Jonathan Reich, M.D. ’92

Miller School of Medicine alumnus applauded for lifesaving work

Miller School alumnus Jonathan Reich, M.D. 92 was recently recognized for his role in developing a life-saving screening technique to detect congenital heart disease in newborns.  

Reich, a pediatric cardiologist, was one of several physicians honored by the American College of Cardiology in September for helping to propel the use of pulse oximetry as a standard screening protocol for newborns.  

"It was a very nice honor and surprise," said Reich, who lives in Maryland with wife, Ellie, and the youngest of their four sons.  

In 2011, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services adopted a recommendation urging all states to include pulse oximetry testing as part of their standard screenings for newborns.  

The measure came about thanks to the work of physicians, like Reich, who had long argued that the technique could quickly and efficiently diagnose congenital heart disease, or CHD, in babies before they were sent home with their parents.  

Many babies born with CHD may look and act healthy at first, but within hours or days after birthcan have serious complications if left untreated. Pulse oximetry estimates the amount of oxygen in a baby’s blood, giving physicians an opportunity to detect and treat problems before the child falls ill.  

In 2003, Reich was the lead author of an article published in The Journal of Pediatrics that documented the results of routine pulse oximetry screening on newborns with otherwise undetected CHD. While other cardiologists were also working with the technique, Reich’s group was the first to publish the results of a hospital study that tested every newborn infant born in a single hospital before sending them home. Testing every newborn born at a hospital was critical in adopting the test because it helped answer questions about feasibility and cost.  

In 2017, he published another paper that followed every birth screened in the 15 years since the first study started screening newborns.  

Today, the American Academy of Pediatrics estimates 160 babies nationwide are detected with congenital heart disease by routine pulse oximetry each year before they go home,” Reich said. “Without pulse oximetry screeningroughly half of them would go home with undetected problems, half of those would have an emergency presentation with resulting morbidity, and one or two would die from treatable diagnosis.”  

The honor was the latest in a long and distinguished career for Reich, who was in private practice for 17 years, before going to work for the FDA in 2015, where he helps to regulate pacemakers and defibrillators.  

“There’s a lot of importance with what we do, and I like protecting the public health,” said Reich, who is also an assistant clinical professor at George Washington University Medical School in Washington, DC. “It brings me a lot of satisfaction.” 

Before enrolling at the Miller School, Reich graduated from Columbia University in New York with an undergraduate degree in engineering. He also earned a Master’s Degree in Biomedical Engineering from the University of Miami School of Engineering.  

He has nothing but fond memories of his years at the Miller School.  

"I would never go back to high school or college, but I'd go to medical school again,” Reich said. “But only if I could be with the same people." 

He says his training at the Miller School prepared him well for a career in medicine.  

“Everyone was inspired and dedicated and wanted to be the best doctor they could be,” he recalled.  

Dr. Reich would love to hear from his old classmates and loves taking visitors around DC.  His email is jdreich@hotmail.com