In October, Jatin Anand, a third-year medical student, and Mohamed Kaif, a fourth-year student, flew from Miami to the Czech Republic where they made presentations at a prestigious cardiology conference. Anand and Kaif were among a small group of international students chosen to present posters at the Eighth International Congress on Coronary Artery Disease alongside luminaries in the cardiology field.
"It was an amazing experience," Anand said. "I never thought my first opportunity to make a professional presentation would be at an international conference at such a high level. When you're a student it's not the kind of opportunity you believe would come. It was extraordinary."
Kaif described the four-day trip as exhilarating and "an experience I will never forget."
"It was a little intimidating at first but very refreshing to experience a scientific event on such a grand scale," said Kaif, who presented a study on the prevalence of stroke in systolic heart failure with respect to race, ethnicity and gender. "I considered us very lucky to have been there."
Serendipity might have played a small part in sending Anand and Kaif to Prague, but dedication to cardiovascular projects assigned by Kathy Hebert, M.D., M.M.M., M.P.H., associate professor of medicine in the Cardiovascular Division, played a major role.
Anand, who presented a poster comparing erectile dysfunction in heart failure patients in Florida and the country of Georgia, was doing a cardiology rotation with Dr. Hebert, director of disease management and outcomes research, when she encouraged him to pursue extra research work. Dr. Hebert, he said, had so much data from local and foreign heart patients that there was "enough for three or four excellent papers."
"Dr. Hebert is one of the most hardworking and caring attending physicians I have ever worked with," Anand said. "She cares so much about patients, she pushes students to care as much as she does. And she does all she can to help us succeed."
Under Hebert's guidance, Anand used Hebert's heart failure and erectile dysfunction data to write an abstract and submit a poster to the cardiology conference.
Kaif also based his poster on data Dr. Hebert had collected during her humanitarian work abroad in Tbilisi, Georgia, and stateside in Houma, Louisiana, and Miami.
"We took all this data and tried to see how prevalent stroke was in the heart failure population," Kaif said. "The results were interesting, in that the prevalence in Georgia was low, while it was higher in Miami and Louisiana, which were very comparable. It didn't seem to vary based on race, ethnicity and gender."
Hebert said multi-country studies yield good results that can indicate how surroundings and lifestyle contribute to heart disease and, in a time of globalization, international medical conferences offer a chance to learn from experts far and wide.
"It is always fascinating for me to see the heart disease research taking place in other countries," said Hebert. "It was exciting for our two Miller School students who were able to experience research on an international scale very early in their careers."
Kaif and Anand's trips were funded by the John K. Robinson Foundation, which the Medical Alumni Association established in 1971 to recognize the former associate dean for student affairs for his dedication to students.
The international conference and Hebert's infectious excitement for cardiology are already having an impact on the students' future plans. Kaif might pursue a cardiology fellowship and Anand is considering a year off for clinical research.
"I was thinking about cardiology research for a while but this great experience has done a lot to solidify my direction," said Anand.