Issue: February 2009
February 01, 2009
5 min read

James B. Young, MD, helped advance subspecialty of cardiac transplantation

Young enjoys studying the history of medicine, listening to music and riding motorcycles.

Issue: February 2009
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When he is not working to advance the subspecialty of cardiac transplant medicine and HF, James B. Young, MD, enjoys the open road, San Francisco and big band jazz, among other things. He recently was named the executive dean of the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case western Reserve University which is a small program with a 5 year curriculum designed to train physician investigators.

Young grew up in the San Francisco Bay area and left to attend undergraduate studies at the University of Kansas. He received his doctorate from the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, and joined the medical faculty in 1979. He relocated to the Cleveland Clinic in 1995, where he created and served as head of HF and cardiac transplantation and medicine. Young and a colleague also developed the Kaufman Center for HF and Cardiac Transplant Medicine in 1998. Young is currently the chairman of the division of medicine of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation and professor of medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University. He holds the George and Linda Kaufman Chair and is also the chairman of the Endocrinology and Metabolism Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation.

Young has written more than 550 manuscripts and has written or edited more than a dozen medical textbooks. He has also been involved with at least 150 clinical trial efforts and has served as United States principal investigator or co-principal investigator of the RED-HF HOPE, RESOLVED, ACCLAIM, ONTARGET and CHARM trials and many other multicenter, international clinical trials.

What do you enjoy doing when you are not practicing medicine?

I enjoy motorcycling when the weather is good, and in Ohio, that is in the spring and summer. When it is cold and wintery outside, I enjoy listening to music, reading, and studying the contemporary history of medicine.

If you had not gone into cardiology or medicine, what would you have done?

I would have been a truck driver — no question about it. I love driving, the road and going places. I love North America and poking around in out-of-the-way spots. I particularly love the mountains and the Sierra Nevadas and Rockies, so truck driving would have let me get to all of those spots.

What would you consider one of your biggest successes in your specialty?

James B. Young, MD
James B. Young, MD

Chairman of the Division of Medicine of the Cleveland Clinic Foundation

Professor of Medicine at the Cleveland Clinic Lerner College of Medicine of Case Western Reserve University

George and Linda Kaufman Chair

Chairman of the Endocrinology and Metabolism Institute at the Cleveland Clinic Foundation

Cardiology Today HF & Transplantation Section Editor

The biggest thing that I have contributed to medicine the last 30 years or so is getting recognition for the emerging specialty of HF and cardiac transplant medicine. There was a pretty small group of individuals dedicated to this, particularly taking care of heart transplant patients back in the early 1980s. It has been fascinating to watch the development of that subspecialty. It is gratifying now that Mariel Jessup, MD, has led the charge to get HF and cardiac transplant medicine recognized as a subspecialty of cardiology that will eventually have its own exam and certification process. The role I played, small as it may have been in developing that, has been the thing I have been most proud of.

What is the last book you read / art collection you saw / CD you bought? Why, and what did you think of it?

The last book I read was called “Charlaton,” and it was about an era in American medicine where the American Medical Association was gaining power and supremacy and they were battling quackery. It dealt with two individuals: Morris Fishbein, MD, who was the editor of the Journal of the American Medical Association, and another rather scurrilous individual, John R. Brinkley, who was implanting goat glands into the testes of men to rejuvenate them and cure them of ails. It was a fascinating story of hubris and arrogance and also of how science moves forward and how scientific knowledge progresses.

We have a pretty good art museum here in Cleveland, but the last exhibit I saw was on a trip to Vienna, Austria, to see the Gustav Klimt collections. They were an extraordinary compendium focused on an era that was sort of a transition era of art and political history. They were great collections.

I have eclectic, musical taste, but I love jazz and big band jazz. There is a great collection that I stumbled on from the BBC Big Band. They have a whole series out of CDs that are remakes of the classic 1940s, 1950s and 1960s big band era music, so I enjoy them.

Who do you most admire, and what would you ask that person if you had five minutes with him/her?

A real hero for me was John Glenn. Here was a guy who was honest, had extraordinary integrity and was hard working. For someone who had done what he did and who came through the Senate as unscathed as he did is remarkable. I actually had the chance to speak with him before because he was involved with some activities here at the Cleveland Clinic, but I would love to spend another five minutes with him.

What is the best advice you have ever received?

Hard work trumps IQ every time. It is nice to be a genius and to be brilliant, but hard work can usually get you to the same spot.

Who do you consider a mentor?

Bill Winters, MD, who was a prior president of the American College of Cardiology and who is still very active in cardiology, was one. Another was Don Chapman, MD, who was a professor of medicine and cardiology at Baylor when I was there, and also a gentleman named Garabed Eknoyan, MD, who was a nephrologist but was chief of medicine at Ben Taub General Hospital in Houston when I was a house officer. At the top of the list is Michael DeBakey, MD, the surgeon, who just died this past July at 100. I actually worked for DeBakey at Baylor and came under his spell there as a medical student. He taught me more than anyone about being a doctor, physical examination, the “blink” philosophy of making quick decisions and also the value of hard work. If you look at all he did in his century of existence, it is mind-boggling. He truly is the greatest physician and clinical surgeon of the last century.

What kind of diet and exercise regimen do you have?

Not enough exercise and a bad diet. I should definitely do better.

What do you think will have the biggest influence on cardiology in the next 10 years?

The biggest change will have everything to do with the sociopolitical environment and the fact that cardiology is going to see dramatic declines in reimbursement during the next decade for what cardiologists do. This will shift the social demographics of cardiology and change the cultural anthropology of who goes into cardiology, and also the stimulus for the unbelievable technological and technologically-oriented advancements that have occurred during the last three to four decades. I just do not see the incentives and drive to develop both the diagnostic and therapeutic interventions that we currently use in cardiology patients. I hope I am wrong.

What is your favorite travel destination?

San Francisco. I grew up in the Bay area; I left when I was 18 to go to college. I do not think I could go back to live there because I would not be able to work. I survived the sex, drugs and rock era of the 60s and managed to escape, but it is home to me and a great destination spot. So any time I get a chance to go visit and play in the San Francisco Bay area, I am off.

What is your favorite restaurant?

There is a place called Roxanne’s in Minneapolis, but you cannot get into it because you have to know the person who cooks there. There is a restaurant in San Francisco called Grotto Number 9. It is a great old-time Fisherman’s Wharf restaurant, kind of off the tourist tracks. It is a great seafood restaurant that my mother loved to go to on Sunday afternoons. I still love it.