March 5, 2014
Andrea Amalfitano is an Osteopathic Heritage Foundation endowed professor of pediatrics, microbiology and molecular genetics in the College of Osteopathic Medicine.
There are a lot of things I see that haven’t even been written in the books yet. That’s why I get called in to look at the big picture.
Recently, for example, I was at Sparrow Hospital in their newborn intensive care services. There was a child there facing unidentified health complications, and a number of specialists got involved. There was a cardiology specialist, a kidney specialist, an infectious disease specialist….so I sort of come in and put it all together.
You can’t really have a number of health complications—this, that and the other thing—all because they are random and unrelated. There’s almost assuredly a point of connection, but right now the child could have 10 or 15 different conditions. The next step is to scan the child’s genome for abnormalities.
I talked to the newborn’s parents and explained to them how the genome is like a set of encyclopedias. The ninth page in chapter 18 of volume 21 might have the set of instructions on how to make a toe, for example. I’m directing the lab to read through a few pages that could be the source of the problem.
That’s the nature of medicine. A lot of people think it’s pretty cut and dry, but there’s an art in diagnosing. I will wait for the lab results to draw conclusions, but if the condition is something I haven’t seen it would have to be really darn rare.
I answered the parents’ questions to the best of my ability before I headed back to campus. I’m always grateful for the time I have interacting with patients or involved parties. It reminds me how lucky I am to be doing what I do.
Photo by Kurt Stepnitz
Learn more about Amalfitano by watching his Spartan Saga .