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When asked about his experience in the Cardiovascular Disease Fellowship Program within the Corrigan Minehan Heart Center at Massachusetts General Hospital, second-year fellow and aspiring academic cardiac electrophysiologist Daniel Pipilas, MD, says that “even in this short time, there are a few people who really stick out as great mentors.” Dr. Pipilas joined the program after attending medical school at the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine and completing his residency at Brigham and Women's Hospital.
In this Q&A, learn more about Dr. Pipilas’ experience with mentorship and why he chose Mass General for his fellowship training.
What has your experience been like in the program thus far?
This is a fantastic place to learn cardiology. From the very beginning, I felt supported by the program leadership and comfortable in my role. The work environment here is extremely collegial while also supportive of individual growth and academic curiosity. I don’t think I could have predicted how responsive the leadership would be to our feedback as fellows. Based on feedback, we’ve made several changes to our curriculum to allow for better call schedules and educational conferences. I’m also surrounded by great people—I didn’t know any of my co-fellows before I started and now they are my closest friends!
Why did you pick this program and Mass General?
When I was applying for cardiology fellowship, I wanted to match at a program that could help me become the best academic cardiologist I could be. When I came to Mass General for my interview, I instantly felt like the clinical training, research opportunities and educational model was perfect for me. Most importantly, the program directors and faculty are wonderful! They are supportive of all our needs as fellows and very involved in our day-to-day lives.
What is one challenge you experienced as a fellow?
I didn’t realize how steep the learning curve is for the technical aspect of cardiology training. I struggled with echocardiography and cardiac catheterization because both were new skillsets that we don’t learn in residency. It was also challenging to approach clinical problems with a subspecialist mindset after a general internal medicine education.
What has been your greatest accomplishment?
Although successfully learning and performing procedures is rewarding, I’m most proud of the longitudinal relationship I build with my patients. We are fortunate in cardiology to be able to build relationships that will continue to grow in the outpatient setting for years to come.
How would you describe your experience with your mentors in this program?
The mentorship in this program is phenomenal. We’re each assigned fellow and faculty mentors at the beginning of year one, and our program leadership meets with us several times per year to make sure we have the resources we need. It is very easy to connect with other mentors in whatever field of cardiovascular disease interests you, and these mentors become integral to your education.
Steve Lubitz, MD, MPH has given me great advice on how to succeed as a fellow, and we’ve carved out a few research projects for me to work on. Throughout this past year he has been a fantastic role model and teacher and exemplifies the type of people who are here at Mass General.
In the clinical setting, Danita Sanborn, MD has been an exemplary role model and teacher. She directs our Paul Dudley White outpatient clinic and attends on the consult service. She has also been a personal mentor for me throughout my time at Mass General. She is always interested in our well-being, and her door is always open for anything we need as fellows.
What has your experience as a trainee been like during the time of COVID-19?
This is a difficult time for everyone, and medical trainees are no exception. I’ve felt very fortunate to be able to use my skills to help patients during the pandemic. The Department of Medicine and Division of Cardiology at Mass General have been supportive of us in so many ways. We were kept up to date with new policies, provided with appropriate supplies and constantly in touch with our leadership to make sure we were staying safe. Our clinical practice changed dramatically, but the core values and supportive environment did not change at all.
What does the future of cardiovascular disease care look like to you?
I’m excited about the expansion of wearable technology, home monitoring and telehealth. The wave of at-home medical technology will surely continue to boom, and I think it will help us manage patients much more effectively from the comfort of their own homes.
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