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Fellow, Cardiovascular Disease
Vanderbilt University Medical CenterVIEW PROFILE
Majd El-Harasis, M.B.B.S. (I ’19), was born in New Jersey, where his Jordanian father was training to become a cardiologist. The family moved back to Jordan in 2001, where the elder Dr. El-Harasis continues to practice today. The younger Dr. El-Harasis, also drawn to medicine, attended college and medical school in London, England. He was sold on Mayo Clinic after a one-month visiting medical student rotation and subsequently applied for residency. As a senior resident in Internal Medicine, he received the Outstanding Achievement Award and Outstanding Teacher Award from the department. Now at Vanderbilt University Medical Center in Nashville, Tennessee, for a cardiovascular disease fellowship, Dr. El-Harasis says he left a huge part of his heart at Mayo Clinic.
“Mayo Clinic does everything it can to help trainees focus on their education and patient care … . You have all the resources you need to succeed as long as you apply yourself. Those opportunities aren’t necessarily elsewhere.”
There’s a Halloween photo of me when I was in kindergarten, dressed as a physician in scrubs. I was always good at science in school and fascinated by biology and the human body. I was very fortunate in that my dad never pushed medicine on me and wanted me to explore different career options and make a decision for myself. When I expressed interest in medicine in high school, he made sure I understood the demands and difficulties of life as a physician. I’d seen the hours he worked, his passion for his career, how interesting medicine is, and the joy and respect it brought him. I toiled with other majors but was continually drawn to medicine.
Mayo’s reputation precedes it. I was always interested in Mayo because of its amazing international reputation. During the last year of medical school, we were strongly encouraged to go abroad for away rotations. I spent a month at Mayo Clinic and a month at Beth Israel/Harvard.
I was blown away by Mayo Clinic. I saw how much patient care and resident education were valued. It was so empowering to see the autonomy granted to the interns and the fact that there was no hierarchy. Everyone worked as a team and is so nice and approachable. I remember reflecting on how much I during my one month as a visiting medical student; I couldn’t imagine how much I could learn in three years of residency. I knew Mayo was a very special place and that I wanted to train there.
I interviewed broadly for residency. Mayo Clinic fit everything I wanted. It was an incredible three years, and I’d do it all over again. You get to see a mix of referral and rare cases from around the world in addition to the bread-and-butter cases from Rochester and the surrounding area. It was such a privilege to work with and learn from experts in every area of medicine who were all so keen on teaching and so humble. It truly is an amazing place to train. I left a huge part of my heart at Mayo Clinic.
I remember the first time I entered the Gonda Building and saw the artwork and piano and felt like I was in a movie. It was so beautiful. Then, on service, my attention was drawn to how the main priority seemed to be making sure that the patients got the best care possible and how much emphasis there was on educating the residents and medical students.
Stay humble. Medicine is always changing and evolving with new knowledge. It’s easy to get comfortable and complacent. Continue to challenge yourself and learn from others around you.
As a trainee, I saw attending physicians and consultants who are experts everyone knows and looks up to continue to learn and admit things they learned from us. I tried to take that with me – the importance of admitting your knowledge gaps. Have an open mind, stay humble and keep learning.
I’m grateful to have worked with research mentors in cardiology and electrophysiology, Samuel Asirvatham, M.D. (CVEP ’00; Division of Heart Rhythm Services), and Chris DeSimone, M.D., Ph.D. (I ’13, CV ’18, CVEP ’19; Division of Heart Rhythm Services). Both of them were instrumental in shaping what I was interested in. and providing research opportunities and career advice. Joerg Herrmann, M.D. (CV ’03, I ’06, CI ’08, CV ’10, CVIC ’11; Division of Ischemic Heart Disease and Critical Care), also mentored me in cardio-oncology research. There are many other people that I could go on listing who helped me along the way in one way or another.
Mayo Clinic does everything it can to help trainees focus on their education and patient care, including having clinical assistants on service help with tasks such as scheduling appointments and requesting outside records so we could focus on our education and patient care, providing resources for trainees to attend conferences, and having rich patient databases and high patient volume. You have all the resources you need to succeed as long as you apply yourself. Those opportunities aren’t necessarily elsewhere.
Cardiology is the area I naturally gravitated to. I remember sitting in a medical school lecture about the embryology of the heart and being enthralled by the complexity of this internal organ. It was a eureka moment. My clinical experiences in cardiology really solidified the fact that I knew that I wanted to study cardiology for the rest of my life.
I am blessed to have a cardiologist father who understands what I’m going through. He likes to hear about how training has changed and my interesting cases, and I always strive to make him and my mom proud.
I didn’t have geographic ties to Minnesota and wanted to gain education and experience in other places to expand my horizons clinically, so I applied broadly for fellowship. I’m a cardiovascular disease fellow at Vanderbilt in Nashville. I’m just starting year two of a three-year fellowship. I love that Vanderbilt has a different patient population. The high volume of heart failure and transplant patients has really enriched my training.
I’m interested in academic cardiology and medical education. I’ve kept an open mind but have been interested in electrophysiology as far back as medical school. I love that it’s intellectual — very state-of-the-art and related to engineering, the interplay of science and medicine, and ablation and device that’s constantly evolving. I plan to do an additional two-year fellowship for electrophysiology, hoping to finish in 2024.
Keep an open mind about everything you’re doing. Come into every area of medicine you’re training in, and treat it as if it’s the area you’ll specialize in. When I rotated through areas I knew weren’t going to be “mine” — nephrology, hematology, oncology, I knew it was the only time in my career I could focus in those areas and learn from experts in that field. To be a good cardiology subspecialist, I needed to be a good internal medicine physician first. The knowledge and skills that I gained from my other rotations helps me every day.
Don’t be afraid to ask people to guide and mentor you. When trainees ask me about a career in cardiology, I feel honored and empowered. I’ve been blown away by how kind people are when I’ve asked for guidance. They remember what it’s like to be a trainee. People are willing to invest in your education and help you succeed.
It’s an honor and privilege. I trained at the hospital that ranked No. 1 in the country for many years in a row. I’m proud that I was able to learn and train with the experts at Mayo Clinic. It made me the doctor I am today. I had very strong, well-rounded training in internal medicine. Amy Oxentenko, M.D. (I ’01, CMR ’02, GI ’05; chair, Department of Internal Medicine, Mayo Clinic in Arizona; former director of the Internal Medicine Residency Program at Mayo Clinic in Rochester), and the rest of the team work hard to make the residency experience amazing. I aspire to be like her as an educator.
I like to work out and grab a bite to eat with friends (pre-Covid). I’m interested in cooking and baking — particularly cuisines from different parts of the world. I especially like the scientific precision of baking and try to make different recipes to share with friends. Cream puffs, eclairs and mini Oreo cheesecake are always a hit. I played piano growing up and recently bought a piano to get back into it after a hiatus during medical school. It gives me calm after stressful days.
See past New Chapter stories here.