Heart to Heart with Anna

The Art of Repairing the Heart

February 02, 2021 Gabriella Ricciardi, M.D. Season 16 Episode 292
Heart to Heart with Anna
The Art of Repairing the Heart
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Heart to Heart with Anna
The Art of Repairing the Heart
Feb 02, 2021 Season 16 Episode 292
Gabriella Ricciardi, M.D.

What kind of career field can a woman passionate about art and science enter into to satisfy both of her needs to be creative? What attracted Gabriella Ricciardi to the field of cardiothoracic surgery for tiny broken hearts? Exactly how can artistic talents be of value to a surgeon of babies with broken hearts?

Today’s show is 'The Art of Repairing the Heart' and our Guest is Gabriella Ricciardi. Gabriella Ricciardi is an artist and cardiothoracic surgeon from Torre Annunziata, Italy. She has just completed her internship as a Resident Fellow in Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at LUMC in Leiden, the Netherlands. Gabriella uses art in her work and has recently had some of her anatomical drawings accepted for publication in the "World Journal for Paediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery." Today, she will be talking with us about the relationship between art and science, and how her drawings help her in the fascinating and complicated world of pediatric cardiac surgery.

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Show Notes Transcript

What kind of career field can a woman passionate about art and science enter into to satisfy both of her needs to be creative? What attracted Gabriella Ricciardi to the field of cardiothoracic surgery for tiny broken hearts? Exactly how can artistic talents be of value to a surgeon of babies with broken hearts?

Today’s show is 'The Art of Repairing the Heart' and our Guest is Gabriella Ricciardi. Gabriella Ricciardi is an artist and cardiothoracic surgeon from Torre Annunziata, Italy. She has just completed her internship as a Resident Fellow in Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at LUMC in Leiden, the Netherlands. Gabriella uses art in her work and has recently had some of her anatomical drawings accepted for publication in the "World Journal for Paediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery." Today, she will be talking with us about the relationship between art and science, and how her drawings help her in the fascinating and complicated world of pediatric cardiac surgery.

Anna Buzzsprout Affiliate Link: https://www.buzzsprout.com/?referrer_id=16817

Links to 'Heart to Heart with Anna' Social Media and Podcast Pages:

Apple Podcasts: https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/heart-to-heart-with-anna/id1132261435?mt=2

MeWe: https://mewe.com/i/annajaworski
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/HearttoHeartwithAnna/
Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hearttoheartwithanna/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/AnnaJaworski
YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCGPKwIU5M_YOxvtWepFR5Zw

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/hearttoheartwithanna/ 

Website: https://www.hug-podcastnetwork.com/

If you enjoy this program and would like to be a Patron, please check out our Patreon page: https://www.patreon.com/HeartToHeart

Support the show (https://www.patreon.com/HearttoHeart)

The Art of Repairing the Heart

Tue, 2/2 10:30AM • 22:33

SUMMARY KEYWORDS

drawings, heart, surgery, congenital heart defect, CHD, surgeon, draw, passion, congenital heart disease, surgical, med school, art, congenital heart, patients, pediatric cardiac surgeon


Gabriella Ricciardi.  00:00

When I had the opportunity to enter the operating room and watch a congenital heart operation, it was literally love at first sight.


Anna Jaworski  00:14

Welcome to "Heart to Heart with Anna." I am Anna Jaworski and the host of your program. Today's show is 'The Art of Repairing the Heart' and our guest is Gabriella Ricciardi. We'll start today's program by learning a bit about Gabriella and her lifelong love of art. In the second segment, we'll talk about how Gabriella became a pediatric cardiac surgeon. And in the final segment, we'll talk about how Gabrielle's artistic talents inform her surgical practice. Gabriela Ricciardi is an artist and cardiothoracic surgeon from Pompei, Italy, she is currently completing her internship as a resident fellow in pediatric cardiac surgery at Leiden University Medical Center. Gabriela uses art in her work and has recently had some of her anatomical drawings accepted for publication in the world journal for pediatric and congenital heart surgery. Today, she'll be talking with us about the relationship between art and science and how her drawings help her in the fascinating and complicated world of pediatric cardiac surgery. Welcome to heart to heart with Anna Gabriella.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  01:19

Hi, Anna. I'm really happy to be here with you today. Thanks for the invitation.


