A Rare Expertise at Riley:
Meet Dr. Geddes
Dr. Elle Geddes brings a rare expertise to Riley Children’s Health. She is one of only two geneticists in the state of Indiana who is dedicated to cardiovascular genetics. She was drawn to Riley Children’s because of the opportunity to collaborate with Dr. Stephanie Ware, the other cardiovascular geneticist who became her mentor. Together, they strive to improve outcomes not only for heart patients at Riley, but for kids with congenital heart disease all over the world.
Dr. Geddes was born with a small heart defect that closed on its own, and her earliest medical memory is of her pediatric cardiologist. During her pediatric residency, she began working on standardizing genetic testing for patients with congenital heart disease, and she has continued her work here at Riley. Looking back at her journey to cardiovascular genetics, she feels like her patients chose and guided her. “Heart centers have such great teamwork and multidisciplinary culture,” she said. “It is the most common birth defect, so doing work in that population can impact a lot of kids.”
Dr. Geddes is particularly interested in how genetics affects surgical outcomes in congenital heart disease. She recalled a recent case where a patient required bypass surgery, which causes a strong inflammatory response. Genetic testing showed that the patient had a change in how the body processes inflammatory markers. Armed with this information, the Critical Care team was able to prescribe a preventative medication ahead of the procedure. The patient’s inflammation levels still increased, but thanks to the medication he avoided any additional medical intervention. “To my knowledge, that’s the first time in the world anyone has done anything like that,” Dr. Geddes shared.
Dr. Geddes was recently recognized as part of Indiana Business Journal’s Forty Under 40 class of 2023. Her hope is to use the platform to teach a broader audience about the importance of cardiovascular genetics. “I’m willing to do anything that might help advocate for our kids,” she says. Education is also key for families. As a geneticist, Dr. Geddes finds that anxious parents are more likely to believe her when she explains that congenital heart disease is rooted in genetics and not caused by anything they might have done during pregnancy or caused.
She wants the donors supporting her work to understand the scope of their impact. “The number one cause of death for infants in the U.S. is congenital heart disease. We’re not just trying to find answers as to why – we’re advocating for ways to be innovative in helping kids do better, in a way that we’re only able to uniquely do here at Riley,” she said. “We have opportunities to move the whole field forward, particularly in improving outcomes.”