Mohammed “Hamdy” Abozenah, MD

With a passion for medical education, this future interventional cardiologist hopes to teach the next generation of physicians.

Mohammed “Hamdy” Abozenah, MD Mohammed “Hamdy” Abozenah, MD, is a third-year general cardiology fellow at Baystate Medical Center in Springfield, MA, where he also trained in internal medicine. Growing up he lived in several countries, including Egypt, England, Saudi Arabia, and Bahrain. Abozenah, who graduated from the Royal College of Surgeons of Ireland (Muharraq, Bahrain), plans to start his interventional training at his current institution this summer and aspires to complete a critical care cardiology fellowship down the line.

After living in so many countries as a child, why did you set your sights on the US to finish your training?

My parents are both physicians. My dad is a nephrologist, and my mom is an obstetrician and gynecologist. So it was somewhat of an expectation—not so much by them, but pretty much the remainder of our extended family—for me to get into medical school. I was interested in biology in high school, too, so that was sort of a natural transition for me. My parents did their advanced training in the UK, so that was initially the goal. It made sense in the medical school I went to in Bahrain is an Irish medical school. My group of friends, who came from many different walks of life, included people from Canada, the US, Australia, Mauritius, and Trinidad and Tobago. Halfway through med school, a few of us decided that we’d like to pursue our training in the United States. The training seemed to be one that’s widely recognized and regarded across the world, and the US seemed to fit our multicultural backgrounds. Before you know it, it was a group project—now the majority of us are training across the US, Canada, and Europe.

At this point, it’s tough for me to see where the rest of my career will be spent. I think there is a huge value in independently practicing where you train, within the same systems, same guidelines, et cetera. So naturally, it makes sense for me to start my career here in the US. I’ve also really enjoyed my life here so far, which is a huge perk. My immediate family, though, is still in Bahrain, and my extended in Egypt. Being away from home can be tough, but this past September my youngest sister moved to New Haven for a research fellowship at Yale, and that has just been a gift for me. I also plan on visiting my other sister in Germany, where she’s training to become an ENT surgeon, and my brother in Egypt, where he’s currently wrapping up med school fairly soon. As for the future, I guess we’ll just have to see where life takes us.

Is your whole family in the field of medicine?

Essentially, yes. It’s pretty crazy when you think about it. At times I feel slightly guilty, because since I’m the first child my siblings looked up to me growing up (for reasons unclear to me). Makes me wonder if they just hopped on the bandwagon after seeing me enjoy what I do. It has been really lovely to see them share their passions about what they’re doing now as well.

What is it about being a physician that you enjoy?

Only by practicing did I realize the true beauty of the career I chose. Being able to interact with people during a time of need is quite humbling and gratifying.. A huge draw to me was the humanistic aspect, which you hear less about in school: the part that bridges the gap between patient and physician. Being in a position where I could lend a helping hand to people in need ultimately became the most rewarding aspect of my job and enabled me to conquer some of the fears I had at the start.

Towards the end of my medical school, I became somewhat detached after realizing the disconnect between physicians and patients. A point of contention for me was the lack of emphasis on patient communication and involvement in decision-making. Having had some personal experiences related to family members not being informed about or involved in their own care, I made a vow to try and avoid similar experiences for my patients or their loved ones. Realizing the amount of impact I’m able to impart on people, whether for the better or worse, allowed me to remain humble, to never forget my basic human instincts, to always be inclusive and empathetic, and to enjoy what I do.

You mentioned that you have had some experiences that made you want to change things. Can you talk about those a little more?

Back in medical school, although I’ve seen some of it here too, I witnessed interactions where physicians were extremely paternalistic, not allowing for patient involvement in the decision-making process. As a medical student on a neurology floor, I once was rounding on an extremely pleasant but unfortunate gentleman who had suffered a massive stroke and had paralysis of his left side. What shocked me at the time was the fact that he was under the impression that he was having a diabetic flare-up, unaware he faced permanent paralysis and potentially a life with serious disabilities moving forward. While there’s a huge variance in patients’ medical literacy, that was deeply upsetting to me. I felt that I would be in a unique position to be able to improve our patients’ insights into medicine and their own illnesses. Our patients cannot take us home with them—only they and their loved ones are to be responsible for continued care outside healthcare settings—and it is up to us to provide them with knowledge. It certainly helps to look at it from a holistic approach as opposed to treating individual problems or ailments; we’re here to take care of people and their loved ones just as much as we’re here to eradicate disease.

Fortunately, most my experiences in this regard were actually positive. I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to shadow my seniors in the beginning of my medical career. I witnessed them take the time to sit down with patients and their families, to go over things slowly, to not rush through the care they delivered, and to not be dismissive no matter how late they stayed or what parts of their social lives they sacrificed in the process. I want to be a physician who’s invested as they were.

Why did you decide to pursue interventional cardiology?

