Patrick Gallagher, MD, is a pediatrician and geneticist who specializes in neonatal and perinatal medicine. He treats premature infants suffering from early-birth complications and inherited blood disorders like anemia (low levels of red blood cells or hemoglobin). Dr. Gallagher also sees babies with congenital birth defects that affect the heart, lungs, brain, and gastrointestinal tract. In many cases, he relies on genetic analysis to uncover the exact cause of health problems for his patients, whose fragile bodies need immediate and targeted care.
“I like the wide variety of diagnoses in neonatal and perinatal medicine and being able to take care of critically ill patients,” Dr. Gallagher says.
Dr. Gallagher also pays careful attention to his patients’ parents, who often need reassurance and care under such stressful circumstances. “I pride myself on being family-oriented in the neonatal intensive care unit [NICU],” he says. “When I’m with a patient, I’m always aware of what the parents might be thinking and feeling.”
Compassion piqued Dr. Gallagher’s initial interest in medicine. As an undergraduate, he immersed himself in the medical field out of necessity. “I had to work my way through college and hospital jobs paid better than most,” he says. Dr. Gallagher at times served as a hospital orderly in the emergency department, lab technician, and phlebotomist (a person who draws blood). “I saw nurses and doctors making a difference in the lives of patients who came in,” he says. “Once you see that—there’s no going back.”
Genetics play a major role in Dr. Gallagher’s research and treatment of patients. As one example, Dr. Gallagher and colleagues discovered a gene responsible for hereditary spherocytosis—a rare inherited form of anemia. This finding crucially updates commercially available diagnostic genetic testing, which means more people will be screened, and correctly diagnosed, for a rare and curable disease.
Dr. Gallagher is professor of pediatrics, and of genetics and of pathology at Yale School of Medicine. He also directs the Yale Center for Blood Disorders.