Yuvraj Chowdhury, MD

As his training comes to a close, this IC fellow is excited to put down roots and forge long-term relationships with patients.

ChowdhuryYuvraj Chowdhury is currently an interventional cardiology fellow at the University of Massachusetts. Chowdhury attended medical school in Pune, India, after being awarded the Maulana Azad Scholarship for Academic Excellence in Biomedical Sciences by the president of India. He completed his internal medicine residency at Saint Peter’s University Hospital/Rutgers Robert Wood Johnson Medical School in New Brunswick, NJ, where he served as chief resident. He went on to pursue his cardiology training at the State University of New York – Downstate and was chief fellow in the 2nd and 3rd years of his training. Chowdhury, who has authored over 60 scientific publications, will be joining the University of Louisville in Kentucky as an assistant professor of medicine and interventional cardiology faculty member in the summer of 2023.

What initially interested you in a career in cardiology?

I believe the seed of becoming a physician was implanted by my mother’s strong desire to become a doctor. India is very competitive: the spots are few and the applicants so many. Not having secured admission to medical school, she diverted her interest to study biological sciences and became a botanist. Growing up, she used to passionately engage in teaching me biology and physiology. Her enthusiasm for the subject percolated through to me and that set me on my journey to becoming a physician.

Also, it has to do with the prevalence of coronary disease in India, I think—far too many people back home suffer from cardiac disease and my dad was no exception to that. In the early years of my med school, my dad had a positive stress test and multiple vessels that required intervention. We spoke to a surgeon, who said, “You know, you're going to need bypass surgery.” My dad didn’t want to get open-heart surgery, so there was a lot of anxiety at home. Then we started getting in touch with some interventional cardiologists in our capital city of New Delhi, and they gave us this percutaneous option. Just having that hope that this might get done without having his chest cracked open and that we could bring him back home in a couple of days, it lightened the spirits. He went through with it and now 15 years later he has not required a repeat intervention or CABG. That story made me feel like cardiologists are people who can make a positive impact on somebody's life.

What obstacles did you face as you started out?

When I decided to pursue this path, I lived in a small town in Bengal where there were just a couple of doctors who made it through the medical profession. So there was a lot of misinformation. From that perspective, you tend to hear more about the people who didn't make it: the people who did not match, the people who did not get into residency, the people who went for electives, spent a lot of time, did a lot of research, and it never happened for them. You don't really come across the people who actually are glad that they made the right decision to enter medicine. There’s a sense that it’s not possible and you’re wasting your time.

So the obstacles I faced were back home. But it’s important to believe in yourself. If you are really passionate and honest about pursuing your dreams, it does come through and it is beautiful and amazing and more than you ever dreamed of.

You’ve come a long way, geographically speaking. How did you end up in the United States?

My brother, who’s 5 years older than me, got a job in the United States as a consultant at Deloitte. Having somebody from your family who's already here and settled provided that foundation, and I decided to explore training options in the United States.

Then my elective at Mass General probably played a very strong role in cementing my decision. It was beautiful just to be able to walk through those doors and see the incredible work they did, steeped in the history of the institution. It was like being in an episode of House MD.

Looking back on your training journey so far, what has surprised you the most?

The mentorship—the number of people who, possibly for no personal benefit, take time from their busy schedule to guide you, shape you, direct you, and advocate for you. That there are people who just enter your life and set you in the right direction was a very pleasant surprise. As a foreign graduate, you don't really know a lot of people or understand the system very well. But if you are passionate about your work, there are so many people here who are willing to help you.

I bet it’s hard to pick just one, but can you tell me about a mentor who has had a profound effect on your career.

I’ve had incredible mentors this year at UMass, like Dr. Daniel Fisher, Dr. Jeff Rade, Dr. Nikolaos Kakouros, and Dr. Youssef Rahban. But if I had to pick one, I’d have to say it’s Dr. Waqas Qureshi.

When I entered the lab and was just starting out, I asked if he had any words of advice. He said, “Yuvraj, this year is all about getting comfortable being uncomfortable, and doing justice to the weight of responsibility and trust the patient is placing in you.” That’s something I really adopted as a guiding principle during my interventional year. He’s somebody who is trained in cardiac CT, cardiac MRI, peripheral, structural—so from the very outset, he taught me that it’s not just about doing procedures and being a plumber but about having a holistic approach to the patient and using all the information you have at hand in the EMR before you embark on a case. Do your due diligence with every patient before you go ahead and start sticking needles and wires in them.

Dr. Qureshi takes the time to individualize feedback for every case, every intervention I perform, and there's always a learning principle. I call them Q-Tips. So he's had a profound impact. He's always pushed me to work harder and to push the boundaries, but with caution, and helped me become the operator I am today.

What do you see as the biggest challenge facing IC fellows today?