Anna Jaworski  01:26

Well, I am excited to have you here today too, for a number of reasons. For one, you and I have started to get to know each other on LinkedIn. But we haven't had a chance to have a conversation like this. But also you are going to be my first guest in a totally Italian show. And I'm so excited about that as well.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  01:46

I'm excited too!


Anna Jaworski  01:48

Well, let's get started in English. Since my Italian is not good enough to do the interview in Italian, and we'll let Nina do the Italian show. I don't have many guests from Italy, Gabriela. Can you tell us what life was like growing up and when you started expressing yourself through art?


Gabriella Ricciardi.  02:06

Well, of course, my personal story with that is quite funny. When I was at primary school, I was often sick, and therefore most of the time home. And I love to spend my time watching Disney's animated movies. So I decided to spend better those hours trying to draw Disney characters for my friends and my family. Then when I entered the med school instead, I thought drawing could have helped me to learn, especially when I was dealing with the complicated anatomy. 


Anna Jaworski  02:41

Mm hmm. Absolutely. When my son's surgeon was trying to explain to me what was wrong with my son's heart, he took a piece of chalk and went up to a blackboard, and drew what a normal heart looks like. And then he drew my son's heart. And honestly Gabriella, I wanted to run out of that room and just pick my baby up and hold on to him. Because I didn't see how in the world he could be alive when his heart had so many problems with it.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  03:09

Yeah, I can't imagine. And sometimes I try to do the same with patients. So just to explain how is the defect of their heart or how the surgery is going to be like I take a paper a pen and try to make a very simple drawing, but it helps a lot.


Anna Jaworski  03:27

Oh, absolutely. Yeah, I have seen so many of your beautiful examples of the hearts that you have drawn online. I'm so happy that you're able to share them through LinkedIn. It sounds like drawing has been a lifelong passion for you, hasn't it?


Gabriella Ricciardi.  03:44

Yeah, of course. And as you heard, just one minute ago, I started to make drawings very soon. So I can say that it's not only a lifelong passion but a true love story.


Anna Jaworski  03:58

Absolutely. I love that. I love how you've been able to combine your passion for art. With science. That's fairly unusual. I can't imagine there are a whole lot of doctors out there who have such a passion for art.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  04:15

Well, for me drawing, it's more a need. I need to draw to get close to congenital procedures to surgery to anatomy and to get deeply into what I'm studying. So it's really, really not only a passion but a need for me.


Anna Jaworski  04:34

Yeah, I can see where being able to draw it helps you to conceptualize what it is that you're going to be working with.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  04:42

Yeah, indeed. And for me, it's really important to draw, especially when I have to learn about complex defects of the heart because sometimes you can easily get confused about the anatomy and about related surgical procedures. So when I conceptualized everything with drawings, I can clearly have the idea in my mind of what's the matter and how to solve it.


Anna Jaworski  05:08

But that takes me to my next question, which is why you decided to work with hearts. What inspired you to become a cardiothoracic surgeon? 


Gabriella Ricciardi.  05:19

Yes, so to be honest, during the last year of med school, I was very confused about the next direction of my career. But when I had the opportunity to enter the operating room and watch a congenital heart operation, it was literally love at first sight. Then I thought that fixing tiny broken hearts was the most exciting thing I had ever seen. I have this feeling, to be honest, every time I scrub once in OR I think that there's no place I'd rather be.


