A long road home

Dr. Michael A. Gaglia Jr.

It’s not unusual for native Pittsburghers to move back after years away. And we’ve certainly seen former Mt. Lebanon residents find their way back to Lebo. But Dr. Michael A. Gaglia Jr. has taken homecoming to its extreme conclusion: after living and working in Michigan, California, New Mexico and Louisiana, Gaglia has returned to St. Clair Hospital, where he was born in 1975.

Gaglia and his sister, Kimberly, grew up on Sleepy Hollow Road. He went to St. Bernard Elementary, then Mt. Lebanon junior and senior high school, where he graduated in 1993. Gaglia’s father, Michael Sr., died when his son was 10. His mother, Patricia, lived in the South Hills until she passed away last September.

Gaglia was decidedly not a kid who dreamed of becoming a doctor.

Growing up, his interests tended towards outdoor activities—he and a friend, Patrick Perri (now a doctor and a Mt. Lebanon resident) liked to hike and explore caves in the Laurel Highlands; he also enjoyed playing sports, and was “obsessed” with video games.

Gaglia attended Notre Dame, originally majoring in chemistry, then government. Sometime during sophomore year, he recalled, he started considering a career in medicine. “I became more of a nerd,” he said.

After graduation, Gaglia returned home the first time, enrolling at Pitt’s School of Medicine. There he met his wife, Belinda Mantle, now a pediatric surgeon. During his subsequent residency at the University of Michigan Medical Center, Gaglia became interested in cardiology. He found that he liked doing procedures: “I enjoy working with my hands.”

Academia was also an interest, so he returned to Pitt’s medical school to earn a degree in clinical research. He also completed a fellowship at Washington Hospital Center, affiliated with Georgetown University. Gaglia has gone on to teach at USC and the University of New Mexico.

Not surprisingly, cardiology is a subject Gaglia is passionate about. “It used to be that cardiology was focused on blocked arteries,” he noted. “Now we can treat arterial and venous obstructions.” Other innovations have included angioplasty initiated through the radial artery in the wrist, instead of the femoral artery.

“The equipment we use has gotten better, even since I got out of school 10 years ago,” Gaglia said. At St. Clair, he is on staff as an interventional cardiologist, and is able to focus on his interests in peripheral arterial and venous disease. Gaglia said he enjoys treating patients: “It keeps my attention more.”

It was after his mother died that Gaglia started to think about coming home. He was working outside of New Orleans at the time. He and Mantle have two sons: Michael, who’s now 13, and John, 12. His sister and her family live in the South Hills. He still has cousins in Mt. Lebanon.

“They’re familiar with Pittsburgh,” Gaglia said of his sons. They’ve visited often and gone to Pirates games, he noted.

It felt like a good time to make a move, so Gaglia reached out to St. Clair Health System. He started there in April.

Gaglia is happy to be back, although “I’m just terrified someone will recognize me in the supermarket and I won’t remember them.” His sons finished the school year in Louisiana; they and their mother will join Gaglia this summer.

Michael and John had been attending a Christian Brothers school in New Orleans, Gaglia said, so as they transition to high school, they will be going to Central Catholic in Oakland, also run by the Christian Brothers. But house hunting in Mt. Lebanon isn’t out of the question, he added.

More visits to PNC Park are probably on the agenda this summer, but Gaglia will have to wait a few months to share his favorite team with his boys: “We’ll definitely be going to Pitt (men’s) basketball games.” As he noted in an interview posted on the St. Clair website, “I saw the loss to Villanova in the Elite Eight in person (in 2009) and still haven’t recovered.”