Getting to the Heart of the Matter with Dr. Kathryn Armstrong
“I remember each and every one of the patients that I have been lucky enough to look after – I learn something from every patient that I have cared for.”
– Dr. Kathryn Armstrong
In honor of heart month, we had the opportunity to catch up with BC Children’s Hospital pediatric cardiologist Dr. Kathryn Armstrong. As the recipient of two TRF Venture Grant awards, Dr. Armstrong is passionate about exploring questions that matter to patients. Through research she wants to make transplant cardiology more responsive to the needs of young recipients and their families. In this short interview we hear about the role of mental health in transplant medicine and how technology can help address challenges facing young patients.
Q: What brought you to the field of pediatric transplant cardiology?
A: A one-year trip to Vancouver to finish my pediatric training at BCCH led me into a career in pediatric cardiology! I loved the specialty and migrated towards the more complex patients with end stage heart failure. This led to fellowship training at Sick-Kids in Toronto in heart transplant – and the rest is history!
Q: In your opinion, what are the main challenges facing pediatric transplant patients? Are there any concerns specific to heart recipients?
A: I think the major challenge we face today is supporting the mental health of all pediatric patients and ensuring they are aware this is an important part of their overall wellbeing. Many of our patients (and their families) have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) because of their clinical course and currently we don’t have enough resources to adequately support their mental wellness.
I think we should be supporting our children’s mental health from the very beginning to optimize the chances these patients will have a good quality of life as they grow up and live life as a transplant recipient.
Q: Tell us about your research currently underway.
A: We are currently building on our work to support our pediatric transplant patients and their families by improving communication through the use of text messaging. We are also working on a patient portal to help them set goals with regards to their care. We are also piloting the use of virtual reality to improve exercise and fitness in our transplant patients.
Q: Do you have a favorite transplant-related memory or moment?
A: There are too many to write. I remember each and every one of the patients that I have been lucky enough to look after – I learn something from every patient under my care. I hope that what I learn continues to help me be able to serve and look after my patients to the best of my ability.
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