing international alliances with those who share mutual interests. I strongly believe that additional member involvement and participation in CCAS will be key to our continued development. Of course, we are open to your treasured input as to how we may do even better in all regards.
My hope during the next few years is that we will continue our efforts to foster the specialty of pediatric cardiac and congenital cardiac anesthesiology and to improve the care of our patients. I will do my best to carry my responsibilities with the same grace and dignity as those who have served before me. I look forward to your help during my tenure! Thank you all very much for your support and for your involvement in our organization.
Hope you've had a wonderful summer, and stay cool!