Just in time for American Heart Month, meet Dr. Wyman Lai, a nationally-recognized pediatric cardiologist with expertise in fetal cardiology and non-invasive imaging for heart disease in fetuses, and children at CHOC. Dr. Lai is the new medical director of echocardiography at CHOC and co-medical director of the CHOC Heart Institute.
“CHOC has a fabulous mix of state-of-the-art care, community presence, and academic achievement. I thoroughly enjoy working with my colleagues, who strive to provide the very best care available. The administrative staff at CHOC has also been extremely supportive. Together we are building a pediatric service that rivals any in the region, and we have our sights on even higher goals,” says Dr. Lai.
Dr. Lai’s passion for helping others inspired him to become a doctor. His original plan was to go into academic primary care pediatrics – a teaching and research position, and he majored in maternal and child health for his Master of Public Health degree. Early in his training, he became fascinated with what pediatric cardiologists were doing, and he switched to pediatric cardiology.
“The heart is an amazingly complex organ; it starts off as a simple tube, and it’s a wonder that it develops into a four-chambered pumping organ that delivers oxygen efficiently throughout our body,” says Dr. Lai. “In pediatric cardiology, we are able to make a profound difference in the lives of our patients. With our surgical colleagues, we have made incredible advances in life-saving therapies over the past five decades.”
Dr. Lai attended medical school at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University. He completed his residency at UCLA Ronald Reagan Medical Center, followed by a pediatric cardiology fellowship at UCLA Medical Center, and much later, a pediatric cardiology MRI fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital.
Since joining CHOC, Dr. Lai has been treating patients with complex congenital heart disease. He is also treating patients with the full spectrum of heart conditions, from heart murmurs to chest pain and syncope.
Dr. Lai’s approach towards his patients and their families is to treat them like family members.
“As with all families, however, not everyone is the same,” he explains. “Some patients and parents want more medical information and some less. Some want to be very involved in the decision-making process and some not so much. My practice is to provide them with enough information and support, so they feel comfortable with the decisions they are making.”
Along with Drs. Nita Doshi and Pierangelo Renella, Dr. Lai is helping to build a great program in fetal cardiology at CHOC. He is also working with Dr. Renella to grow the congenital cardiac MRI program, including the use in non-invasive imaging for creating 3D heart models.
“We recently used a 3D cardiac MRI dataset to print several heart models that were used to assist in the planning of care for a child with complex congenital heart disease. Another area of innovation is our purchase of new patient monitoring software in the cardiovascular ICU that will help us to identify patients at risk for acute deterioration before it happens,” Dr. Lai says.
In his spare time, Dr. Lai loves spending time with his family. He also enjoys swimming, biking and running. He hopes to run in this year’s Boston and New York marathons, which he has participated in the past. He is also attending classes for a health care executive MBA at UC Irvine.
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