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World-renowned Fetal Cardiologist, Helena Gardiner, M.D., Ph.D., joins the Texas Fetal Center

GardinerHelena Gardiner, M.D., Ph.D., world-renowned fetal cardiologist, joins the Texas Fetal Center at Children’s Memorial Hermann Hospital as co-director of the Fetal Cardiology Program. She will serve as a professor in the department of Obstetrics, Gynecology and Reproductive Sciences and the division of Pediatric Cardiology at UTHealth Medical School.

Dr. Gardiner graduated from medical school in 1982 and went on to train in pediatrics and neonatal medicine in the United Kingdom and the Bahamas. She was awarded a Children’s Research Fellowship in 1988 and an M.D. in 1992 from Bristol University for her thesis on the novel use of ultrasound to examine the neonatal hip.

After training and accreditation in pediatric cardiology in the U.K., she was awarded a Medical Research Council (MRC) Visiting Scientist Fellowship at the University of Lund in Sweden, where she studied vascular programming of the fetal circulation. In 2002 she received a Ph.D. from Lund University.

Dr. Gardiner was appointed as senior lecturer at Imperial College London in 1997, working at the Royal Brompton and Queen Charlotte’s and Chelsea Hospital in London, and was promoted to reader and director of perinatal cardiology in 2008, a position she held until relocating to Houston this year. Following her experience in London and growing the fetal cardiology service and research at The Center for Fetal Care at Queen Charlotte’s & Chelsea Hospital, Dr. Gardiner is looking forward to growing the fetal cardiology program with her colleagues at the Texas Fetal Center.

She joins Gurur Biliciler-Denktas, M.D., assistant professor of pediatric cardiology, as co-director of the Fetal Cardiology Program.

Research and Education Interests

While in the U.K., Dr. Gardiner established collaborative teams between fetal medicine and cardiology experts at Queen Charlotte’s Hospital and Royal Brompton Hospital to undertake translational research in noninvasive and interventional fetal cardiovascular work. Through these collaborative efforts, the teams established collaborations with centers in Europe and the United States and received national and international recognition for their work on fetal vascular programming in monochorionic twins, fetal growth restriction and the use of percutaneous fetal valvuloplasty.

Her recent translational research interests include noninvasive outcomes, interventional fetal cardiovascular and neuro-developmental outcomes and novel aspects of imaging the fetal heart early in gestation, as well as the functional assessment and childhood outcomes following fetal surgery to open the aortic valve.

Dr. Gardiner has worked on several national and international educational and accreditation committees. As a council member and former secretary of The Fetal Working Group of the European Association of Pediatric Cardiology, she co-authored Recommendations from the European Association of Pediatric Cardiology for Training in Fetal Cardiology (2008) and has organized two multinational, multicenter research studies on congenital atrioventricular block (Circulation.2011;124:1919-26) and the current study on intrauterine treatment for fetal aortic stenosis.

Dr. Gardiner is an advisor to the National Health Service Fetal Anomaly Screening Programme (NHS FASP) to evaluate training standards and the optimal pathway for pregnant women with suspected fetal congenital heart disease.

Texas Tiny Tickers

Major congenital heart defects (CHD), those requiring surgery in the first year after delivery, affect 3.5 babies in every 1,000 pregnancies scanned each year. Detection of these babies before birth improves the management of pregnancies and allows safer delivery and better treatment and care of the babies after birth. In order to address the need for early detection of CHD, Dr. Gardiner founded the Tiny Tickers Program (tinytickers.org) in 1999 in the U.K., with the aim of improving screening of congenital heart defects before birth.

The Tiny Tickers Program aims to improve the overall detection, diagnosis and care for babies with major heart defects, before birth and in the first year of life. For more than 14 years, the Program has educated physicians and sonographers and improved professional standards used to train, screen, diagnose and care for babies with CHD, in addition to raising community awareness of the impact of undetected congenital heart disease and the associated risks with delayed diagnosis.

With the arrival of Dr. Gardiner, the Texas Fetal Center plans to establish an active training program in Houston and the surrounding communities in order to improve the confidence of sonographers in the detection of congenital heart defects. Through education, research and community awareness, more babies with heart conditions can be diagnosed during the prenatal period, allowing physicians and families the advantage of early treatment and intervention options in order to give these babies the chance of a better start in life.