Baby Hearts Press  05:51

Anna Jaworski has written several books to empower the congenital heart defect or CHD community. These books can be found at amazon.com or at her website, www.babyheartspress.com. Her best seller is "The Heart of a Mother: an Anthology of Stories Written by Women for Women in the CHD Community." Anna's other books "My Brother Needs an Operation," "The Heart of a Father," and "Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome: A Handbook for Parents" will help you understand that you are not alone. Visit BabyHeartsPress.com to find out more.


Disclaimer  06:29

This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. The opinions expressed in a podcast are not those of Hearts Unite the Globe, but of the hosts and guests and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to congenital heart disease or bereavement.


Rejoiner  06:50

You're listening to "Heart to Heart with Anna." If you have a question or comment that you would like addressed on our show, please send an email to Anna Jaworski at [email protected] That's [email protected] Now, back to "Heart to Heart with Anna."


Anna Jaworski  07:10

Gabriella, let's start this segment by talking some more about your education in your career. So you said that there's no place you'd rather be than in the operating room fixing tiny broken hearts. But can you tell me a little bit more about the education that you received? Because before we started this show, we were actually talking about some of the different places where you have received your education. And it's just fascinating.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  07:36

Yeah, so this story is also quite funny because I started the med school in Naples. And then when I finished med school, I moved to Milan to start a cardiac surgery program, but just with all the patients, and just the last year, I moved to Netherlands to do a fellowship in pediatric cardiac surgery. But now I moved again. So I'm the girl with the carry-on, always in her hand. And I moved again to France I'm going to start a new program here. And I know that cardiac surgery is going to be a very long journey, but I'm trying to enjoy the ride, even when it gets really, really hard.


Anna Jaworski  08:22

And right now, it's 2020. Everything is harder right now because of COVID. Has it been difficult for you to go from one country to another like what you've been doing?


Gabriella Ricciardi.  08:33

Yeah, indeed, it's difficult because now traveling is not as easy as it was before. So you have to send a lot of documents. And of course, you are also a little bit scared that you can get sick because of the virus. But I'm trying to manage the situation as well as I can. And I'm trying to help also with the pandemic, if I could, maybe in the next future.


Anna Jaworski  09:01

Right. I think all of us are just struggling and getting along as best we can. Because there are still so many uncertainties with this virus. But I imagine for you, it's even more of a challenge because how would the virus affect your patients?


Gabriella Ricciardi.  09:18

Yeah, of course, we are scared for all the patients even because they are more fragile after surgery. So we are very strict, not only here, but actually, in all the hospital I was before during the pandemic. The rules are very strict, how to care about patients to be sure that they are not secret COVID. So it's like you have more things to think about when you're taking care of a patient and that's a little bit harder for all the doctors.


Anna Jaworski  09:49

Oh, absolutely. So you said that when you first started you were working with adults and then you decided to start working with pediatric patients. Can you tell me what changed your mind about wanting to work with children, because it's not just working with a small adult working with children is completely different?


Gabriella Ricciardi.  10:08

 Yeah, but actually, it's quite difficult for me to reply this question because I didn't think too much about it. I somehow just fell in love with congenital cardiac surgery, as I said, and somehow it was then easy to follow my passion. So I didn't have a very strict decision. I just followed my passion and my heart. In this case, it's I think it's appropriate to say it like this. 


Anna Jaworski  10:34

Oh, yeah, I love that. That is awesome. So as a physician, working with CHD, or congenital heart disease, what are some of the most impactful things you've learned over the years?


Gabriella Ricciardi.  10:47

I'm used to say that this "men-cubs" as I call them, hold resilience and an impressive bond with life, and that the opportunity to redefine the anatomy and physiology of their hearts with surgery, it's a gift or maybe kind of a superpower. It's like making the caterpillar become a beautiful yet fragile butterfly. So they thought me magic, the faith to believe it's possible to do the impossible. And sometimes it's kind of fun too, just to go back to all these now, this is a revised version of one of his most famous quotes.


