Med School/Year Graduated: University of Tennessee at Memphis, 2002
Years in Practice: 12
How often do you get to meet the families of the heart donor and the heart recipient? What is that experience like?
It’s very rare for members of the heart transplant team to meet the donor family. However, it’s not uncommon for the recipient and donor family to connect usually about one year after transplantation. The very few times that I’ve met the donor family, I was introduced to them by the recipient.
We read that you’re a transplant cardiologist, a transplant recipient and a transplant donor. Wow! How have these firsthand experiences informed your practice? Do you share your stories with patients?
It really is a unique experience. I often get an opportunity to meet with patients undergoing kidney transplant evaluation and frequently I am able to draw on my own personal experience of being a kidney donor to connect with them. I don’t make it a routine to share my story, but if the situation calls for it and I feel the patient and his/her family could benefit, I’ll share with them.
Last year, you won a teaching award for cardiology and congestive heart failure. What are the obstacles and rewards of teaching newer generations of physicians?
That was a tremendous honor. The major obstacle is learning how each individual learner best processes the information you are attempting to teach and being able to adapt to that particular learning style. The reward is seeing a medical student, resident or fellow successfully and independently apply what they’ve learned directly toward the care of the patient.
How long do you think it will be before most heart replacement procedures utilize artificial or genetically manufactured hearts, as opposed to donor human hearts?
I think we’re in the dawn of a new era in cardiac transplantation. Just a few weeks ago the world witnessed the first transplantation of a genetically modified pig heart into an adult human. More investigational work needs to be done, but there is a lot of excitement as well as cautious optimism about the future of this technology. There are lots of patients who unfortunately die waiting for a donor heart, and if successful this would significantly decrease the death rates of patients waiting on the heart transplant list.
You’re a proud Michigander. What do you miss most about the mitten?
Family, for sure. Sunday dinner at my grandparents’ house. I also miss the fall and everything that comes along with it. The beautiful colors of the leaves. Trips to the apple orchard. Apple cider and doughnuts. And last but not least… University of Michigan Football. Go Blue!
Name the best depiction of your field in TV or film that you’ve ever seen.
This is a trick question! There hasn’t been one that accurately captures the inner workings of a transplant team, [and] I find that the best depictions come from patients themselves, telling their own stories on social media sites or in conjunction with their respective transplant center.
You work with the local nonprofit ElevateMeD. Tell us about that.
[It’s] an organization which promotes efforts to prioritize physician workforce diversity and cultural competence via mentorship, along with scholarships to medical students from underrepresented communities.
What are your hobbies and interests outside medicine?
Riding my Peloton with a group of friends from Mayo collectively known as the Cardiac Outputs. And listening to old-school funk, R&B and hip-hop.
What are you watching on Netflix these days?
Ozark and The Harder They Fall.
“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”
A financial planner.