This week's Faculty Spotlight shines on Kevin Hill, MD, an associate professor of pediatrics in the Division of Cardiology. Hill talks to us about his clinical responsibilities in the cardiac cath lab and pediatric cardiac ICU. He also explains how he become interested in pediatrics and cardiology, in particular. Hill describes the significance of one of his latest research projects funded by the Children’s Health and Discovery Initiative and offers some valuable advice for trainees. We also learn how he was recently converted to rowing in lieu of running (for the time being) by his colleague, Piers Barker.
How long have you been at Duke? How did you decide to come here?
I started here in 2009 right after finishing my fellowship. My family and my wife’s family were both in North Carolina at the time, and Duke was a natural fit. We love it here!
What are your current responsibilities within the Department of Pediatrics? What does your typical day look like?
My clinical responsibilities are devoted to the pediatric cardiac cath lab and in-patient care in the pediatric cardiac ICU. I also have a research commitment, mostly focused on database work at the DCRI and to a collection of clinical trials that I help to coordinate. Finally, I oversee some of our division’s clinical operations. My days tend to be a mix of procedural time, meetings and way too much time on email. Other than the email, I enjoy everything that I do.
How and when did you initially become interested in medicine? What made you decide to pursue a career in pediatric cardiology in particular?
My dad is a pediatric gastroenterologist so medicine was always a possibility, and pediatrics was an easy choice. I chose cardiology for many reasons. I like physiology and the mechanistic nature of pediatric cardiology. I also like that we develop lifelong relationships with our patients.
What do you see as the biggest current challenges and opportunities in the field of pediatric cardiology?
The last few decades have seen huge improvements in outcomes for children with complex congenital heart disease. It’s been a fantastic era but I think the time has come to shift focus from short term outcomes to longer term quality of life. We need to make sure that kids with palliated complex heart diseases can not only survive their surgeries but also live the most normal lives possible without limitations in what they can do.
Is there any research or other special projects you are doing or plan on doing?
I’m involved in many projects. One of the latest is a pilot project funded by the Children’s Health and Discovery Initiative, and it follows on from my answer to the previous question. We’re looking at digital health solutions that can expand our existing registry infrastructure and allow us to collect information not just on short term outcomes after congenital heart interventions, but also on longer term outcomes like quality of life and how kids are doing in school. Registries are the backbone of research in pediatric cardiology, and our registry-analyses really shape what we do. If we can focus on the outcomes that matter most to children and their families, then I think we will be able to better guide the way we practice.
What do you enjoy most about your work?
I love the people I work with. Many are close friends and that absolutely makes coming to work more enjoyable. However, I think the most inspiring part is the passion that people in our heart center share for taking care of kids with heart disease.
You completed your residency at Wake Forest University and fellowship at Vanderbilt University--do you have any advice for trainees?
I think I’d advise to make sure you enjoy the process. It's such a long journey, and you get caught up always wanting to complete the next step – if you can just make it through medical school, then residency, then fellowship, then its on to early career development. When I look back, each of those experiences, although challenging, were fun and rewarding in their own way. I made some great friends and have memories that I’ll never forget. I wish I’d appreciated those experiences more while I was living them. Even your worst night on call – its going to make a great story one day when you tell all the residents and medical students how much tougher it was when you were training.
What passions or hobbies do you have outside of Duke?
Running is my escape…at least it was until earlier this year when I had to have Achilles surgery. I’m hoping to get back to running soon. In the meantime, Piers Barker got me into rowing. Piers is from Canada but he’s still a good guy. He’s passionate about rowing. I’m still not sure why anyone in Canada would want to row but turns out it’s a fun thing to do in NC.