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Elizabeth Sonntag, MD, HEC-C

Elizabeth Sonntag, MD, HEC-C

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Specialty

Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care Medicine

Locations

VCU Medical Center Critical Care Hospital
1213 E. Clay Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Ambulatory Care Center
417 N. 11th Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Education

Medical School

Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Residency

VCU Medical Center

Fellowship

MacLean Center for Clinical Medical Ethics, University of Chicago

Fellowship

Pulmonary and Critical Care, University of North Carolina

Biography

An expert at diagnosis and treatment of pulmonary hypertension (with a focus on ethics along the way)

Pulmonary hypertension (PH) is a rare condition where high pressure in the blood vessels of the lung causes a strain on the right side of the heart. For patients, PH is a chronic condition that worsens over time, and brings with it breathlessness, fatigue and chest pain.

To diagnose and understand how pulmonary hypertension should be treated requires a right heart catheterization, a minimally invasive procedure that measures blood flow and pressures in the changers of the heart and lung vessels.

And Dr. Liz Sonntag is an expert in both treatment of PH in patients and right heart catheterization in VCU Health’s Cardiac Catherization Laboratory.

“To be successful in my specialty, you must navigate the delicate balance of offering expert treatment, extending the patient’s life, and minimizing their symptoms — while being realistic about the limiting nature of PH,” says Dr. Sonntag, assistant professor in the Division of Pulmonary Disease and Critical Care at VCU School of Medicine. “I want patients to feel empowered to participate in their care decisions about how to move forward. Pulmonary hypertension is a complicated disease, and I want every patient to be comfortable with all that is happening inside their own body.”

Dr. Sonntag’s hope is that the advancements in the treatment of PH will significantly extend life quality and expectancy for patients over the next decade. “No matter what you are going through medically, there is always a way we can help. Health is about more than just a disease state, it is about how that disease effects your quality of life,” she says. “Whether it is finding a cure, answering questions, or providing comfort, we are here to help.”

Beyond patient care and teaching, Dr. Sonntag has reserved protected time for her passion in medical ethics – particularly around life-sustaining technology and end-of-life care — and serves as an associate chair of VCU Health’s ethics committee. There, she is expanding the ethics presence at VCU Health through growing the committee and providing education to faculty, staff, nurses, respiratory therapists, and medical students and trainees. In her previous post at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine, she created and taught a well-received clinical medical ethics elective for fourth-year medical students.

She has also edited and contributed to the AMA Journal of Ethics, focused on advanced cardiac care ethics. “Integrating ethics education at all levels of the health system not only serves patients, but helps providers mitigate burnout and moral distress when facing challenging cases,” she says.

When Dr. Sonntag is simply “Liz” with her friends and family, she’s a world traveler (30 countries and counting) and enjoys seeing new landscapes, exploring other cultures, trying new foods — and taking pictures of all of it.

Research interests

Advanced care and end-of-life care planning for patients with advanced pulmonary diseases (in particular cystic fibrosis and pulmonary hypertension), advanced life-sustaining therapies, and development of medical ethics curricula.

 

Clinical Interests

Advanced pulmonary diseases
Advanced life-sustaining therapies
Advanced care planning
Cystic fibrosis
Pulmonary hypertension

Provider Videos

Locations

VCU Medical Center Critical Care Hospital

1213 E. Clay Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Ambulatory Care Center

417 N. 11th Street
Richmond, VA 23219

Ratings & Reviews

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