An Interview with John R. Laird, Jr, MD
EVT's Chief Interventional Cardiologist discusses his move to UC Davis, his most rewarding procedures, and VIVA 2006.
A number of top physicians are changing addresses this year, including two of our Chief Medical Editors (see next month's edition for our interview with Takao Ohki, MD, PhD). What is the story behind your move to the University of California in Davis?
For me, it was a chance to grow professionally. I think that if you stay in one place too long, it is easy to get comfortable and fall into a rut, so I was seeking new challenges and the opportunity to reinvigorate myself and to try new things. The opportunity at UC Davis in Sacramento was too good to pass up. It was a chance to direct a new vascular program and to try to build something unique.
Was it difficult to leave the Washington Hospital Center, a practice where you have worked for the last 10 years?
Yes, it was tremendously difficult to leave. The Washington Hospital Center was a great environment to practice medicine, and I had the opportunity to work with some tremendous physicians. I'll particularly miss my partners at the Washington Cardiology Center. I could not have hoped to work with a greater bunch of guys. They are some of the top interventionists in the world. I will especially miss my team in the cardiac cath lab 8 in the Washington Hospital Center. I will not mention any names for fear of leaving someone out, but they were family to me, and we had a great run together over the 10 years that I worked there. I feel very proud of the care we provided patients there together.
How would you describe the impact of the move on your family?
My wife Deb and my two children, Aleson and Jackson, have remained very upbeat about the move, and we have all been excited about the new things we will have a chance to experience in California. For me, part of this move was about lifestyle and the hope that I will be able to spend more time with my kids outdoors, enjoying all that California has to offer. We are looking forward to playing more outdoor sports, camping and hiking, and all the things that were tough to do while living in the city.
Is it true that you just wanted to be closer to Jim Joye?
Yes, I wanted to have the chance to come out and beat him in golf, just once.
How would you describe the practice you are entering, and what are some of your goals for the near future at UC Davis?
My official title will be Director of the Vascular Center at the University of California Davis Medical Center. This is really an exciting opportunity for me and UC Davis to establish a true multidisciplinary collaborative vascular center. I'll be working closely with vascular surgery, interventional radiology, interventional nephrology, and cardiothoracic surgery to form this multidisciplinary center. We are going to share clinic space, we will see patients together, perform treatments in the office, and have call schedules and conferences together. It will be a real opportunity to establish something unique. In addition, we will have the full resources of the Medical School, the capability of UC Davis to build a strong clinical and translational research program.
Will any of your clinical patterns change, such as doing certain procedures more frequently, or even adopting new procedures?
I have been doing a very high volume of endovascular procedures over the past 20 years. I do not feel that I need to continue to do all these procedures myself. Part of my responsibility will be to teach others and to help my associates at UC Davis grow their practices. I will continue to do procedures and hopefully do some of the more complex interventions, but at the same time, I want to be able to help my colleagues here hone their skills and be introduced to some of the new technologies.
In what ways are you looking forward to the teaching aspect of your professorship, as well as to the overall environment of an academic hospital setting?
One of the things I really enjoyed in Washington was my peripheral vascular interventional fellowship. Each year, I had one or two fellows who would spend the year with me learning interventional vascular procedures and evaluating vascular patients and noninvasive vascular studies. I will continue this sort of teaching at UC Davis Medical Center, where I will have close contact with cardiology fellows, internal medicine residents, and surgery residents. I will also be doing some teaching at the medical school itself, which is one of the more enjoyable aspects of an academic professional career.
Which interventional procedures are the most rewarding to perform?
For me, it is hard to beat performing a complex aortoiliac intervention on a patient who is severely debilitated by claudication. These are some of the more challenging procedures, but at the same time, they can be the most rewarding in terms of relief of symptoms for the patient and the longevity of the good results. I also enjoy doing acute limb ischemia cases and critical limb ischemia cases. They give you a chance to save a patient's leg, allow the patient to walk out of the hospital, and resume a fairly normal life.
VIVA 2006 is rapidly approaching. Since its inception in 2003, VIVA has annually added to its offering and has in a short time become one of the most talked about meetings in the industry. What can attendees expect this year?
Each year, we strive to make VIVA better and more interesting and to make better use of the computer-based educational format. We will have the VIVA Visions symposium the day before the onset of the regular meeting. VIVA Visions will consist of six very interesting half-day symposia for attendees. One of the other things about VIVA is that we continue to rotate faculty for the meeting so that the attendees will not see the same speakers and talks year after year. This year, some of the top names in vascular surgery, interventional cardiology, and interventional radiology will be coming to the meeting, and we'll mix things up a little bit. The live cases will be from new centers this year, so again you will not see the same people performing the live case procedures. Each year, we strive to make the computer-based format for education more interactive and interesting for attendees. In addition, we will collaborate with the American Board of Vascular Medicine to provide simulator testing for Endovascular Board Certification. There will be a lot of exciting things going on at VIVA 2006!
How would you describe the challenge versus reward of being a meeting organizer for a major national meeting to an already busy clinical schedule?
I think that if you ask each member of the VIVA physicians group, they would tell you that this is a very gratifying part of what we do, but it is also very challenging and stressful. A lot of our conversations when we get together are centered around how much work it is. It's particularly challenging to have to do work on meeting organization late at night after an already busy day, but we wouldn't be doing it if we did not love it.