Featured Fellow: Eric Secemsky, MD, MSc
With a research focus on comparative effectiveness and outcomes, this interventional cardiology fellow spends his free time immersing himself in music.
Eric Secemsky, MD, MSc, is an interventional cardiology fellow at Massachusetts General Hospital (Boston, MA). A graduate of Northwestern University (Chicago, IL) for undergrad and medical school and of the Harvard School of Public Health (Boston, MA), he completed his internal medicine training at the University of California, San Francisco, and his cardiology training at Massachusetts General Hospital. Secemsky is also concurrently completing a fellowship in cardiovascular outcomes research at Harvard Medical School. He has over 20 publications in peer-reviewed journals and has presented his findings at several large cardiology conferences across the country. After training, Secemsky is interested in pursuing a career in academic interventional cardiology, with a focus on comparative effectiveness and outcomes research.
Why did you decide to pursue interventional cardiology?
One of the many benefits of cardiology is the diversity it offers. One can have interests that range from imaging to managing critically ill patients in the intensive care unit to seeing outpatients in clinic. However, for me, being able to add a procedural component to my practice was what really excited me about cardiology. I really enjoy using my hands and actively working through problems, dealing with challenges as they arise on the spot. Interventional cardiology also provides me with the opportunity to see an immediate benefit for my patients, especially those who present critically ill and are then able to walk out of the hospital after a couple of days and resume their normal lives. It’s an incredibly large field that has continued to grow, and it's going to have even more of an impact in these next couple of decades with the continued emergence of newer devices and technology.
What has surprised you most about becoming an interventional cardiologist?
What has surprised me the most is the immediate satisfaction I get from successfully completing a procedure and improving the care of my patients. In the cath lab when I have that opportunity to open an occluded vessel and change the clinical course and prognosis for my patient, that feedback for me is really exciting. I didn’t expect to get such a thrill from it.
What has been your most meaningful clinical experience thus far?
I had the opportunity to train at the University of California, San Francisco. One of the reasons I sought that program was because we spend one-third of our time at the San Francisco VA hospital and one-third of our time at the county hospital. Having the opportunity to take care of underserved patients and actually have resources, which are typically only available at larger hospital systems, was very rewarding as I was able to provide a very high level of service for these patients. That was an extremely gratifying part of my training that has stuck with me to this date. Moving forward, improving the clinical care for these patients will continue to be an important part of my practice, whether that be through training residents and fellows in community clinics or through my research.
What is the best piece of advice your mentor has given you?
When I was finishing up my clinical training during my second year of fellowship, one of my mentors at the time pulled me aside and said, “Here is my advice to you: think big. At the end of the day, you want to look back at your career and know how you added to your field and pushed it further. You can only do that by really thinking about the overall importance of your research interests and trying to make your goal bigger than maybe it was when you started to pursue that pathway.” That advice has stayed with me. Obviously there are people who have lofty goals and get stuck going nowhere. But if you know at the end of the day that the trajectory you envision your research moving in may have real clinical impact, it really helps support the decision to pursue academic medicine. Thinking big to me doesn't necessarily mean that everyone in the country is going to cite my paper. It's more that my research can improve the care of patients, even at the hospital level. Everything is relative, but to me, it’s always good to have a bigger destination to strive towards, and I know my career will be that much more fulfilling once I'm able to get to that point.
What is something that people might not know about you?
Outside of medicine, my biggest hobby is music. I have played the piano, violin, and guitar since I was 4 years old. When I’m not in the hospital or playing with my 18-month old daughter, I try to attend local shows or some of the music festivals we have nearby. I had a band in high school and I played a little bit in college, but I don't play as much in public anymore. However, a couple of years ago, my sister-in-law asked me to play guitar while she walked down the aisle at her wedding. Now, my wife and I play music for our daughter. She'll sing and I'll play guitar, which is nice as we can get our daughter exposed to instruments and music early on. That’s been my main opportunity to perform these days.
What his nominator, Robert Yeh, MD, says:
Secemsky is a talented interventional cardiologist and physician scientist who is making a significant impact in clinical investigation into antithrombotic and antiplatelet regimens for PCI. He was a key partner in the creation of the DAPT Score, a tool used to stratify patients based on benefits and risks of extended duration of dual antiplatelet therapy, and has conducted novel research describing practice patterns and effectiveness of different anticoagulation strategies for STEMI. He is a rare interventional fellow who is equally comfortable describing the subtleties of propensity-score methodology and the best wires to use for retrograde CTO procedures. I think his equal commitment to practice and research makes him an ideal role model for other aspiring academic proceduralists.
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