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HeartBeats Episode 15: SW Florida’s Newest Heart Hero - David Cervantes, MD, Ph.D

HeartBeats: Shipley Cardiothoracic Center Podcasts

 Host

Welcome, I'm Cathy Murtagh-Schaffer and I'm your host for this episode of heartbeats. This podcast is brought to you by Shipley cardiothoracic center, an educational series dedicated to providing our patients and the community with information and education about our cardiothoracic surgery program, Lee Health, and matters that affect your health. Today. We're talking to the latest addition to our cardiothoracic surgery family, Dr. David Cervantes, who is joining us after completing a very rigorous fellowship program in complex cardiac surgery at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Welcome Dr. Cervantes, let's begin by having you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you found your way to Shipley cardiothoracic.

Dr. Cervantes:

Well, first of all, thanks for having me here today. I was born and raised in Iowa. I attended the University of Iowa as a political science major, I initially wanted to pursue law. However, I found my passion in the sciences and I eventually ended up earning a bachelor's degree of science and biology. This led me to complete my MD and PhD at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. There, I fostered an interest in the heart and discovered surgery. I loved working, with my hands and being able to use these skills to drastically change a person's clinical course for the better. In an effort to pursue cardiothoracic surgery, I completed sub-internships at Northwestern University in Chicago and the University of Michigan. I then matched into an integrated cardiothoracic surgery program at Emory. After six years, I spent extra time completing training in complex cardiac surgery and heart failure. After my training, I was looking to join a busy program and in effort to help as many people as I could. I visited Shipley and found a top-notch program with world-class surgeons. I was looking to join a team and I was lucky enough to find one. More importantly, I found a family here at Shipley.

Host:

That's really sweet. We're really glad to have you here.

Host:

I am curious though, your PhD, that's a big program as well. Did you do that before you became a physician or afterward?

Dr. Cervantes:

Well, I completed a dual MD PhD program at the University of Illinois.

Host:

That's a pretty big undertaking.

Dr. Cervantes:

yeah, it was an experience, a good experience for me.

Host:

How did the PhD, what did that do for you when you decided to get into your fellowship? Did that change how you thought about patient care at all? Did it influence?

Dr. Cervantes:

Yeah, yeah, I believe my PhD training helped me become a more well-rounded physician. It allowed me to have a deeper understanding of the pathophysiology that we treated and their influence on heart function. Further allowed me to look at the patient as a whole and understand how heart disease affected the entire body. This physiology training that I had really prepared me to take care of the sickest patient.

Host:

Yeah. It sounds like it.

Host:

Your bio says your training was in complex cardiac surgery. Can you tell your listeners why that training is so special?

Dr. Cervantes:

Well complex cardiac surgery is the surgical management of the highest risk patients. Those with advanced or rare pathologies, often those with severely reduced heart function, many who had undergone previous cardiac surgery. These are the patients, you know, who have been turned down by other programs due to their complexity. Sometimes we were their last hope. This training provided me the experience to take care of the sickest patients. My training at Emory, you know, allowed me to participate in the care of a variety of patients. This along with my PhD training prepared me to manage the most complex.

Host:

So I'm going to make a big assumption here, but I can bet that not only did you get surgical training, but a lot of intensive care experience as well.

Dr. Cervantes

That is correct. Yeah.

Host:

Shipley Cardiothoracic is really proud of our robotic lobectomy program that we have here using robotic surgery techniques. The surgeons are able to influence the outcome of a patient's cancer diagnosis by collecting multiple lymph nodes and doing a very minimally invasive surgical approach. That usually means the patient is home from the hospital in just a few days. Do you see yourself contributing to the robotic program? And are there any special procedures that you think you'd like to see eventually done via the robot?

Dr. Cervantes:

Yes, I do. At Emory, I was exposed to wealth of robotic techniques for the management of thoracic diseases, including lung cancer, as well as the management of cardiac diseases, including coronary artery disease and valvular heart disease. I plan to carry this experience into my clinical practice by joining our well-established robotics program.

Host:

Yeah, well, we're really happy with Mr. Robot upstairs. He seems to be contributing to a great many, patients' well-being.

