Harald Kaemmerer

Tell us a little about yourself and your work.

I am a senior physician at the German Heart Centre Munich, more precisely, at the clinic for paediatric cardiology and congenital heart disease. We treat congenital heart disease (CoHD) patients of all ages. There are very few German clinics with this kind of open age concept. It allows us to focus on the patient’s diagnosis, not his or her age.

Why did you specialise in congenital heart diseases?

When I started out as a cardiologist in the early 1980s, I treated mainly grown-up patients with acquired heart diseases. Around that time, the number of congenital heart disease patients started to increase and it became clear that cardiologists for grownups weren’t ideally equipped to treat these very young patients. At that time, cardiologists had already started to specialise in either pediatric or adult cardiology, so that the field was bifurcated – the knowledge about CoHD was concentrated in the pediatric cardiologist community, because most CoHD patients were children. Now these children have grown up and need treatment from cardiologists specialised for grownups with congenital heart disease (GUCH).

What is your personal motivation for this work? Were you fascinated by the fact that it was an entirely new field?

I want to explore the relationship between the patient’s visible symptoms and the underlying pathology and hemodynamics. The fact that the field was new was actually rather hindering – nobody took it serious, and there was no interest in establishing congenital heart disease cardiology for grownups as an autonomous field. Consequently, there was a definite lack in adequate treatment. This changed when the numbers of grownup patients increased, and with them, the need for special medical care.

Could you describe an ideal medical care model for GUCH, in an international context?

Currently, the situation is the same wherever you look. Medical care for GUCH has been a globally neglected field. This is changing slowly now. Canada is probably the most advanced country as far as structured medical care for GUCH is concerned: they tried to establish nationwide medical care coverage and have set up a network with specialized heart centres. In Germany, we will probably adapt an adjusted version of this model. I believe the structures as currently offered at the Heart Centres in Munich and Berlin are ideal – they treat the patient based on his or her diagnosis, regardless of the patient’s age. The physicians treating these patients may be either pediatric cardiologists or cardiologists specialised in treating grownups, but they receive a special training to qualify them for working with GUCH patients.

Why do you believe an information platform like Corience to be important?

Because it offers information to patients and the general public. Everyone who is interested can find answers to pressing questions regarding CoHD.

What do you like to do when you don’t work?

I am a passionate horseman and have even been trained at the Spanish Riding School in Vienna. I like the tradition and the objectives of classical equitation, and I try to incorporate them in my life and work.