January 30, 2018
3 min read

A Conversation with Ik-Kyung Jang, MD, PhD

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For this issue, Dr. Bhatt talks with Cardiology Today’s Intervention Editorial BoardMember Ik-Kyung Jang, MD, PhD, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and interventional cardiologist; Michael and Kathryn Park Endowed Chair in Cardiology in the cardiology division; and director of the Cardiology Laboratory for Integrative Physiology and Imaging at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital.

Jang completed his residency and fellowship at Leuven University in Belgium. He moved to Massachusetts General Hospital in 1987 to complete his residency in medicine and advanced fellowship in cardiology.

Deepak L. Bhatt

Jang started his career in the physiology laboratory under the supervision of Désiré Collen, MD, PhD. Shortly after his arrival at Massachusetts General Hospital 30 years ago, he shifted his focus to clinical research, initially in pharmacology and later in in vivo vascular biology using optical imaging. He founded the Coronary Clinical Trial Group in the cardiac unit at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1995, through which he has and continues to mentor a large number of young investigators. The fellows who have worked with him include Brendan Everett, MD; Robert Giugliano, MD; James Januzzi, MD; Marc Sabatine, MD; Darren Walters, MD; Robert Yeh, MD, and many others from all around the world.

For the past 2 decades, Jang has worked to pioneer the application of intravascular OCT in patients, with the goal to create a better understanding of vulnerable plaque and mechanisms of plaque rupture. His work in this area has been extensive and has changed the role of OCT in the cardiac cath lab.

Who has had the greatest influence on your career?

Dr. Jang: There are too many to name. Hilaire De Geest, MD, who was chief of cardiology at University of Leuven in Belgium, where I had my initial clinical training, was intimidating but was a great teacher. Prof. Collen, a chemist credited with the discovery of tissue-type plasminogen activator for the melanoma cell line, was one of my mentors for my PhD. He has been my role model throughout my research career. When I came to Boston 30 years ago, shortly thereafter, Valentin Fuster, MD, PhD, came to Massachusetts General Hospital. Dr. Fuster is the one who showed me how to become a clinical investigator. I was also so fortunate to work with Roman DeSanctis, MD, truly the best clinician I have ever known. Among many other mentors and colleagues, these four really changed my career and my life. Last but not least, the colleagues I work with today, including Igor Palacios, MD, Michael Fifer, MD, and Kenneth Rosenfield, MD, MHCDS, just to name a few, are truly inspiring and motivate me to be a better clinician, researcher and mentor.


What has been the greatest challenge of your professional career?

Ik-Kyung Jang

Dr. Jang: I tell this to my fellows quite often: As physicians, it is hard to find balance between our professional life and our personal life. You will never regret that you should have worked harder, but everybody regrets that he or she should have spent more time with family. I don’t want to be the latter, but daily life is so busy, so it’s hard to find enough time to spend with family.

Have you ever been fortunate enough to be part of medical history in the making?

Dr. Jang: I was involved from the very beginning of the development of OCT, from bench all the way to bedside. It was an exciting journey. Way back, our chief, Mark Fishman, MD, asked me to be in charge of cardiac OCT at Massachusetts General Hospital. So, after benchmark, we did small animal and large animal studies, then performed a first-in-man study and followed every single step of the journey on the way to FDA approval. Today, OCT is being used daily in cardiac cath labs. I’ve been fortunate to be involved with this project and to work with bright scientists.

What do you enjoy doing outside of medicine?

Dr. Jang: I enjoy spending time in the garden. It’s difficult to find time, but gardening is a good hobby to refresh my mental status. I also love to spend time with my family, especially if we are traveling. I used to live in Europe before I came to Boston, so I enjoy traveling back to Europe when we can.

What’s up next for you?

Dr. Jang: At my stage, what I enjoy most is education and guidance of young physicians and investigators. I work with a number of colleagues from abroad and also from the U.S., who come to our laboratory to learn research. I find it very rewarding to work with researchers at various stages of their careers. When they first try to approach a project or a problem, not everyone has an organized approach. I’ve tried to help young investigators fine-tune their approach and teach them how to analyze and how to prepare manuscripts. By the time they are ready to go back to their countries or transition back to clinical work, they are ready to become an independent investigator. – by Cassie Homer