In this issue, Dr. Bhatt speaks with David P. Faxon, MD, vice
chair of medicine for strategic planning at the Brigham and Women’s
Hospital, Boston and Cardiology Today Intervention Editorial Board
||David P. Faxon
||Deepak L. Bhatt
A graduate of the Boston University School of Medicine, Faxon has been
deeply involved with intervention since it first began to take form in the late
1970s and was one of the first in the United States to offer coronary
angioplasty in his laboratory. Since then, he has maintained an active career,
serving as president of the American Heart Association; president of the
Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions; and currently as the
president-elect of the Vascular Disease Foundation.
What was the defining moment that led you to your field?
I would say without a question that it was in 1978 when I was at the AHA
meeting and went to a poster presentation by a young Swiss physician named
Andreas Gruentzig, MD, who was presenting a dog study. He had put a
stenosis in the left anterior descending artery of a dog and then put a balloon
catheter in the coronary artery and blew it up and restored flow, demonstrating
the feasibility of balloon angioplasty for coronary disease. It was an
astounding moment because previously it was taught that you don’t stick
anything into the coronary artery intentionally because you’re going to
cause great harm. That was pretty exciting.
Subsequently, I went to his second course in 1979, and around that time
30 angioplasties had been done worldwide. So that was a remarkable time and
period for cardiology and was a defining moment that led me to become an
interventional cardiologist, which I’ve considered myself ever since.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career?
I think it has really been Thomas Ryan, MD, who I view as my
mentor. He was my chief of cardiology [at Boston University] when I was
training and we’ve been long friends ever since. He’s helped direct
my career and given me sage advice over the years.
What advice would you offer a student in medical school today?
There are two things I would and do say to them. One: Do what you like,
not what is necessarily popular, or where there’s peer pressure or more
job security. It’s much more important to choose what you find exciting
and interesting because you’re going to spend the rest of your life doing
it. I find that students often make decisions based upon job availability, and
that’s always a very bad decision.
The second piece of advice is to get a mentor, and get one early. A
mentor is not an adviser specifically. It is not a superior, nor a program
director. It is somebody who has your interests in mind, is unbiased and wants
to help you, and someone you can confide in. It is an incredibly important
person to help guide you through the rest of your career. A lot of students
feel uncomfortable talking to somebody or getting advice about what the
important decisions in their lives. I think everybody needs a mentor.
Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to have been part of
medical history in the making?
Aside from the Gruentzig experience, in the early 1970s I was fortunate
enough to have the chance to work with Harry Gavras, MD. At this time I
had finished my training and he was investigating the renin-angiotensin system
and wanted to test out a new drug, a chemical compound that had been extracted
from a South African snake. The snake venom inhibited the renin-angiotensin
system, through inhibition of ACE. It had been studied in hypertension, but we
studied it in a patient with congestive HF. That was the first demonstration
that ACE inhibitors improve congestive HF. Now, of course, it is the standard
of care. It was a pretty exciting moment.
What do you enjoy doing to relax?
I would say sitting on the beach and looking at the waves with a drink
in my hand and listening to a little jazz.