April 01, 2012

John Charpie, MD, PhD: Kidney donor, family man

John Charpie, MD, PhD
What do you do at UMHS?

I’m a pediatric cardiologist and Director of the Division of Pediatric Cardiology in the Department of Pediatrics & Communicable Diseases. I’m also Co-Director of the U-M Congenital Heart Center (MCHC), one of the largest and best pediatric heart programs in the U.S. My clinical specialty is pediatric cardiac intensive care, and my research focuses on myocardial ischemia-reperfusion injury and outcomes following congenital heart surgery in children.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

My colleagues, our patients and their families. We emphasize a multi-disciplinary, collaborative approach to patient- and family-centered care. This translates to personal relationships among faculty, staff and trainees that help make MCHC an incredibly unique and special place. Despite the rigors of our jobs, we truly enjoy the positive atmosphere in our program, and our patients and families benefit from this collaborative spirit. 

When you’re not working, what do you do?

Spend time with my wife, Kathy, our children Gerald, Jacob, Ian and Christine, and our friends and family (in Mich. and Mass.). We enjoy exercising, playing golf and tennis, traveling together, and sharing stories and laughter over dinner.

What accomplishments are you most proud of?

I’m most proud professionally of my promotion to professor and my appointment as Division Director of Pediatric Cardiology. These were special not only because they were career goals, but also because I shared them with family, particularly my parents who were unwavering supporters of my education and professional development. I’m most proud personally of my accomplishments as a father and a husband. My children and wife are my foundation and they mean everything to me. 

What was the best meal you’ve ever had?

My wife and I enjoy great food and wine and have experienced many wonderful meals together. Perhaps the best meal we’ve ever had was a nine-course tasting menu at Chef & Owner Thomas Keller’s restaurant The French Laundry (Yountville, Calif.) on our honeymoon in Napa Valley.

If you were stuck in the hospital for 3 months, who would you choose as a roommate?

There is no doubt I would choose my wife. Not only is she the love of my life and best friend, but she is also an outstanding peds cardiac ICU nurse, so together we would make an invincible team. Although she only works part-time in the hospital (and full-time raising our kids and maintaining our household!), we look forward to our opportunities to work together in the PCTU.

What’s the most thrilling or adventurous thing you’ve ever done?

When I was 18 years old, I donated a kidney to one of my brothers who had suddenly developed acute renal failure requiring hemodialysis. The decision was easy because family means everything to me. However, transplant surgery and immunosuppression weren’t nearly as developed in 1981 as they are now, so it wasn’t a slam-dunk that this would work. I’m happy to say that 30 years and 4 kids later, my brother is still doing great!