Physician's Spotlight: Dr. Albert Gutierrez

by Lisa Hanchey

Physician's Spotlight: Dr. Albert Gutierrez
His love of children made pediatric cardiology a perfect fit for physician Albert Gutierrez. The Miami native's childhood doctor, Augustin Castellanos, was a Nobel Prize nominee and one of the pioneers in the field of pediatric cardiology. Perhaps subliminally, Dr. Castellanos inspired his young patient to choose this highly specialized field, which balances delicate diagnostic testing with a gentle bedside manner.

The Spanish-fluent Gutierrez attended medical school in the Dominican Republic. Friends coaxed him from the warm tropics to the frigid north, where he completed his internship, residency and pediatric fellowship at Mount Sinai Medical School in New York City. He was then recruited back to the south by the Oschner Clinic in New Orleans.

During his three years with Oschner, Gutierrez practiced at its clinics in Lafayette, Lake Charles, Alexandria and Houma/Thibodeaux. After cardiac surgeon John Oschner's retirement, neonatologists Jim Adams and Cong Vo lured Guiterrez to practice at Women and Children's Hospital. "Of all the places I visited throughout the state, Lafayette was the only area that I would ever consider to relocate and establish roots," he says. "The people out here are just wonderful, and it's a good environment for family and to raise children. And the warm-heartedness and kindness of the people here is just amazing." Laughing, he adds, "I'm from Acadiana now; I'm a Cajun."

The pediatric cardiologist has been in solo practice since 1998. He is a pediatric cardiology interventionalist by training, meaning that he administers care primarily in the catheterization laboratory. After obtaining the necessary diagnostic information, he sends his tiny patients to Tulane for surgery. "We take care of the patient from start to finish," he explains. "When the family and the patient come back post-operatively, then we provide the care that they need then, too."

Gutierrez says that his specialty presents many challenges, since 70 percent of his patients have birth defects. Many of these severe conditions require numerous surgeries and catheter-based procedures. This lengthy treatment process has a bonus — building long-term relationships. "I develop extremely close relationships with my patients," he says. "It's very rewarding to see them grow up and actually see the children survive and realize their full potential."

Besides his practice, Guiterrez stays involved academically with Tulane and LSU medical schools. He recently had the honor of being promoted to associate clinical professor of pediatrics at Tulane. He teaches there occasionally, and consults with colleagues by phone frequently. "A lot of my patients with birth defects need to be taken care of surgically in New Orleans," he explains. "So, there's a lot of communication as far as for patient care as to what the plans are, what procedures need to be done ahead of time, how we are going to coordinate the surgery and the procedures, and how to alleviate the anxiety for the families."

When Gutierrez speaks of his own family, you can hear the pride in his voice. His oldest daughter, Marithe, age 15, speaks three languages and is gifted in science. Middle daughter Elleny, age 12, has passions for karate and fencing. Eight-year-old Audrey is an aspiring ballerina.

Gutierrez credits his wife, Maria, who was his junior high school sweetheart, with raising his accomplished daughters. He describes them as "very good students and overachievers." Cuban native Maria also attended medical school with her husband, but is not currently practicing. "She has a full time job with our children," he says.

In his scarce free time, Gutierrez and his family enjoy traveling to New Orleans, Houston and abroad. His hobbies include collecting art, reading and fitness. He has recently taken up running, and is currently training for the Miami marathon in January.

Back to his practice, Guiterrez says that "I enjoy what I do. And providing the service for the children, I think that's the most rewarding aspect."