A Conversation with Howard C. Herrmann, MD
|Deepak L. Bhatt|
|Howard C. Herrmann|
In this issue, Dr. Bhatt talks with Howard C. Herrmann, MD, professor of medicine at the Perelman School of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, director of the interventional cardiology program and cardiac catheterization laboratories at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, and Cardiology Today Intervention Editorial Board member.
Herrmann earned his AB in biochemistry at Harvard College, Cambridge, Mass., and his MD at Harvard Medical School, Boston. After graduation, he completed his internship and residency in medicine, and his fellowship in cardiology at Massachusetts General Hospital, also in Boston.
During his career, Herrmann has written or co-written more than 300 articles on many areas of cardiology, including CAD, valvular heart disease, platelet inhibition, balloon valvuloplasty, acute MI management and new interventional techniques, and currently holds eight patents.
Herrmann has also served as the principal investigator on trials examining percutaneous clip repair of mitral regurgitation and transcatheter aortic valve replacement, and is the chair of the medical advisory board of Micro-Interventional Devices Inc., an early stage company developing a transapical closure device and a percutaneous mitral valve replacement.
What are your hobbies outside of practicing medicine?
Dr. Herrmann: I used to enjoy flying private airplanes when I was in high school and college, but now my life outside of work revolves almost entirely around my kids and family activities. I have three children in high school and they’re all very musically talented, taking after my wife, who is also a physician at Penn, not me. We go to a lot of their events: concerts, regional orchestras and other performances. When I do find the time, usually on vacation, I like to ski and read mysteries and spy novels.
Who has had the greatest influence on your career?
Dr. Herrmann: I had the opportunity to train in Boston with Igor Palacios, MD, and Peter C. Block, MD, when pioneering work with balloon valvuloplasty for mitral and aortic stenosis was just starting. My first job position was at the University of Pennsylvania, where John Hirshfeld, MD, was my mentor and provided me with the opportunity to develop a balloon valvuloplasty program. Who would have predicted that 20 years later we would be treating mitral regurgitation with clips and putting in transcatheter aortic valves? I certainly believe that structural and valvular interventions are going to be the most exciting areas in which to practice interventional cardiology in the future.
What advice would you offer a student in medical school today?
Dr. Herrmann: Despite the pessimism that exists in the medical community today, I believe that being a physician is still the greatest job in the world. I can’t think of any other occupation where you can make a good living doing something that helps people and benefits society every single day. So my advice would be to pick a field of medicine that you enjoy and excites you, practice it for your patients, and try to ignore all the aspects of reimbursement, paper work and malpractice litigation that try to interfere with that ideal.
Have you ever been fortunate enough to witness or to have been part of medical history in the making?
Dr. Herrmann: There are a lot of the things that I’ve done in my career which involved the early adoption of new technologies. As a fellow, I was an operator and moderator at the first mitral balloon valvuloplasty course. I had the opportunity to be one of the earliest physicians to use Palmaz-Schatz stents at Penn and the Inoue balloon for mitral valvuloplasty, and was present at the first MitraClip (Abbott) implantation in the United States and involved as chair of the safety committee in some of the first TAVR procedures done in France. Somewhat ironically, however, one of my most important publications had nothing to do with devices but with the CV safety of sildenafil (Viagra, Pfizer), and I’m now trying to better understand the role of pudendal artery disease in erectile dysfunction.
What’s up next for you?
Dr. Herrmann: With the US approval of the first transcatheter aortic valve (Sapien, Edwards Lifesciences), I’m devoting a lot of my time to treating extreme risk patients with AS. I’m also involved in the development of a transcatheter foldable mitral valve replacement technology (Endovalve, Micro-Interventional Devices) and am hoping to one day see that come to fruition.
Disclosure: Dr. Herrmann has received research funding to the institution from Abbott Vascular; research funding to the institution and speaker honoraria from Edwards Lifesciences; is a consultant for and has equity in Micro-Interventional Devices; and is deputy editor for Journal Watch Cardiology.