Author + information
- John Gordon Harold, MD, MACC, ACC President⁎ ()
- ↵⁎Address correspondence to:
John Gordon Harold, MD, MACC, American College of Cardiology, 2400 N Street NW, Washington, DC 20037
Forty years ago in San Francisco, my mentor Dr. Jeremy Swan took over as president of the American College of Cardiology (ACC). Serving as ACC president, is in itself an amazing honor, but to assume the same role in the same city as the one person who started me on my journey with the ACC is even more rewarding. Indeed, it has been 40 years since the College held an Annual Scientific Session in San Francisco.
I first met Dr. Swan in 1982 when I joined the Cedars-Sinai training program in cardiovascular diseases. Cedars Sinai was a powerhouse for cardiology leaders at the time, and Dr. Swan was one of them (Fig. 1). He and I connected over our common Irish heritage and our passion for cardiology.
Dr. Swan was born in Sligo, Ireland, during the years of the Irish revolution. His parents were both physicians, and one of the house calls he went on was to treat the Irish poet William Butler Yeats. He received his medical degree from the University of London. While at Mayo, he worked with leading physiologists, including Dr. Earl Wood. As director of the Mayo Clinic catheterization laboratory, he was acknowledged as an international leader in vascular physiology and congenital heart disease.
Dr. Swan came to Cedars of Lebanon Hospital (later to become Cedars Sinai Medical Center) in 1965 where he served as director of the division of cardiology for the next 22 years. He was responsible for establishing a world-class training program and was also widely recognized as one of the foremost cardiology leaders and teachers of his time. He achieved further international recognition in 1970 when he and Dr. William Ganz developed a balloon flotation catheter to measure cardiac output and pulmonary capillary pressure at the bedside. The introduction of the Swan-Ganz catheter triggered a critical care revolution in the management of intraoperative and post-operative cardiac surgery, burns, myocardial infarction, adult respiratory distress syndrome, and all forms of circulatory shock.
Benjamin Franklin once said: “Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn” (1). Dr. Swan involved me. He involved me in research. He involved me with his patients. He also involved me with both the local and national cardiovascular community. As a result, I learned more than I could have dared to hope during my 3-year fellowship and made connections in the cardiovascular field that continue to serve me today. Dr. Swan focused on building for the future and the importance of philanthropy and supporting the fund raising efforts of the ACC. He inaugurated the College's first Heart House in Bethesda during his presidency.
It was also through him that I met ACC leaders like past president Dr. Eliot Corday and Dr. James S. Forrester. Dr. Swan trained a cadre of younger cardiologists who themselves have become great mentors and role models. Even more importantly, Dr. Swan modeled for me how to be a mentor. Bernard of Chartres said “that we are like dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, so that we can see more than they, and things at a greater distance, not by virtue of any sharpness of sight on our part, or any physical distinction, but because we are carried high and raised up by their giant size” (2).
Dr. Swan was my giant —a blend of a scientific cardiologist and compassionate physician. From him, I learned that a mentor needs to be a good listener, engaged and willing to devote time to others, honest, trustworthy, and knowledgeable. He excelled in each of these areas and as a result his legacy lives on in me and countless others who had the privilege to work with him. He touched the lives of several generations of cardiologists from all over the world who were inspired to live up to the high standards he espoused.
Today, with the United States facing a serious shortage of cardiologists, we need more Dr. Swan's. The American Heart Association's “Mentoring Handbook” notes that, “science and medicine are knowledge-based professions that require continual training and practice, and a mentor can play a pivotal role in making that process go more smoothly and quickly” (3). If we are to be successful as a profession, it is our responsibility to act now and grow and foster the cardiovascular workforce to a level that will meet future demands. If we fail to do this “smoothly and quickly,” we will be unable to both meet the needs of patients and stem the growth of cardiovascular disease.
On a more micro level, the College is also reliant on mentors to grow future leaders. We need mentors to pass along the rich history of the College and involve the next generation of cardiologists and other cardiovascular professionals in shaping ACC programs, policies and priorities to best meet their respective needs and the needs of those coming behind. The cardiovascular world — and the broader field of medicine —is changing rapidly. Mentors can help ensure that a steady stream of future leaders are in the pipeline ready to chart the College on a course that meets these changes on local, national, and global scales to transform cardiovascular care and improve heart health.
Mentoring is a stage upon which cardiologists and others cannot only share their own genuine excitement about all of the new discoveries and therapeutic possibilities that define their chosen careers, but also to share their excitement about the College and all of the benefits and opportunities associated with membership. While mentoring requires a great deal of effort and collaboration, the benefits are unquantifiable.
Dr. Swan was my mentor and friend. Because of him, I took the stage at the ACC.13 Convocation to accept the presidential chain from Dr. William Zoghbi. When I contemplate Dr. Swan's legacy, I think of the poem “A Psalm of Life” by Henry Wadwsorth Longfellow: “Lives of great men all remind us … We can make our lives sublime, and departing, leave behind us…Footprints on the sands of time …” (4).
I honor the visionary leaders of the ACC such as Dr. Swan and all our mentors. I know that Dr. Swan will be walking with me in spirit. I can only hope that 40 years from now someone will be saying the same thing about me.
- American College of Cardiology Foundation
- Franklin Benjamin
- ↵The Metalogicon of John Salisbury: University of California Press. p. 167 http://books.google.com/books?id=pA3VbvUf67EC&lpg=PA167&ots=73r28_CEGY&pg=PA167#v=onepage&q=&f=false. Accessed March 13, 2013.
- American Heart Association
- ↵Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, “A Psalm of Life”. “. http://www.poetryfoundation.org/poem/173910. Accessed February 13, 2013.