"I tell my patients, 'I'll be your doctor until I retire or until you fire me,'" says Ty Toshiro Higuchi, MD, transitional urologist at Children's Hospital Colorado and University of Colorado Hospital.
The very idea of patients with congenital urologic conditions needing lifelong care is a relatively new one. Until 30 years ago, children with conditions like bladder exstrophy or neurogenic bladder didn’t survive to adulthood.
Now that they are surviving, a new need has arisen: improving their experience of entering adulthood.
"For the first 18 years of their lives, they have a pretty stable care team," Dr. Higuchi says. "But then the patients say, 'When I'm done here, where am I going to go?'"
This question arrives in these patients' lives when they're trying to manage issues like kidney function and incontinence in the context of being a teenager.
A transitional urologist's important role for teenagers
"These are times when patients need consistent care – when they're going to high school and college," Dr. Higuchi says. "We can help them get through these times without having to deal with incontinence."
Enter Dr. Higuchi, Children's Colorado's first transitional urologist, a position developed five years ago when the field of urology was just beginning to recognize the need for this role.
Dr. Higuchi practices at both Children's Colorado and across the street at the University of Colorado Hospital (UCH). He begins seeing patients as young as 14 years old at their familiar hospital – Children's Colorado – and then transitions them to his practice at UCH as they seek more independence and become more vocal about their health.
By having a foot in both hospitals, Dr. Higuchi can coordinate twice as many subspecialists to help with any number of complications of his patients' disease. And as their lifelong care provider, he'll help them navigate those complications every step of the way.
Learn more about the Urology Program at Children's Colorado.