Story by: David Steen Martin on December 17, 2021
Andrea Lambert, M.D., decided to specialize in heart failure and heart transplant care after an especially challenging case during her cardiology training.
The patient appeared to be out of options, but after a collaboration between different medical specialists, she underwent a new heart procedure that saved her life.
“There’s something really exciting about being able to help people in that situation,” said Dr. Lambert, a pediatric cardiologist at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the UofL School of Medicine.
Dr. Lambert works in the Norton Children’s Heart Institute Fontan Clinic, a new multidisciplinary clinic caring for children born with only one pumping chamber in their hearts. Its name comes from the Fontan procedure, an open heart surgery these children typically receive between ages 3 and 5.
Like the case that inspired Dr. Lambert, the Fontan Clinic relies on a range of specialists working together for each patient. As a result, children in the clinic receive care from multiple specialists close to home. The children and their families also have the convenience of seeing providers from cardiology and other specialties in a single visit.
In addition to working in the Fontan Clinic, Dr. Lambert cares for heart transplant patients, both before and after their transplants, and patients with heart failure. These can be children born with a congenital defect or who developed heart failure later in life.
“My goal is to help my patients get through one of the most challenging periods of their lives and achieve whatever goals they set for themselves or whatever goal their family has for them,” she said.
Dr. Lambert grew up in Canby, Oregon, a small town in a rural part of the state. Her mother was a veterinarian and would tell her stories about the animals she treated. The future Dr. Lambert was interested in science, but instead of following in her mother’s footsteps and caring for animals, she wanted to become a medical doctor.
“I was more interested in people,” Dr. Lambert said.
After attending the University of Portland, in Oregon, Dr. Lambert went to medical school at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, Missouri. She completed her pediatric cardiology training and advanced heart fellowship and transplant fellowship at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine in Nashville, Tennessee.
Children and adults who had Fontan surgery as a baby need special care addressing effects of single-ventricle circulation on other parts of the body.
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Dr. Lambert started at Norton Children’s Heart Institute in August 2021. Her husband, Andrew Wiltz, works in finance.
“I love this part of the country. Louisville was a great next step,” Dr. Lambert said. “One of the reasons we landed in Kentucky is we have two horses, Indy and Vinny. It seems like the perfect place to bring the horses and be with a lot of other horse lovers.”
Growing up, Dr. Lambert recalls the Clackamas County Fair was the big event every summer. she competed in the barrel racing in her hometown and traveled throughout the state for barrel racing competitions, going for the fastest time in a cloverleaf pattern around three barrels.
Dr. Lambert said she hopes to keep competing in the sport in Kentucky.
At work, Dr. Lambert is always trying to help children with potentially life-limiting illnesses and give them back years on their lives or cure them outright.
She said: “Who knows what that child might go on to do?”