Published October 18, 2023
We are proud to share that Dr. Rafael Guerrero, a medical volunteer with Children’s HeartLink, has been appointed as the National Specialty Adviser for Congenital Heart Services for the National Health Service (NHS) in England.
“It’s a big role,” Dr. Guerrero said, “because you are in charge of not just one center, not just one region, but the whole country on how to develop a vision and strategy for the future. I’m very humbled that I’ve been selected.”
The NHS is the backbone of healthcare in the U.K., and Dr. Guerrero’s new role is a significant responsibility. As National Specialty Adviser, he will oversee shaping the guidelines and policy across a variety of areas to influence congenital heart disease care throughout England, with an overview of a coordinated and excellent functioning of each cardiac unit.
Dr. Guerrero, a cardiac surgeon and Clinical Director of the Congenital Heart Centre at Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, has brought his expertise to Children’s HeartLink partnerships since 2018.
“Dr. Guerrero’s appointment stands as a testament to the talent and caliber of the medical volunteers who choose to give their time and expertise to further Children’s HeartLink’s mission,” stated Jackie Boucher, Children’s HeartLink president. “These are human beings who are generously giving of their time and talent to support their peers in transforming pediatric heart care in underserved parts of the world.”
A heart surgeon with a global impact
Dr. Guerrero has demonstrated his commitment to improving congenital heart disease (CHD) care over the years. As a medical student in his home country of Peru, he co-founded the Fundación Peruana Cardioinfantil [Children’s Heart Foundation], which raised over one million dollars in two years to help hundreds of children receive lifesaving operations.
Having experienced the lack of resources for CHD care in his home country, he was attracted to the Children’s HeartLink training model because it focuses on immediate surgical intervention, sustainability and systemic change.
When asked about this, Dr. Guerrero emphasized the need for a “ripple effect,” a model that helps local healthcare systems exponentially increase the number of children who can be helped each year, with the vision that eventually they are independent from external help.
“When I was approached by Children’s HeartLink, they showed me a completely different system,” Dr. Guerrero said. “They help children get the care they need, but they also help the country to grow pediatric heart care resources, so they will not depend on medical volunteers after five to 10 years. If the country can help not 20, but 100 to 200 kids each year using their own resources, that’s a success. That’s the right way of helping!”
A noteworthy passion for innovation in healthcare technology
In recent years, in addition to his busy clinical duties and leadership roles, he created and co-founded the largest healthcare innovation center in the U.K. He became deeply involved in the development and use of healthcare innovations, particularly with 3D printing and immersive technologies. Dr. Guerrero believes that the future of CHD care lies in the intelligent application of technology, including remote access to patients, training, education, educational apps and immersive technologies like augmented and virtual reality that can put physicians in the room with peers and patients from anywhere in the world.
“Advancements in this field will have a massive impact on the quality of CHD care and rapidly multiply access to high-quality care and education, especially in underserved countries that face challenges related to infrastructure and expertise, it will help to tackle healthcare inequalities,” he shared.
As Dr. Guerrero steps into this new role, he not only personifies the philosophy and objectives of Children’s HeartLink but also holds the promise of advancing congenital heart services for all people in England and the world.
Read more about the support Dr. Guerrero and his team have provided to Children’s HeartLink partner Qingdao Women and Children’s Hospital in China.