Anna Jaworski  11:28

I love that that's so true. I know that when the surgeon drew the normal heart, on the blackboard, and then he drew his rendition of my son's heart, I became so terrified because I didn't know how he had stayed alive as long as he had with his heart having holes. And some areas were kinked, where they weren't supposed to be kinked. And he had hypoplastic left ventricle. And the surgeon said it didn't really function. And I really didn't know how in the world, they could do anything to save him. So you're right. It does seem magical.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  12:12

Yeah, it seems magical, because these hearts, somehow always find a way to work. So that's really impressive for me, and that's special about congenital hearts.


Anna Jaworski  12:26

Yeah, I think it is, too. I think the more that I have been in this community, and this is a little embarrassing, but I've been part of the congenital heart defect community almost as long as you've been alive, Gabriela, my son is 26. Yes, yes. So my son is 26. And so I have been living with congenital heart disease as a topic of interest for me for 26 years. And I have seen this field change so much over the last 26 years. What's really amazing is what you just said, because it seems like the more technology is improving, the more we are learning about the heart, the more magical the surgeries become. Now we're talking about, I don't like to say cloning, but yeah, we're still talking about being able to clone heart valves. There's even hopes that maybe someday they may be able to clone a heart so we don't have to use anything artificial or a donor heart from a different person. But we could use a person's own cells to create a heart so they don't have to worry about those anti-rejection drugs. All of that does seem so magical, which is exactly what you were talking about with Disney. 


Gabriella Ricciardi.  13:45

Yeah, I think that as a mother of a son with congenital heart defect, you can feel the same magic as the surgeon do.


Anna Jaworski  13:53

Absolutely.


HUG Info  13:54

"Heart to Heart with Anna" is a presentation of Hearts Unite the Globe. And as part of the hug Podcast Network. Hearts Unite the Globe is a nonprofit organization devoted to providing resources to the congenital heart defect community to uplift, empower, and enrich the lives of our community members. If you would like access to free resources pertaining to the CHD community, please visit our website at www.congenitalheartdefects.com for information about CHD, the hospitals that treat children with CHD, summer camps for CHD survivors, and much, much more.


HomeTonightForever  14:33

Home Tonight Forever, by The Baby Blues Sound Collective. I think what I love so much about this CD is that some of the songs were inspired by the patients. Many listeners will understand many of the different songs and what they've been inspired Our new album will be available on iTunes amazon.com, Spotify.I love the fact that the proceeds from this CD are actually going to help those with congenital heart defects. Enjoy the music. Home tonight forever.


Anna Jaworski  15:17

Gabriella, I think that as an artist, you probably see the world a little differently than people who aren't blessed with the same artistic talent you have. How has your facility with art helped you as you've studied to become a doctor?


Gabriella Ricciardi.  15:31

Well, I started to make drawings as a gift to my family and closest friends. But it became day by day a tool to help me learn anatomy and surgery, as I said, especially in case of complex congenital heart defects, and the related palliative or complete repair operation. For this reason, I love to share my drawings, since I believe that a picture can speak more than 1000 words sometimes and even more when it comes to medical and surgical words.


Anna Jaworski  16:04

Yeah, absolutely. I watched my husband, he went through graduate school after we got married. And I watched him as he was studying. I always had to giggle because when I would look at his notes, he had all these drawings in the margins of his notes do you draw when you would be listening to lectures as well?


Gabriella Ricciardi.  16:26

Of course, of course, to remember everything because if I don't write it down or draw it, I'm going to forget it in two or three minutes, probably.


Anna Jaworski  16:38

Absolutely. It's amazing how that reflex of just using your hand to make the drawing how that can kind of help you to remember, it's another technique just like music can help us to remember things just like even certain things, the way they taste or the way they smell that can also help us with memory. 


Gabriella Ricciardi.  17:00

Indeed, and for me, drawing with some music as a soundtrack is the best combination to learn.


