In this issue, Dr. Bhatt speaks with Charanjit S. Rihal, MD, professor of medicine and chair of the division of cardiovascular diseases at Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn.
Throughout his career, Rihal has published more than 300 manuscripts, editorials and commentaries in medical literature. He was a recipient of the American College of Cardiology W. Proctor Harvey, MD, Young Teacher Award in 1999 and has been an eight-time recipient of the Teacher of the Year Award from the Division of Cardiovascular Diseases at Mayo Clinic. His clinical and research interests include interventional cardiology, particularly structural heart disease intervention, use of ventricular support devices for high-risk angioplasty and management of patients with ACS.
What are your hobbies outside of practicing medicine?
Deepak L. Bhatt
Charanjit S. Rihal
Dr. Rihal: I have a lot of interests outside of medicine. I read a lot, particularly history, comparative religions, politics and economics. I enjoy auditing university courses and often listen to courses on audio, which I find intellectually stimulating. I like to exercise a lot and enjoy yoga as well, which helps relieve the soreness in my back after wearing lead all day. I enjoy challenges, so I also like playing golf, which has been a lifelong challenge for me.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career?
Dr. Rihal: I’ve had a number of talented mentors throughout my career. While training at Mayo I encountered tremendous teachers and leaders such as Hugh Smith, MD, and Jamil Tajik, MD. David Holmes, MD, taught me how to be an interventional cardiologist, and it has been a real privilege being associated with him for all these years. Rick Nishimura, MD, a very gifted educator, taught me more about general cardiology than any other person. After training, I was on the faculty of McMaster University, Ontario, Canada, and worked with Salim Yusuf, MD. Much of what I learned from Dr. Yusuf has helped me when it comes to interpretation of the literature and clinical evidence base. And then there is also Bernard Gersh, MD, with whom I happen to share many similar interests both within and outside of medicine.
So I have been really privileged to have wonderful mentors, all of whom I have a close relationship with right now. As chair of the division, I still rely on my mentors for their advice and counsel.
What was the defining moment that led you to your field?
Dr. Rihal: It was a combination of factors. Early on, my undergraduate major was in physics. Cardiology, particularly the hemodynamic part of it, is based on Ohm’s law, so I found that my analytic, mathematical and mechanical aptitude was ideally suited for cardiology, particularly in valve disease, hemodynamics and PCI. Also, when I was training in medical school, I really enjoyed being involved in the care of acutely ill patients, which cardiology afforded in abundance.
Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to have been part of medical history in the making?
Dr. Rihal: I remember the first time we did thrombolytic therapy as part of the TIMI 1 trial. James H. Chesebro, MD, was our principal investigator and we gave thrombolytic therapy to a patient with 10 mm of ST-segment elevation. Twenty minutes later the pain had resolved, the ECG had normalized and the patient was sitting up normally. It was like magic. It was a very historic trial to be a part of. Similarly, with the PARTNER trial, the first time we put in a valve and saw a 50-mm gradient go down to 5 mm right in front of us, I had a very similar sensation that it was almost like we were witnessing a miracle.
What do you enjoy doing to relax?
Dr. Rihal: I find it’s really important to be well rounded and involved in interests and activities outside of work. This is important not only for us as human beings but it also makes us better able to perform our jobs because our batteries will be recharged. So typically each morning at 5:30 or 6:00 a.m. I will go to the gym or sometimes play nine holes of golf, and I’ll be in to work by 7:30. I find when I’m physically active I have more energy and if I miss a few days of exercise I don’t sleep as well and I’m not as focused either. Then after work, I’ll unwind by spending time with my kids and reading.
Disclosure: Dr. Rihal has served as a local site investigator for the PARTNER trial, but reports no relevant financial disclosures.