After my interventional cardiology fellowship year at UNC-Chapel Hill, I was in a private practice for a year. Feeling the need to refine and further my skills, I applied to the Prairie Vascular Fellowship in Springfield, IL. Looking back after spending five months here, this was the single best decision that I’ve made in my professional life.

The Prairie Heart Institute has over 50 cardiologists with varied skills and sees 170,000 patients a year from Central and Southern Illinois and surrounding states. Needless to say, there is an incredible volume and variety of exposure for the fellows that includes endovascular, neurovascular and structural heart interventions. The friendly and collegial nature of the faculty (Drs. Mishkel, Goldstein, Goswami, Issa, Kale, Nandish, Pacheco, Dukkipati and Rocha-Singh) is most conducive to stress-free learning. In addition, the cath lab staff is very friendly, knowledgeable and supportive of the fellowship adding to the positive experience. My training, beyond my interventional fellowship year and before Prairie, had included over a dozen hands-on and observational courses and I can categorically state that the faculty members here possess world-class interventional skills. Their erudition and patience coupled with such humble and friendly demeanors makes for an extraordinary training experience.

I was primary operator on more than 460 cases that included TAVRs (trans-femoral, transapical and transaortic), BAVs, trans-septal punctures, left atrial appendage closures, ASD closures, high-risk PCI (unprotected left main, Impella) acute stroke interventions, cerebral angiograms, intracranial coiling and stenting, carotid stenting, AAA repair and endoleak repair, peripheral (including lower extremity, celiac, mesenteric, renal and aortic) interventions, superficial and deep venous interventions (including DVTs and venous CTOs) and pulmonary embolism. After a few months, I felt confident enough to supervise newer fellows on BAVs, trans-septal punctures and peripheral interventions. Seeing patients in the Valve Clinic and listening to the PARTNER trial phone calls led to a more comprehensive understanding of patient selection for TAVR.

Research opportunities are plenty for those that are interested as the Prairie Education and Research Cooperative is involved in at least a dozen ongoing clinical trials. I worked on two original research papers involving SFA stent fractures and upper extremity DVTs that will be published soon.

My only regret at the end of my five-month stint here at Prairie is that I couldn’t have stayed longer. For any interventional cardiologists willing to invest a few months of their life at Prairie, they can be assured that it will be a truly life-changing and immensely rewarding experience.

Siddhartha Rao, MD, RPVI

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