Richard Pierce, MD, is a pediatric critical care specialist. He says the best part of his job is watching healthy children walk out of the hospital smiling and clutching a toy.
“Seeing a child, who came to us critically ill, leaving the hospital and doing a lot better is a great thing,” Dr. Pierce says.
Treating critically ill children is different than treating adults, he points out. “Children may have genetic diseases that adult doctors don’t encounter frequently, and they have different organ function parameters adult doctors may not be familiar with,” Dr. Pierce says. “It takes the specialized expertise of a pediatric critical care unit to understand the parameters around vital signs, organ function, and different diseases.”
Dr. Pierce’s research focuses on how blood vessels function in critically ill children. “Blood vessels carry blood, oxygen, and glucose that are needed to maintain organ function. In critically ill children, these processes can get disrupted,” Dr. Pierce says. “I look at a phenomenon called capillary leak, where the blood vessels aren't able to retain the fluid in the vessels and it leaks out. It can cause swelling of the face, or the hands and the feet, as well as low blood pressure, or even organ failure if it's not treated.”
Dr. Pierce is an assistant professor of pediatric critical care at Yale School of Medicine.