Cardiologist Career Information
What a Cardiologist does
As a cardiologist, you will first diagnose exactly what is wrong with your patient. This calls for a series of tests. You will interpret these tests and based on the patient's medical history recommend the best possible treatment plan.
As a cardiologist, you will need to perform regular check ups with your patients and alter the medication if necessary. Some of the heart ailments that you will treat are:
High/low blood pressure As a cardiologist, you should know that the most common among the heart diseases is high blood pressure and low blood pressure. Anything going wrong with the mechanism of pumping blood results in these abnormalities of blood pressure.
Angina Angina is caused due to disease in the coronary artery and results in severe chest pain similar to a heart attack. This is usually treated with medication but sometimes surgery may be called for.
Cardiac Arrest Commonly called heart attack this occurs when one or more of the blood vessels to the heart is obstructed. In these situations, as a cardiologist, you will have to perform emergency procedures to save the patient's life and stabilize his or her condition.
Once the emergency is over, the exact damage to the coronary arteries and muscles need to be found out. You, as a cardiologist will perform an angiography, where a thin filament is passed through the arteries supplying blood to the heart to determine the blockage points.
As a cardiologist, you will then decide the future course of action. It could be just rest and medication or complicated procedures like Angioplasty or by pass surgery.
Most people think that cardiologists only treat heart attack patients. That is hardly the case. You will have to treat patients with irregular heartbeats or those who have problems with their heart valves and arteries. Children born with holes in the heart or suffering from heart enlargement will also come under your care. You will perform heart transplant procedures too.
Unhealthy food habits, stressful lifestyle, drug addiction, socio-economic conditions, etc. are all responsible for the spurt in heart diseases. As a cardiologist, your job will also involve educating people about the various heart ailments and how one can minimize the risk of getting them.
You can work in the Cardiology department/Cardiovascular & thoracic surgery departments of general hospitals and specialty hospitals run by the government or private organisations. You can also work in Cardiac care units of nursing homes and polyclinics, specialty nursing homes and polyclinics for cardiac diseases. Teaching in medical colleges in India and abroad also remains another option that you can pursue.
Pharmaceutical companies will also offer you positions in their research and development setups as well as their sales support functions.
So far the high costs of medical care has meant that the majority of patients suffering from cardiac disorders have not been able to afford the kind of super specialty treatment that is required. However, all that is set to change.
The government has opened up the health insurance sector. Currently only 0.2 per cent of India's population is covered under medical insurance as against 75 per cent of USA. So, as more and more people will be able to bear the cost of specialized Medicare, the more will be the demand for better healthcare facilities, state-of-the-art equipment, treatment and specialist doctors.
Without doubt the healthcare industry in India is on the up folks! That is good news for want to be cardiologists.
Abilities & Traits Required
You need to have:
• Good analytical, logical and reasoning skills
• Ability to memorise and recall scientific facts
• A keen desire to serve and help people
• A patient and understanding nature
• The ability to generate confidence in others
To begin with you will have to clear your 10+2 exam with physics, chemistry and biology. Not only will you have to score really well in this exam, you will also have to appear for the highly competitive entrance exam. Once you secure your admission, you will enter the five and a half year MBBS (Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Surgery), course. This includes the one-year internship period as well.
One must realize that a cardiologist does not perform major surgery like by pass or open-heart surgery. Cardiovascular & thoracic surgeons handle this. So you have two academic options:
You can do a MD in General Medicine after your MBBS. After your MD, you should do a DM in Cardiology, which is a super specialization. You can practice cardiology after your MD, but to have a really successful career, you must do the DM.
Alternatively you can first do a MS in General Surgery after your MBBS and then M.Ch in Cardio-thoracic surgery or Cardiovascular & thoracic surgery.
A Fellowship of Royal College of Surgeons (FRCS) or American College of Cardiology makes your future even brighter.
In government hospitals and healthcare establishments, you can expect to earn about Rs 15000 – 20000 a month in the beginning. As a tutor in medical colleges, you will get the same range of salaries per month. However, in corporate or private hospitals or other healthcare centers, your starting salary will be Rs 25000 or more per month. Senior cardiologists and surgeons earn more than Rs 50000 a month.
After that it is your reputation and your experience that matters. You could work for pharmaceutical companies as well as government and private research and development labs. Your salary here would be in the range of Rs 20000-40000. You could even go on to make as much as lakh a month.
