Annual CV Fellows’ Boot Camp at Houston Methodist

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Every August, first-year fellows around the country meet in Houston to attend one of the largest Cardiovascular Fellows' Boot Camp. The saying goes, "everything is bigger in Texas," and this meeting definitely lives up to the reputation.

Enthusiastic trainees from four different specialties spanning cardiology, cardiac surgery, vascular surgery and cardiac anesthesiology get a fast-paced initiation to what will become their everyday job for the next few years.

Over the course of three days, professionals in the field gather to share their year of expertise with recently graduated physicians looking to start their career in the cardiovascular field. The boot camp teaching comprises fundamental theory and hands-on practical experience, with the goal of providing new fellows with helpful tips and tools they can incorporate into their daily practice.

This year's sessions started with the basics and a "tour through the heart," where we got the chance to go through a step-by-step pig heart dissection, looking closely at the different structures with a detailed explanation and demonstration of their importance in cardiovascular physiology and pathology. Visualizing the heart's chambers, valves and vessels in real time helped concretize the different views that we have to interpret on echocardiograms and coronary angiograms.

We then proceeded to learn how to obtain those images ourselves, using transthoracic echocardiography on healthy volunteers and transesophageal echocardiography on simulators. The mannequins also served as our first application of percutaneous coronary angiography while we practiced radial and femoral accesses on cadaveric tissue.

To help with those overnight calls a first-year fellow gets about an advanced device malfunction, a session was designed to familiarize us with mechanical circulatory support, such as intra-aortic balloon pumps, temporary and permanent ventricular assist devices. We also learned about pacemakers, implantable cardioverter-defibrillator modes and interrogation, as well as troubleshooting tips and tricks.

At night, the fun was carried on from the simulation laboratory to an informal party where juniors and seniors alike put on their dancing shoes on and enjoyed each other's company over karaoke battles.

After practical skills teaching, the second and third days incorporated an overview of basic concepts of cardiovascular medicine in a series of short talks encompassing coronary artery disease, structural heart disease, vascular disease, heart failure and electrophysiology.

Questions, discussions and ideas exchanged after the sessions were highly engaging and enriching, as different people shared their personal experiences and challenges. Those conversations were recorded and are available for viewing on the Houston Methodist DeBakey CV Education YouTube channel.

As a starting fellow, this boot camp was quite enriching on a personal and professional level. I have had the opportunity to meet and learn from several esteemed physicians whom I consider great leaders and mentors. I have also made connections with peers from all over the nation and heard different perspectives on common challenges.

I would highly encourage aspiring cardiologists to participate in this activity next year, as it helps equip them to take on the challenges of transitioning from residency to cardiovascular fellowship.

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This article was authored by Joe Aoun, MD, Fellow in Training (FIT) at Houston Methodist Debakey Heart & Vascular Center in Houston, TX.