I originally wanted to be a surgeon. Surgery gets the limelight in medicine. It feels like a highly enticing field to a lot of medical students, and that was certainly the case for me. The ability to rapidly correct something surgically seemed gratifying, and it fueled into my childhood curiosities surrounding deconstruction and reconstruction of various objects—a habit that my parents never seemed to appreciate when I was younger. My passions slowly transitioned to medicine, and then cardiology, around the time I decided to segway into pursuing my medical training in the US. My first day in the cardiac ICU as a medical intern still reverberates clearly in my mind. I had to take care of some fairly sick patients with mechanical circulatory support devices, therapies that I had never seen before. My fascination with our ability to deliver such advanced support was instantaneous. Once again, I must acknowledge my fortune in being mentored by some incredible cardiologists, a few of whom subspecialized in interventional cardiology. Their approach to cardiac care, experience, and scholarship drew me more to the field. Couple that with an innate passion for procedures and acute care, and interventional cardiology soon stole the spotlight.

What prompted your interest in medical education?

My interest first began in medical school. I’m happy and proud to see that journey evolve from teaching basic history and physical examination to being able to design and deliver medical curricula currently. There’s a tremendously humbling aspect to teaching medical students and junior trainees, who tend to have a solid grasp on basic science concepts that translates to interesting discussions, always pushing me to look at things from different perspectives. Besides the stimulating nature of teaching, and the personal learning benefits you could derive from it, it is also an incredible way to give back.

When I started my residency, the program here was extremely supportive of me getting into medical education. Before I knew it, I was working with one of our associate program directors, Raquel Belforti, DO, who is the associate dean of education at UMass Chan Medical School-Baystate. We created an EKG curriculum for UMass medical students rotating in the program with us at the hospital, and that has been a tremendous experience. From there, a fire had ignited within me and it has been burning strong since. In the past year, with tremendous support from our leadership, I helped create an EKG curriculum for the internal medicine and medicine pediatric residents that we hope will become a staple in their educational experience. I’ve also been able to create a CCU teaching curriculum for our medical residents, with sessions given by the cardiology fellows to also help with their own education and to further their scholarly activity. I'm also lucky to be heavily involved in a lot of the procedural, clinical, and academic teaching within the fellowship, whether it be bedside procedures, the journal club, or the clinical case conference series.

What has been the best piece of advice you have gotten from a mentor?

I’ve always struggled with picking favorites, but the word mentor naturally has me thinking of my father, Hamdy Abozenah. Picking out the best piece of advice he’s given me will be challenging, however, as he is one of the brightest, kindest men out there. I try to emulate him in my life as much as I possibly can. A few of the things that will always stay with me are, one, always be kind to people because you never know when you are going to need somebody to be kind to you. It’s not necessarily seeking a compensation for your kindness, but more about the positive energy you put out into the world. He also taught me that the most helpful people are those who are always willing to help without an expectation of help in return. Seeing him practice that in his daily life, as he continues to be a tremendous support to his extended family and friends, really reinforced that for me. Another thing that he taught me is to listen and pause before you speak. He said that the best people in the world are great listeners who talk less than they listen. That might have slightly come up from the fact that I was a bit of rebellious, chatty kid. It resonates with most people, and everybody appreciates being heard.

Also, I cannot begin to imagine where my life would be without my mother, Maha Ghorabah. She instilled in me all those same values that my dad did, and she’s been my biggest supporter. I am grateful to both of them beyond what words can describe. I owe everything I have in life to their hard work, their help, and their undying faith and belief in me.

What do you like to do in your free time to balance out your work life?

I really, really enjoy being active. I played a bunch of sports growing up. My parents may have not always been on board since I’ve probably amassed enough fractures, bruises, and injuries to go around an entire room of people. They always supported my involvement in sports, though. I love to bike, and have been trying to get into longboarding for a couple years now: fingers crossed 2024 is the year for that. I also enjoy live music and dancing. I’m a huge fan of traveling and often frequent New York City for various events and shows. I enjoy art and try to visit museums and art exhibits; I’m not very well versed with all the artists, but I think that there is a lot of beauty out in the world and it is awesome to see people being able to express it in all the different various forms that they do. Reading is also something that I was really into when I was younger and it took the back seat to medicine for a while, but I am trying to pick that up again. Finally, there's not as much nature back in the Middle East as there is here, so just going out and exploring that has been absolutely incredible. It is so gorgeous in New England.

What his nominator, Andrew Goldsweig, MD, says:

Hamdy is a rising interventional cardiology fellow with a strong interest in—and great aptitude for—medical education. He has organized his co-fellows and faculty to give daily resident lectures, and he has established a weekly case review conference at our institution. He excels not only as a cardiologist, but as a teacher and a role model for many future cardiologists. Other fellows can learn a lot from the educational network that Hamdy has built.

*To nominate a stellar cardiology fellow for the Featured Fellow section of TCTMD’s Fellows Forum, click here.