I think it is the diversity in training that is being offered. I'm fortunate, I've trained in a program where I have performed over 550 PCIs this year. The minimum requirement of an IC fellowship is 250 PCIs. In my opinion, having gone through this rigorous journey, 250 is not the right number, given the plethora of modalities one has to train in now, the complexity of lesions, and the tools we have at hand. This is not meant to undermine anyone's ability in performing interventions, but I think in order to be an interventional cardiologist in 2023, you must have robust exposure in mechanical circulatory support, plaque-modification techniques, intracoronary imaging, and physiology. You must be equipped to provide tailored coronary care deserving of a patient in today’s day and age of personalized medicine.

How do you see the field of interventional cardiology changing within the next 5 years?

If there's one thing certain about interventional cardiology, it is that it is dynamic with new data and tools always on the horizon. The past few years have witnessed tremendous growth in venous and structural interventions, optimizing PCI using imaging guidance and physiology, and the use of mechanical circulatory support devices to deliver minimally invasive high-value care.

Looking forward, artificial intelligence is going to have an increasing impact in the cath lab in terms of precision, accuracy, and data-driven decisions for both diagnosis and treatment. Cognitive computing based on deep learning will allow for improved acquisition and expert level interpretation of OCT and IVUS, procedural planning (eg, stent and balloon sizing), or even assessments of the need for intervention itself. I expect this to also decrease inter- and intra-operator variability in interpretation and management.

What are you most looking forward to after finishing your training and finally taking that next step?

I've been a trainee for my whole life, so it’s uncharted territory.

Something that bothers me is I've always had to move every few years in order to pursue my goals. There are relationships you leave behind, and there are people you leave behind. The worst part is leaving your patients behind. When you meet them for your final visit and tell them, “I’m going to be gone and next time you're going to have somebody new taking care of you,” it’s equally heartbreaking for them and for you, because after a few visits it becomes personal. Now I'll be able to put down roots and to establish long-term relationships with the people I work with and the patients I care for.

My fiancée is also a cardiologist, and she and I have been on this journey since we met in residency. We’ve always placed our careers first, and it's taken us to different cities over the last 7 years. We’ve enjoyed every bit of it and are thankful for the decisions we made, but to finally be able to come home and under the same roof is something I'm looking forward to. We’re both going to be at the University of Louisville.

If you weren't a physician, what else could you see yourself doing?

I might have been a chef. My grandmom was a great cook, and my mom is equally amazing with a spatula. I used to watch and learn from them. There’s a lot that goes into cooking, which is sort of similar to medicine: you add a few things and see how it does, and then you modify it with smaller adjustments until it tastes perfect. There's love, there's passion that goes into it. It's unique every time. I’ve been experimenting here in the US, trying to merge Indian cuisine with the diverse cuisines I try here and come up with new fusion recipes. So maybe something I could pursue down the line is my own restaurant, with my take on a hybrid Indian cuisine.

What is something that people might not know about you, like what you do in your free time?

In the pandemic era, during our time off, we visited national parks and other places that weren't crowded. I got myself a DJI Mavic drone, and I started flying it everywhere, making these small videos and taking pictures. It’s something I really enjoy. It gives one a unique perspective. We angiographers like to look at things in multiple projections, I suppose, and drone photography gives you more of a cranial angle. Something I've been thinking about recently is how life comes complete circle. Growing up I used to go horseback riding back home in India and somewhere along the way, it just got lost. But lo and behold, I'm going to Kentucky where they have the Derby and it's all about the horses. So I am looking to get back on that horse.

What his nominator, Waqas Qureshi, MD, says:

As this academic year draws to a close, it would be remiss of me to not commend our stellar interventional cardiology fellow, Yuvraj Chowdhury, MD, for his devotion to the field and his adroitness in mastering the sophisticated skills required whilst showing up to work every day with a hunger to do more and go further. Yuvraj brought with him a cultural shift for the role of the interventional fellow in our cath lab. Instead of [restricting] himself to coronary interventions, he dove into the behemoth that is interventional cardiology, performing hemodynamic assessments with right-heart caths and complex valve studies, performing PFO closures, and assisting in structural interventions with the same fervor as he would with elaborate multivessel PCIs. Always coming in early to prep cases and staying for procedures even if not on call, his work ethic is solid. He has several strengths including being collegial, friendly, approachable, available, amicable, and amiable. Not just his personality traits are impressive—he is also excellent in his technical skills. He takes time to evaluate the patients and process the information in a way that I have not seen any fellow do before. All of these abilities will carry him far and have won him the endearment of the cath lab staff, his attendings and junior fellows, and most importantly his patients. During his training here, he has also contributed to the field with his roles on the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions’ ischemic heart disease and communications councils, the American College of Cardiology (ACC)’s ACCEL podcast, and the ACC FITs On The Go initiative. Though he will be thoroughly missed, we will be cheering him on as he transitions to his new role as assistant professor and interventional cardiology faculty at the University of Louisville in Kentucky, knowing that his future is infinitely bright and his hands are superbly skilled, but most of all taking pride in the fact that he is one of our best.

Caitlin E. Cox is News Editor of TCTMD and Associate Director, Editorial Content at the Cardiovascular Research Foundation. She produces the…

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