2017 Top Doctor: Marwan Bahu, M.D.

Written by Editorial Staff Category: Profiles Issue: April 2017
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Cardiac Electrophysiology
Med School/Year Graduated: University of Michigan, 1990
Years in Practice: 20

The cardiologist is the plumber; you’re the electrician. Is that essentially it?
That is essentially true. The heart generates its own electrical current that travels down proper pathways to the muscle. My job is to make sure the electrical system is properly functioning and fix faulty circuitry.

So there’s more to your field besides implanting pacemakers and defibrillators?
Device implantation constitutes less than 20 percent of what I do. I mostly perform what’s called “electrophysiology study and ablation” procedures. I diagnose the electrical problem that causes symptoms and, when appropriate, eliminate the problem with ablation (destruction of the culprit tissue) with heat or cold energy.

One often reads about young athletes who die of undiagnosed heart rhythm disorders. How old was the youngest patient you ever fitted with an internal defibrillator (ICD)?
My youngest patient to receive a defibrillator is a 16-year-old who passed out while playing volleyball in high school. She was found to have a congenital electrical disturbance called long QT syndrome.

What is new or exciting in your field? Any game-changing technologies?  
I am fortunate to be part of an exciting and rapidly evolving field. Within the last five years alone we acquired the ability to implant small pacemakers the size of a large pill that attach directly to the heart muscle, called [a] leadless pacemaker. We are also learning to stimulate the nerves in the neck to improve heart performance in patients with congestive heart failure. Gene manipulation is a promising tool for the future but not ready for prime time yet.

You went to medical school and completed your residency in Michigan. Do you miss anything about the Great Lakes State?
I miss many things about Michigan. I miss water skiing during the summers, fall colors and, most importantly, I miss football Saturdays in Ann Arbor.

What do you enjoy doing in your spare time?
In my free time I enjoy traveling and playing tennis with my wife and two boys. I also read a lot. I especially enjoy historical biographies and anything that has to do with space and astrophysics.

Marwan is an Arabic name. Do you know what it means?
I was told that Marwan means having the quality of a Marwa, which is a precious stone.
“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be...”
An astronaut.