Christopher Talluto, M.D., has an interesting problem. How do you attract adult patients to a place with “Children’s” in the name?
Talluto recently started the Adult Congenital Heart Disease program at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. He specializes in treating adults with congenital heart disease (CHD), which are structural problems in the heart or major blood vessels.
“It’s definitely challenging to start a CHD program at a freestanding children's hospital,” Talluto says.
The hospital has treated adults with CHD for many years, but as medical treatment has advanced, people with CHD are living longer. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 95 percent of babies born with a non-critical CHD now live beyond age 18. There are now more adults with congenital heart disease than kids with CHD. This creates a growing demand for those with both pediatric and adult training who are well versed in CHD to treat these adults.
“We have the expertise in general congenital anomalies, so it goes beyond just me doing their evaluation,” says Talluto, who did fellowship training in Adult Congenital Heart Disease at Stanford University/Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital in Palo Alto, California.
“It's also the other physicians I work with, the MRI specialist, electrophysiologist and catheterization physicians. We all have congenital knowledge.
“Most patients realize that if they are the only patient in a generalists practice who has that disease, that's not where they belong. So, a lot of them feel comfortable in a place where we understand their condition.”
Talluto recently chatted about how he became a doctor, what attracted him to cardiology and what he does when he’s away from the hospital.
What did you want to be when you grew up?
One of the first things that I asked for Christmas was a doctor kit, little plastic stethoscopes. I would say that I had an interest in it, and I don't even know where that came from. My parents aren't physicians.
How did you choose to specialize in cardiology?
I chose cardiology because it makes sense to me. I didn't like rote memorization of everything, but in cardiology you can take a red blood cell and walk it through the heart. Depending on the anatomy and physiology, you can figure out where it goes.
How do you manage adult patients with CHD?
I’m a general contractor. Basically, I monitor them for acquired conditions like hypertension or coronary artery disease, ensure they follow a proper diet and exercise program. I screen them longer-term for problems that are associated with their congenital condition. If I identify a problem, I work with the appropriate subspecialists to care for my patient.
Do you have a key message for patients?
You have to tell them that even though they are repaired, they are not cured. They need lifelong follow-up and care. I think that’s an important point because a lot of kids get repaired, but you don’t know the long-term outcomes because we haven’t been doing this for very long.
What’s something people would be surprised to learn about you?
I’m a master scuba diver. I’ve done many liveaboards where you stay in the boat for about a week and dive five times a day.
What else do you do to take your mind off work?
I like to travel and explore new countries and cultures. I’m a big food and wine enthusiast. I lived in Northern California for about 10 years, just south of Napa and Sonoma. I’ve toured the Bordeaux and Champagne regions in France.
I exercise, and I spend time with my French bulldog, Frisco.