Pediatric cardiology is a field specializing in the care of heart diseases and defects that occur in children. It is differentiated from pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, where surgeons learn to repair heart damage in children’s hearts. Instead, pediatric cardiologists diagnose through physical examination, scans like echocardiogram, and catheterization, provide many of the catheterization or angiogram treatments and interventions that don’t warrant surgery, and follow patients with ongoing conditions. As would be expected, it takes time to learn all of these things, and the person who wants to become a pediatric cardiologist will spend many years in study and practice.
The beginning of the ambition to become a pediatric cardiologist may start in high school, where students can benefit themselves by getting very good grades in math and science. They’ll need these and a strong grade point average to get into a good college. The college should have either several life science programs or a pre-med major. Microbiology tends to be a preferred choice when pre-med is not offered. During college, students will continue to need strong science skills as they prepare for the Medical College Admission Test (MCAT), usually taken in senior year. Good GPA and high MCAT scores are a predictor of ability to get into medical school.
In medical school, students will study for three years and take a fourth year internship prior to getting licensed as a doctor. The doctor who wants to become a pediatric cardiologist is just getting started. After internship and initial licensing, the doctor must complete three years residency training as a pediatrician. If interest to become a pediatric cardiologist continues to exist at this point, another three year training period is needed specifically in pediatric cardiology.
Some doctors also spend another year or two in subspecialties. They might become fetal echocardiographers, allowing them to diagnose fetal heart defects in utero, some learn the more invasive techniques required for transesophageal echo, and others may train in the many preventative and intervention procedures that might take place in the cath lab. This extra training takes place from the pediatric or possibly fetal perspective. One necessity for this distinction is that heart defects are one of the principal concerns of pediatric cardiologists. These are not present in adults unless they were also present in childhood, and so adult cardiology is more focused on the diseases arising in adulthood, which are rare in children.
In all, the doctor who would like to become a pediatric cardiologist will spend about eight years in education to get preliminary training. Next he’ll spend another six years to become a board certified pediatrician and then pediatric cardiologist. These years are well spent for many doctors in this field, as they are on the frontlines of treating the most common birth defects in children: congenital heart defects.