Dr. Wayne Franklin

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Photography by Carrie Evans

Prize M.D. Recruit

In Dr. Wayne Franklin’s office – below photos of his wife and sons, and busts of Beethoven and Mozart – is an award from the Aspen Institute, unmounted because the frame cracked while he was moving to the Valley last fall to take over as co-director of the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Heart Center. The award features a word cloud of terms people use to describe him, with dominant traits in larger font. Running down the center are “charismatic” and “Mr. President.” It is easy to get swept up in Franklin’s energy, vision and warmth. The cardiologist enthuses about his goals for PCH: “We are, according to U.S. News & World Report, the No. 9 [pediatric] heart program in the country. There are eight programs above us that I want to leapfrog.” You find yourself thinking, “Yes, we can.” The Fulbright & Jaworski award-winner knows how to be No. 1 – he came from Texas Children’s Hospital, where he founded the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program, a groundbreaking model he plans to emulate here.

What motivated you to become a doctor?
My dad was a neonatologist. I would go with him to his work, and I remember seeing that these are the smallest of the small patients, but he would get really big results. And I was like, “Boy, that’s really neat to have a job where you actually make a difference.” When I went to college at Williams College, I thought about going into law or astronomy. But I kept coming back to medicine because I love science and you get to help people.

Why care for adults at a children’s hospital?
What I saw was lacking [at other hospitals] was when children with congenital heart disease would grow up, there was no place for them to go. You either have adults on a pediatric floor or you have these patients on the adult floor that nobody understood their complicated anatomy and physiology. So there was a disconnect between the two.

What are the challenges of implementing an adult program?
Some patients don’t know why they’re coming to a children’s hospital. They see the Disney characters and the little chairs they don’t really fit in. But if they can get past the facade and [ask], “Where is the excellent care being done by people who know your disease and your anatomy and how to treat you?” That’s clearly being done here. It’s our job to harness those patients, to let them know, “We can take care of you your whole life, and we can do it the best.”

What are some innovations you want to bring to PCH?
We now have an amazing time to use technology, either wearable technology or phone-based mobile technology, to provide us information on patients when they’re at home, which is where the majority of their life is spent. So we can tell if you’re getting fluid overload or is your infection coming back, or are you taking your pills, or is the dose too high or too low. The landscape in Phoenix is ripe for that because we have some really brilliant, industrious people who would love to get involved with tech and medical wearable devices.

Tell us about your family.
My family is what keeps me going and what keeps me up at night. My wonderful wife, Rachel – we’ve been married over 14 years. She was the news anchor at the No. 1 morning show in Houston. We have two wonderful but rowdy boys, ages 10 and 7. We’re sort of that family that tries to do it all and squeeze it in.

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