Issue: April 2015
April 14, 2015
4 min read

Nathaniel Reichek, MD: A pioneer in the development of cardiac MRI

Issue: April 2015
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An expert in cardiac MRI since 1983, when the technology was in its infancy, Nathaniel Reichek, MD, FAHA, FACC, said he has always made it a priority to foster positive, collaborative relationships with radiologists and to mentor fellows to become leaders in cardiac imaging.

Reichek, a native of Bronx, N.Y., received his undergraduate degree from Columbia University and his medical degree from the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. He completed his internship and residency at the Bronx Municipal Hospital Center, spent 2 years as a lieutenant commander in the United States Public Health Service at the CDC, then completed a fellowship in cardiology at Georgetown University Medical Center in Washington, D.C. He was then recruited by his mentor, Joseph Perloff, MD, to serve as director of the noninvasive laboratory at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania; he also became a professor of medicine at the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine.

Early in his career, Reichek’s research focused on quantitative applications of echocardiography and pharmacologic treatment of angina pectoris. But in 1983, he shifted his focus to cardiac MRI, developing a strong relationship with University of Pennsylvania’s then-chairman of radiology, Stanley Baum, MD, and fostering collaboration between cardiologists and radiologists.

In 1992, Reichek moved to Pittsburgh to become director of cardiology at Allegheny General Hospital and professor of medicine at the Medical College of Pennsylvania/Hahnemann School of Medicine. He returned to New York in 2001, as director of the research department and director of cardiac imaging at St. Francis Hospital in Roslyn, and professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at Stony Brook University.

Nathaniel Reichek, MD, FAHA, FACC

Reichek is the past president of the Society for Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance, past president of the Intersocietal Commission for the Accreditation of Magnetic Resonance Laboratories and past chairman of the Council of Cardiovascular Organizations. He has chaired peer-review activities for the NIH, the American Heart Association and the American College of Cardiology, and has served on editorial boards for Circulation, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology,The American Journal of Cardiology, the Annals of Internal Medicine and the Journal of Cardiovascular Magnetic Resonance. He has published more than 170 original articles and more than 300 abstracts.

What do you enjoy doing when you’re not practicing medicine?

I like to spend quiet weekends at home with my wife, interacting with our remote children and grandchildren by text, email, phone and visits; doing my own investment management; cooking; eating at great restaurants; tasting and reading about great wines from Haut Médoc; and posting comments on news, features, editorials and op-eds on The New York Times website.

If you hadn’t gone into cardiology or medicine, what would you have done?

I probably would have become a professor of English and possibly a literary magazine editor. And likely, I would have continued writing poetry.

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

My biggest success is the people I helped educate in cardiology and in cardiac imaging who have gone on to make their own valuable contributions to the field. I’ve got a good list of those.

What is the last book you read? Why, and what did you think of it?

The most recent is Gary Shteyngart’s Little Failure: A Memoir. Frankly, I didn’t think much of it. Another one I read in parallel was Robert Gates’ book Duty: Memoirs of a Secretary at War, which I thought was outstanding. I think he is a model for what a public servant should be.

Reichek stands in front of St. Francis Hospital’s MRI system when it was upgraded in 2012. It was the first 32-channel system on Long Island.

Reichek stands in front of St. Francis Hospital’s MRI system when it was upgraded in 2012. It was the first 32-channel system on Long Island.

Photo courtesy of: Nathaniel Reichek, MD; reprinted with permission

Whom do you most admire, and what would you ask that person if you had 5 minutes with him/her?

I’ll give two answers because of my range of interests. The first would be Stephen Hawking. Rather than anything about science, I would ask him how one summons the courage to lead such a vigorous intellectual life in the face of such daunting disability. The second is the now-deceased poet Robert Graves, whom I would ask about the key to the magic of language that he so readily invoked.

What is the best advice you’ve ever received?

It came from my mentor, Joe Perloff, who sadly died in August. The advice he gave me was in answer to the question, when I was a second-year cardiology fellow, of what he thought about the job offers I had at that time. He responded, ‘Why don’t you come with me to Penn?’ And so I did.

Whom do you consider a mentor?

Joe Perloff, J. Willis Hurst, MD, Proctor W. Harvey, MD, and Harvey Feigenbaum, MD. I owe a lot to each of them.

What kind of diet and exercise regimen do you follow?

My diet includes a lot of berries and nuts, fish and vegetables, a limited amount of meat and, despite my hobbies, a limited amount of wine. As for exercise, I must say I became very sedentary after a couple of major orthopedic procedures a few years ago. I am just beginning to recondition. I had been a runner for many years before that, and I’m afraid my hips showed it.

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

I think there are two answers to that. The societal answer is obviously health care economics. The scientific answer is, predictably, genomics, epigenetics and proteomics. I think that the underpinnings of CV care are going to be rewritten.

What is your favorite travel destination?

Believe it or not, Chicago, because it offers me family and great restaurants. My daughter and her family are there, and I eat very well in Chicago. I made three trips to Chicago in the fall.

What is your favorite restaurant?

My favorite restaurant is a little-known place, Mosaic, on Long Island in St. James. It is the most innovative restaurant within easy reach. My Manhattan favorite is 11 Madison Park. Both restaurants are extraordinarily innovative. However risky their preparations are, they almost invariably succeed. – by Erik Swain