FIT August Spotlight: Aaron Kithcart, MD, PhD

August 16, 2017 | Aaron Kithcart, MD, PhD
Career Development

Each month, the Fellows in Training (FIT) Section newsletter, ACC On-Call, highlights the achievements of one FIT. The Section would like to recognize Aaron Kithcart, MD, PhD, an FIT at Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston, MA. Kithcart describes his involvement with the ACC, career goals, research interests and advice for new cardiovascular FITs in the interview below.

What roles do you have within the ACC and how did you become involved with the College?
One of my exposures to the ACC was through the American Medical Association (AMA), which I was involved in as a medical student and resident. I began working with the ACC as an extension of my advocacy involvement in the AMA. My first real role in the ACC was as a member of the FIT Leadership Council, and I am now proud to say I am a member of both the first class of Emerging Advocates and the Health Affairs Committee.

What are your plans after fellowship?
My plans after fellowship are to continue bench research and clinical care at an academic institution while also maintaining my involvement with the ACC and advocacy.

Why did you choose this field?
I became interested in cardiology during my first couple years of medical school. At its most basic level, the cardiovascular system is a simple pump with tubes. I felt like I could understand that, plus the excitement of acute coronary syndrome during my clinical rotations sealed it for me.

What are your research interests?
I study the roles of inflammation in the pathogenesis of vascular disease. Right now, my research uses zebrafish to study lipid deposition and thrombosis, and the role the innate immune system plays in these processes.

What are your hobbies?
I love traveling, so every day of vacation I get is typically spent traveling the world. Most recently, I visited Croatia and Germany. I have plans later this year to see Vietnam.

How do you balance life and work?
I think work-life balance is critically important. I was taught early in my training that we cannot be good physicians if we are not good patients first. We have to listen to our bodies and know when we are spending too much time at work. During my PhD, when I had more control over my schedule, I would make sure I got enough sleep and spent time with family and friends. I still prioritize those things, even if I cannot always take the time I need due to inpatient responsibilities and call.

Who are some of your inspirations and mentors?
I have had mentors since my first day of college, but one that stands out to me right now is Patrick T. O'Gara, MD, MACC, past president of the ACC. He helped me learn about the ACC and is the reason why I am involved today.

What are the developments in the field of cardiology you are most excited about?
I think we are on the cusp of truly individualized medical care. This will not only include drug recommendations based on someone's genetic profile but also gene editing with the application of CRISPR-Cas9 technology.

What advice do you have for new FITs starting their fellowships?
Focus on your clinical training first. It can be tempting to look for research or extracurricular opportunities early in fellowship, but the skills you learn in the first one or two years will carry you over your career.

What advice do you have for FITs interested in advocacy?
Advocacy is important for all FITs. For instance, while TAVR may add years to an octogenarian's life, she will be helpless if her insurance does not t cover it or the malpractice environment makes it prohibitively difficult for her cardiologist to do it. FITs who want to get involved should join their local chapter, where they can participate in both state and national advocacy. Of course, I would be remiss if I did not mention the ACC's Legislative Conference, which is quite possibly the most important meeting all year!