Along with his medical degree, Dr. Pilgrim has completed a combined internal medicine and pediatrics residency followed by a pediatric chief residency at Maimonides Medical Center in Brooklyn, New York. His subsequent fellowship training in pediatric cardiology was completed at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center with the North Shore-Long Island Jewish Health System. He founded the Adult Congenital Heart Disease program in Long Island prior to coming on board at Cook Children's Medical Center in February 2014. Since his arrival, the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Cook Children's Medical Center has shown tremendous growth with over 500 adult visits every year.
Impressive indeed, but long before the tedious hours of study and hard work, Dr. Pilgrim's career path began to take shape at a very young age. His younger sister, Stephanie, was born with congenital heart disease and underwent 2 heart surgeries at 18 months and 3 years of age. Today, Stephanie is 1 of nearly 1.5 million adults living in the United States as adult survivors of congenital heart disease.
Choosing the career path for the care of adults with congenital heart disease was not without difficulty. "There was a great deal of angst in choosing my career path" Dr. Pilgrim says, chuckling. "I really wanted to be able to apply my internal medicine training to a pediatric subspecialty career path that would allow me to assist in the transition of adolescent and young adult patients to the adult medical arena. I was really drawn to the world of intensive care early on in my residency training, but I loved building long term rapport with the patients and their families in the outpatient setting as well." Toward the latter half of his residency, Dr. Pilgrim latched on to the idea of pursuing a career in adult congenital cardiology. "Congenital heart disease was fascinating to me in medical school. I was drawn to the complexity and singular nature of each defect and the associated repair. As time progressed, I learned of the growing need for ACHD specialists for a large, vulnerable population with a noted care gap. This field has proven to be the perfect fit for me."
Dr. Pilgrim explains that adults with congenital heart disease remain at risk for long-term complications including heart failure, abnormal heart rhythms, pulmonary hypertension and premature cardiovascular death. On top of that, adult onset disease such as hypertension, obesity, diabetes and acquired cardiac disease may interplay with their unique physiology. Many ACHD patients will require additional surgical or catheter based interventions or medical management, even if they had successful repairs as children.
The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Cook Children's Medical Center provides a comprehensive care center for adolescents and adults with previously confirmed or newly suspected diagnoses of congenital heart disease. Surveillance, diagnostic and interventional procedures are scheduled according to published guidelines. Additionally, the ACHD program provides women of childbearing potential with important education regarding birth control options, pre-pregnancy counseling and risk assessment. Pregnant women with congenital heart disease are followed in conjunction with the high risk maternal fetal medicine physicians, fetal cardiology and anesthesia teams with a coordinated delivery plan.
Outside of work, Dr. Pilgrim enjoys spending time with his wife, Daphnie, and 3 amazing children, Nathaniel, Gabriel and Lauren. Most of his spare time is spent traveling the Metroplex attending soccer games, gymnastics meets and baseball games. He and his wife are also active in their local church.