Pediatric Cardologist Matthew Ambrose, MD, enjoys the detective work that comes along with diagnosing heart disease in children—but he also loves to empower the families of young heart patients by helping them better understand their child’s condition.
Ambrose, who sees patients at the Pediatric Heart Center at University of Minnesota Masonic Children’s Hospital, specializes in fetal care and echocardiography. We spoke with Ambrose to learn more about his background, his care philosophy and his love for the University of Minnesota, a place he says he feels “blessed” to be.
I am a pediatric cardiologist; I see patients who either were born with congenital heart disease or who have later developed heart health issues. Much of my work revolves around reviewing echocardiograms, which are images obtained from a heart ultrasound, to ensure the children I see have a healthy heart—and diagnose heart irregularities. After a diagnosis, I determine whether the patient needs to see a cardiologist to help discuss and manage the heart issue. Part of my time is also devoted to conducting fetal echocardiograms and counseling families about the results.
I decided to complete additional cardiology training; in pediatrics that mostly means learning how to take care of children who are either born with or very early on acquire a problem with their heart —whether the problem is functional, electrical or structural. During my training, I realized I really enjoyed puzzle-solving elements; I like figuring out why something isn’t working right.
That, and I enjoyed communicating with families. In my training at Washington University in St. Louis, I began to appreciate how fetal care combines both relationship building and problem solving. I realized I could help families who are waiting eagerly a new baby understand the implications of a medical diagnosis and help them prepare. I want them to feel comfortable in their knowledge about their child’s heart condition. I take an enormous amount of pleasure in guiding people to that understanding because I think it makes patient care better. I also think it makes families happier because they find some peace in their understanding, even if they can’t entirely control the diagnosis or the condition.
When I’m counseling a family—when we’ve spent a lot of time talking about something—and I can see their apprehension about the situation start to dissolve because they have a command over what’s happening: That for me is the moment that I find most rewarding. Nobody ever wants their child to be diagnosed with heart disease, but heart disease is going to happen. So when it does, I want to be there to help families manage it. We also work hard to maintain close community and outreach relationships with other healthcare systems in the region to help them care for these families as well. It’s incredibly rewarding to work with these other groups and take care of our congenital heart defect patients throughout their lives.
I love what I do and I love where I work. I feel really blessed to have found something that I love so much. I think it’s providential that I ended up where I am. Even when I was a young child, I always knew that medicine and caring for others was what I was meant to do.