Advice For the Early Career Cardiologist: An Interview With Dr. Mark Drazner
Mark H. Drazner, MD, FACC
Siu-Hin Wan, MD, FACC, member of the Early Career Section, interviewed Mark H. Drazner, MD, FACC, clinical chief of cardiology of the Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiology, at the University of Texas Medical Center, about his advice for Early Career cardiologists.
Wan: Could you tell us your background and path in cardiology and heart failure, and provide some perspective as to how you became a master clinician, educator, researcher and leader?
Drazner: I trained at UT Southwestern in the medicine residency program and went on to cardiology training at Duke, and then advanced heart failure and transplant cardiology at Brigham. I came back to UT Southwestern, now over 23 years ago, and stayed at my first job. Currently, I am the clinical chief of cardiology and have previously been section head of the advanced heart failure, left ventricular assist device, transplant program.
Wan: Could you provide some advice in choosing a career? There are so many paths: clinician, educator, researcher, and everything in between. How did you you chose your path?
Drazner: The most important thing is to do what feels right to you, not what you think other people want you to do, or what you perceive is the right thing, but really where you enjoy spending your time. People are successful when they are doing things that they enjoy doing. For me, I like doing a little bit of everything. I love taking care of patients, but if I did that day in day out, year in year out, that wouldn't be as satisfying to me as the opportunity to also be involved in the educational, research and administrative side. Just be honest with yourself about what feels right. I think that is the best path to success.
Wan: Once someone has identified their career path, what advice do you have for working towards that goal? For example, projects to be involved in, both at their institution or organization, to work towards being successful.
Drazner: Find mentors who can help you. A big piece of advice I was given when I was early in my career was to invest in yourself. My mentor at the time said you have your whole career for you to reap the benefits of that additional training. So even if it is a year or two, if it is subspecialized training or training in research, you have your entire career for the benefits to accrue. That extra year or two is trivial if you think about it if it will change your trajectory over the course of your entire career.
Wan: Could you talk about some challenges during your career and how you overcame those challenges and became resilient?
Drazner: My original career plan when I was applying for medical residency was to go into neurology. But as things evolved, I realized that field wasn't quite right for me, and when I came to Southwestern, I fell under the spell of some wonderful educators in cardiology and that became my field. So some flexibility. Also, I had done some work in the basic lab in fellowship, however I pivoted more towards epidemiological and translational research. It was the willingness to pivot, and being honest with myself.
Wan: Could you talk about where you see cardiology going and big things you see in heart failure?
Drazner: I think there are several:
- Genetics: Why does the person who consumes alcohol get cardiomyopathy, and another person won't? This has been known for a while now, but the potential for genetics seems to be a big opportunity.
- A team-based approach: Medicine has evolved and is no longer based on a single provider. The team-based atmosphere is going to be prevalent. I think all the fields are going to be team-based. If I was preparing for a career, I would start thinking about that as well.
- Implementation: We have all these amazing therapies, yet if we look at how well we are distributing and allocating them, we are not doing a very good job. A lot more attention needs to be paid on a broad societal level.
Wan: Any final words of advice?
Drazner: The most important variable as you are looking for your job, in my opinion, is who are the people you are going to be working with. I think that is really the key to being happy.
Also, time management is the key to being able to balance it all. In health care, we are starting to see more attention paid to wellness and leadership courses to help trainees, but there is a whole non-medical business literature where this is well addressed. If you are starting a career, it is worth educating yourself about time management. I think that will pay off in a large way in your career.
Finally, I've learned through an academic career there are situations where you can get yourself knocked down. The advice that I ultimately came to is to focus on what you have control over. You can't worry about what other people are doing since you can't control that, but you can control what you are doing. That has really served me well in my career.
This article was authored by Siu-Hin Wan, MD, FACC, assistant professor at the University of Texas Medical Center, Department of Internal Medicine, Division of Cardiology.