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Meet Dr. DeCampli and Dr. Nykanen, Co-Directors of The Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital

February 06, 2018

Dr. DeCampli, pediatric cardiac surgeon, and Dr. Nykanen, pediatric cardiologist at The Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital, are best known for their skill and precision in the operating room, as well as their dedication to the care of kids battling congenital heart disease during outpatient visits and procedures.

Most of our patients and families only get to know Dr. DeCampli and Dr. Nykanen as they prepare their child for heart surgery, during a clinical visit, or during an outpatient procedure. Recently, we had the opportunity to interview these world-class physicians outside of the clinical walls to get to know them on a more personal level. See what they had to say.

Dr. NykanenWhen / Where did you first meet one another?

Nykanen: 2004. We were giving a joint lecture at a national meeting for pediatric cardiac care.               

Where did you grow up?

DeCampli: Upper Darby, Pennsylvania

Nykanen: I grew up in Toronto, Ontario, Canada

Where did you go to medical school?

DeCampli: University of Miami

Nykanen: University of Calgary in Alberta, Canada

What are your hobbies?

DeCampli: Photography, athletics, and scientific achievements in diverse fields, particularly in space exploration

Nykanen: Ice Hockey, camping with the family, and painting (who knew!)

What is your dream vacation?

DeCampli: Two years on the Mars colony

Nykanen: Hiking and cycling in New Zealand

What might someone be surprised to know about each of you?

Nykanen: Up until recently I played ice hockey on a weekly basis.

What is your favorite movie?

DeCampli: Apollo 13

Nykanen: The Dark Knight

What are some of your favorite hobbies; what do you do when you are not working at Arnold Palmer Hospital?

Nykanen: My wife and I like to hike and camp out whether it is just the two of us or it is with the entire family. If we are not hiking we are planning our next opportunity to explore the best of the outdoors that North America has to offer. We also like to restore and re-purpose discarded furniture and other items.

If you could meet anyone, who would it be?

DeCampli: Any physics noble prize recipient, since I’ll never be one.

Nykanen: Bobby Orr, a Canadian former professional ice hockey player who is considered to be the greatest hockey player who ever lived.

Why did you choose to go into cardiology?

DeCampli: My father encouraged me to be a cardiac surgeon.

Nykanen: I chose to be a pediatric cardiologist because I love treating children and have always been fascinated by the heart and circulation. I enjoy collaborating and cooperating with others in teams to improve the lives of those I treat.

Did you always know you wanted to be in the medical field?

DeCampli: No, not always. The decision to be a heart surgeon came after I received a PhD in Astrophysics. The chance to help children for the rest of my life, versus making myself happy while orbiting the earth – the decision was a no brainer.

Nykanen: Yes.

How long have you worked at Arnold Palmer Hospital?

DeCampli: Ten years.

Nykanen: Since the fall of 2002.

What is the one, most important thing you would share with friends or family about Arnold Palmer Hospital?

Arnold Palmer Hospital has an incredible staff that is very proud of the care they have to offer. No matter who you encounter you will find a team member that believes on the mission of the healthcare system to provide the best of care to children and their families. It is a privilege to be a part of this team.

What do you enjoy most about working at The Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital?

DeCampli: We have a great team of specialists here, and pediatric cardiac care requires great teamwork in order to provide the best care to the patient. I wouldn’t choose to be anywhere else!

Nykanen: We have developed a program that understands the value of teamwork, and our team members are incredibly dedicated to ensuring that everyone receives the care that we would expect for our own family members. The program embraces innovation and is accepting of criticism – which is important for any program to be able to grow and continually be the best it can be. Every day I am in awe of how well families cope with the struggle of having a child with a congenital heart problem.

What is one of your favorite memories of working at Arnold Palmer Hospital?

DeCampli: Seeing a previously critically ill child head for home – healthy.

Nykanen: There are so many good memories, it’s hard to pick just one!

What is one thing that most patient families probably don’t know about you?

DeCampli: I was a rocket scientist before I became a pediatric heart surgeon.

Nykanen: I like to cook!

What do you hope for kids with congenital heart disease in the future?

DeCampli: That surgery has become safer, less invasive, and that it provides a good quality of life for the patient as he/she lives into adulthood.

Nykanen: I hope that patients with even the most complex heart problems can grow to become happy adults who can work and play with no restrictions, and be able to explore life unencumbered by any concern for their heart condition.

What piece of advice would you give a family who has just learned that their child has been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect?

DeCampli: To find a comprehensive congenital heart program that has outstanding outcomes and is able to put your family and your needs first. You want to have confidence in knowing that they will look after your child as their own. Also - follow the advice of your physicians!

Nykanen: Know that it is OKAY to feel afraid and overwhelmed at first. Communicate with each other and your child’s team of specialists. Don’t be afraid to ask questions, even if they are the same questions you have already asked. We understand that things can be confusing and overwhelming – we are here to make the journey easier on you and your child.

To learn more about our physicians and why The Heart Center at Arnold Palmer Hospital is the Leader in cardiac care for kids, watch this video.



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