Anna Jaworski  17:07

Oh, well, that's good to know. So auditory, and tactile for you is a good way to learn.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  17:13

Yeah, indeed.


Anna Jaworski  17:15

That's awesome. Well, it always helps to know what modalities work best for you. And I think that helps to make you an even better student for you. You're in school for so many years. It's just remarkable to me that you've been able to combine your passion for both science and for art in a way that you have.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  17:37

Well, I think that doctors can't stop learning never. So they have to be passionate about studying for all their entire career. So that's very important to keep passion and to keep studying.


Anna Jaworski  17:53

Right? I agree with you 100%, especially as we are seeing medical technology grow and blossom and change so much, you have to be a lifelong learner.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  18:04

 Yeah, it seems that you will never be able to learn enough.


Anna Jaworski  18:09

Oh, absolutely. One of the things that I just was lucky enough to take part in was a conference about 3d and 4d images of the heart. And that, to me is fascinating. That wasn't even really conceived of 26 years ago when my son was a baby. And now look, they're able to take a 3d printer and fashion a little itty bitty heart.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  18:34

Yeah. Awesome. And 3d models are really, really important to plan the surgical strategy in complex defects. So I was lucky to see some of these models, which were used to arrange the surgical strategy for some children we cared about in Leiden, and it was really cool, like taking a step into the future.


Anna Jaworski  18:59

Yeah, absolutely. That's great that you've already had a chance to use some of those models. But let's talk about what you've been doing to help people and that is these diagrams of the heart that you have been making that are going to be published in professional journals. Tell me how that got started.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  19:21

Well, I just shared my passion for drawings with my senior colleagues. So we decided to try to use these drawings to publish some articles in journals. And so it started as a very confidential conversation, but then the trials went fine. So that was the plan.


Anna Jaworski  19:44

Now, are you hoping to do more of that in the future? Well, I hope to do more of that. And if I can honestly share my dreams about this. My hope is to have the possibility to publish a book or an atlas collecting all my anatomical and surgical drawings. So we'll see, fingers crossed, and stay tuned. Well, I just absolutely love everything that I've seen that you've done. It really looks like a piece of art Gabriella, it's so beautiful.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  20:18

Thank you very much for this.


Anna Jaworski  20:20

There may be some other artists who are actually listening to our program right now who are also interested in medicine, what advice would you have for people who are interested in becoming a doctor, but who have a passion for art too.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  20:34

I don't have a special recommendation, just to short and effective advice, follow your passion. So the rest and best is yet to come.


Anna Jaworski  20:48

I love that. And I know that's true for you. I'm going to be seeing and hearing your name in the future, I'm sure even more because you have such a passion for what you do. And when people are passionate about what they do, it comes out and other people appreciate it so much more than if it's just a chore or just a job.


Gabriella Ricciardi.  21:09

Thank you very much. I will try to keep my passion as it is right now. And I hope I can do great things, but just to help these tiny broken hearts, that's my dream.


Anna Jaworski  21:21

I love it. Thank you so much for coming on the program today and sharing all of this with us Gabriella


Gabriella Ricciardi.  21:27

I really enjoyed this conversation with you today. And I hope the audience will enjoy it as well. 


Anna Jaworski  21:33

Oh, I know they will. I know they will. This is so much fun. And for those of you who speak Italian look in our directory for this same program in Italian. But that does conclude this episode of "Heart to Heart with Anna." Thanks for listening today my friends. We'll be posting a new show next week on Tuesday at noon Eastern time. Until then, please leave a review of our program on whatever platform you use to listen to the program so that others who are searching for information about congenital heart disease, know where to find us. And remember my friends, you are not alone.


Conclusion  22:07

Thank you again for joining us this week. We hope you have been inspired and empowered to become an advocate for the congenital heart defect community. "Heart to Heart with Anna" with your host Anna Jaworski can be heard every Tuesday at 12 noon, Eastern Time.