Host:

Our transcatheter program is also thriving. We've done over 1500 TAVR or transcatheter aortic valve replacements. For our listeners, this is a procedure where we replace a heart valve through a catheter placed in the groin instead of the traditional opening of the chest. We also have an active TVAR or transcatheter endovascular aortic aneurysm repair program. From a PhD perspective, do you see opportunities for research that we haven't engaged in yet?

Dr. Cervantes:

Well, part of what drew me to Shipley was the robot robust research program. We participate in numerous clinical trials and engage in clinical research that we have presented at an international level. I wish to continue this rich tradition by participating in clinical trials and by contributing to the scientific literature in an effort to advance cardiothoracic surgery. In fact, I've already began investigations aimed at improving the safety and management of postoperative atrial fibrillation, a condition that affects nearly 40% of cardiac surgery patients.

Host:

Yeah, and we have a pretty robust surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation at Shipley, and I know you and Dr. DiGiorgi will work closely in regards to that.

Host:

I'm interested in hearing a little more about the research you did for your PhD, your bio States, that you did research that was focused on the cell signaling pathways involved in heart failure. Heart failure is a huge issue in our Fort Myers community. In fact, Lee Health has a very active heart failure clinic. I'm wondering if your research led to any insights that has directed your care of the heart failure patient?

Dr. Cervantes:

Yeah, my research focused on the pathways used by medications known as beta-blockers, a group of drugs often prescribed to cardiac patients. I investigated their role in cardiac remodeling and function in heart failure patients. What I discovered in these medications was that they influenced the activation of other signaling pathways and that this activation had physiologic consequences in the heart, this research really began to explain some of the changes we see occurring in the hearts of heart failure patients.

Host:

I know you've been trained in multiple modalities in regards to cardiac and lung surgery. What specific cardiac surgeries really catch your interest and why?

Dr. Cervantes:

Well, cardiac surgery, you know, has a rich history of innovation and Shipley has joined this tradition. We strive for safer operations, better outcomes, smaller incisions, and shorter hospital stays. The surgeons here have really dedicated themselves to improving outcomes for our patients. My interests lay in providing my patients with the best operation specifically for them, whether it's a traditional approach or a minimally invasive one, including a robotic or transcatheter approach. I have interests in minimally invasive heart and lung surgery, including robotics and transcatheter therapies, off-pump CABG, atrial fibrillation surgery, complex cardiac surgery and mechanical circulatory support. These really catch my interest because they're at the cutting edge of our field and allow me to offer my patients what they deserve a safer and sometimes more effective operation.

Host:

And if I may, I would love to encourage you to tell our listeners a little bit about you personally. Are you married? What do you like to do for fun? Are you enjoying Florida?

Dr. Cervantes:

Yeah, I am married and we are celebrating our 13th wedding anniversary this June. My wife and I have one daughter who is seven years old and we have two dogs. For fun, my family and I love traveling and enjoying the outdoors in beautiful Southwest Florida. I also love golf.

Host:

Ah, you're a golfer. Well, there are lots of opportunities for that around here.

Host:

Dr. Cervantes this has been great fun getting to know you a little bit. Is there anything else you would like to add?

Dr. Cervantes:

I believe that the ability to practice cardiothoracic surgery is an honor and a privilege. To my future patients, you know, what I promise is that I work with you to provide you with an expert, comprehensive, collaborative, and compassionate care experience on a concierge level. I appreciate you talking with me today, it's a privilege to be working for Lee Health and Shipley, and I look forward to helping care for the people of this community.

Host:

Oh, we're so glad you're here. And thank you for participating in this pleasure until next time. I'm Cathy Murtagh-Schaffer, and this has been heartbeats Shipley Cardiothoracic Centers podcast, dedicated to bringing research innovation and education to our patients and the community.

From a small town in Iowa, Dr. Cervantes had a dream to pursue law. That quickly changed when he discovered his passion for science which led him to complete his MD and Ph.D. at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Fresh out of his fellowship at Emory, Dr. Cervantes begins his tenure here at Shipley Cardiothoracic Center and we couldn't be happier to have him on our team.

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