Stacey Drant, MD , joins Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) as an attending cardiologist. She joins the Cardiac Center along with her husband Vivek Allada, MD. Dr. Drant comes to CHOP from the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, where she was the Medical Director of the Echocardiography Laboratory. In addition to continuing her practice in general cardiology and imaging at CHOP, Dr. Drant will bring her expertise in connective tissue disorders to the Cardiac Center through the development and leadership of a multidisciplinary program in this unique field.
Although she’s hard at work developing a connective tissue disorders program, Dr. Drant took a few minutes to talk about her hopes for the new clinic, the importance of patient input and her focus on whole-body health.
Q. Can you describe the program you’re developing?
A. We’re discovering that many patients with aortic aneurysms fall into the category of connective tissue disorders, including inherited disorders such as Marfan, Loeys-Dietz and Ehlers-Danlos syndromes. It can also include patients with Turner syndrome, bicuspid aortic valve and even non-syndrome aortopathies. Patients can have a genetic predisposition to developing an aortic aneurysm that doesn’t come to medical attention until a problem arises. Often times, multiple people in the family will have aortic aneurysms. In collaboration with the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania (HUP), I’m developing a program that literally “crosses the street,” providing both pediatric and adult care for those with connective tissue disorders. So many aspects of my career have been leading up to this — it’s my dream job. I hope to make it a really strong and successful program.
One of my hopes for the program is to get involved with the Marfan Syndrome Foundation, which has a huge patient and physician following. Because CHOP has been designated as a Marfan Center and has a long history of excellence of caring for patients with Marfan syndrome, I want to get the connective tissue disorders program active and engaged with the foundation. The Marfan Syndrome Foundation has patients on their board, and these patients bring an important perspective and powerful ideas about how things should be done. As physicians, we don’t always see things through the same lens as our patients. Patient involvement could inform the development of my clinic and the way we run things.
Q. What are your other clinical interests?
A. In addition to creating a family-centered program, I’m board certified in lifestyle medicine, which I refer to as “all the things they didn’t teach us in medical school.” This includes the importance of sleep, exercise, proper nutrition, mindfulness, social connection, and the ways that these areas affect our health. There is a ton of data on how these things benefit adults with coronary heart disease, and a fair amount of data on how they benefit vascular health. Patients with aortic health concerns are similar to those with coronary heart disease. We don’t know, however, how much lifestyle medicine influences people with inherited aortic health issues. Even if improving lifestyle doesn’t prevent the need for intervention, it at least creates a healthy surgical candidate who will do better in surgery and recover more quickly. I hope to make lifestyle medicine an integral part of the connective tissue disorder clinic and continue to research its impact on vascular health. In addition to focusing on the health of my patients’ blood vessels, I also want to focus on their health as individuals. I think this is what will differentiate my program from others like it.
Q. Who are your role models?
A. Thankfully, I have quite a few role models. I was incredibly lucky to have two exceptional female role models when I was at UCLA [prior to Children’s Hospital of Pittsburg]. One of them is Roberta Williams, MD, a pediatric cardiologist who helped develop the field of echocardiography. She was the Chief of Pediatric Cardiology at UCLA during my training, and she was instrumental to me going into cardiology. At 81 years old, she just had her knee replaced and is still working! My other role model is Josephine Isabel-Jones, MD, a pediatric cardiologist from the South who is also in her 80s. As a Black woman in a male-dominated field, she has always been a great example of how to do things with grace, without getting frustrated or angry.
Q. What are your hobbies?
A. I love spending time with my family. My husband and I like to cycle, and I’m obsessed with my Peloton bike®. I also recently took up yoga. I practice what I preach in terms of lifestyle medicine. Three years ago, I adopted a plant-based diet. I love to cook, and I get to explore all the plant-based options in my own kitchen.
Q. What do you like most about working with children?
A. When I worked at UCLA, our cardiac intensive care unit had adults and children next to each other. I was always so impressed by the way kids would rebound after surgery. They just keep moving — it’s what kids do, and it’s so inspiring. I hope that if I have to go through a major procedure, I’m able to go through it with the same grace and happiness that I see in kids. Plus, they’re cute.