If you are a cardiac surgeon, then your earning will have the potential to reach the stars and beyond. For example, a reputed cardiac surgeon can earn about 1.5 lakh a day!
Along with the money is the fame. You will be renowned the world over for your expertise in your field. Starting off your own private clinic also brings in lots of money.
Interview with a Cardiologist
Dr. Ashwin Mehta, Cardiologist
Dr. Ashwin Mehta is the Director of Cardiology at Jaslok Hospital Mumbai.
When did you decide to be a doctor? When I was about 10, my best friend's mother had fallen seriously ill. The doctor who treated her left a deep impact on me. The idea of salvaging a person from the clutches of death appealed to me immensely. I began toying with the idea of being a doctor. Even my father encouraged me to choose this career.
How did you go about it? In 1957, after securing first class in inter-science (now called HSC), I joined G.S. Medical College in Mumbai. I stood first in merit and also bagged numerous gold medals in individual subjects. After completing my Masters course, I left to study for Chicago for specialisation in cardiology.
Why did you choose cardiology? Well, at that time there were two specialties in medicine that required a high grade of intellectual approach-Neurology and Cardiology. I felt that cardiology had great scope with the development of new technologies and techniques and hence chose to specialise in this field.
How did you get to your present job? As I returned from the United States, Jaslok Hospital was being set up as an ultra-modern hospital. The then Dean of the hospital was very well aware of my academic credentials and so I was offered this job.
What is your current job profile? I head the Cardiology Department at Jaslok Hospital. I undertake research projects and supervise and train doctors under me. Patient care remains a major part of my job profile. Besides these I also organise meetings and seminars.
I reach my hospital at round 9.00 a.m. in the morning. After conducting my daily rounds, I begin surgery around 10.00 a.m. Depending on the workload it extends to around 4.00 p.m. After four, I am usually in the consulting room where I examine new patients and recommend a course of action. This goes on till 8.00 p.m. after which I go for my evening rounds and reach home at around 9.30 p.m. After having dinner and watching a little bit of T.V, I sit down to read books on the latest developments in cardiology.
What qualities are required to be a cardiologist? One of the most important attributes a cardiologist requires is courage. Cardiology is an area where a patient's situation goes out of control in moments. You do not have time to dilly-dally around .You have to be able to think on your feet and use innovative ideas to tackle unusual problems. During these kinds of situations, you must be able to rely on your knowledge and experience.
In your opinion, what is the best way to go about being a cardiologist? India has some of the best training facilities in the world as far as medicine is concerned. Therefore, going abroad to study medicine directly would be a waste of resources. I feel students should do their M.B.B.S followed by post graduation and then move onto specialisation in cardiology in India itself. If you wish to learn advanced techniques that are being developed by the West, then you must go abroad. The scope for research and development is terrific in the West.
What advice would you give to those aspiring to take up this career? You better be prepared for long, erratic work hours. This is a field where a sense of helplessness and frustration sets in quickly. You must learn to guard yourself against that. You must develop the ability to remain calm and patient. This will come in handy in your practice.
What do like most about your job? The sense of fulfilment. When you rush into an emergency, you see a person dying in front of you. Everyone looks up to you for help and that can put a lot of pressure on you. But when you utilise your skills and knowledge and give someone their loved ones back, then the sense of gratification is immeasurable. That sense of accomplishment is what I like most about my job.
What are the things about this profession that you do not like? Hostile patients is one thing that you have to deal with. It can be a bit frustrating at times. Disgruntled and jealous peers remain another irritant. You have to learn to keep yourself above that.
What are the general misconceptions about this field? The medical community in general has been accused of being money-minded. People have come to believe that doctors are not as humane as they used to be. In fact all doctors try to imbibe the principle of positive health care in their patients. This does not mean the absence of disease. It implies that all the body organs are capable of working to their maximum, limit.
What are the new avenues in medicine that students should also explore? Biomedical engineering is a very interesting branch of medicine to look into. Those inclined towards research can opt for Molecular Biology and Genetics where giant strides are being taken as we speak. Ophthalmology too is a booming business these days and worth exploring.
You seem to be having a stressful life. How do you relax? On weekends I usually do not perform surgery. Emergencies are also not that much of a problem as the senior doctors under me usually manage to take care of them. I take a break from the routine on alternate weekends by attending seminars, which are usually held out of town. As I don't find time to go on a complete vacation, I tend to mix business with pleasure by participating in major conventions usually held abroad.
- Siddhartha Roy