Cardiothoracic Surgery Resident
Aravind Krishnan, MD, is a resident in the Integrated Cardiothoracic Surgery Program. He graduated from Johns Hopkins University and completed his medical training at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.
What do you enjoy most about cardiothoracic surgery as a career?
Heart and lung disease is a painfully familiar issue to billions of patients and their family members around the world. Its surgical treatment demands the best that medicine has to offer: unparalleled technical skills, deep compassion and humanism, and razor-sharp clinical acumen. To me, there is no more impressive, challenging, or rewarding pursuit than to commit to a life of service to patients who stand to benefit from undergoing cardiothoracic surgery.
What do you enjoy most about training at Stanford?
In short: it's the culture. At Stanford Cardiothoracic Surgery, we are privileged to train in an exciting and innovative environment where we are the core focus of our dedicated faculty. Starting on day one, residents are afforded tremendous responsibility in the care of our patients and the operating room and are given high expectations of our abilities. I was told early on, "cardiac surgeons take control of the situation and never operate with fear. It's who we are." This sense of identity is one of the hallmarks of this program, and I believe it sets our residents, staff, and faculty up to be extraordinary.
What has been the most interesting experience from your residency so far?
My very first case as an intern, less than one week into residency, was assisting on a heart transplant, and under the watchful supervision of our attending, I helped sew the new heart in. This experience has set the tone for residency; there are high expectations of resident performance, but they are matched with dedicated mentorship and guidance and genuine mutual trust—characteristics that I think are critical to identifying when choosing a residency program.
The cardiothoracic transplant/mechanical circulatory support service at Stanford is a really special service, where the sickest patients in the hospital are given a new lease on life with a lifesaving organ transplant. My favorite emotional experience of residency so far has been delivering, in person, the news to a patient that we had identified a suitable pair of lungs for him. Seeing him in the clinic now, as he takes full deep breaths with tears in his eyes, makes this incredible craft so fulfilling.
What are your current clinical/research interests?
My research broadly encompasses the practice of adult cardiac and aortic surgery, but I am particularly interested in heart and lung transplantation. To that end, I'm thrilled to be a member of the JW MacArthur Lab, where, during my dedicated research years, I will study methods of local drug delivery in lung transplantation to improve graft function, as well as assist the other wing of the lab: addressing challenges in decellularization/recellularization as a method of generating cardiac allografts.
I'm pursuing a career in academic adult cardiac surgery, with a special focus on heart and lung transplantation and ischemic heart disease.
What was your experience like during the Match process?
I was fortunate to be able to visit a number of the institutions I was interested in for training through sub-internships. They were still in-person at the time, as this was before the pandemic, and I fondly remember the relationships I made across institutions not only with residents and faculty, but also with my co-applicants. The field is very tight-knit, and the bonds formed while undergoing very demanding training are important— and I'm excited that sub-internships are returning to the in-person format they were in pre-pandemic.
It's critical that prospective applicants identify the culture in which they want to train and critically assess whether programs will support their particular interests. Additionally, besides the strengths of training, it's important to feel a sense of community among your future co-residents, and faculty. When I visited Stanford, I got that sense from the get-go. My premonitions about the program have been confirmed now two years into residency here, and incredibly enough, the residents I worked with during my sub-I have become some of my closest friends here.
Match Day itself was all virtual for my class, and despite the disappointment of not being able to share that iconic day with my classmates and family, what I suspect I will remember the most from that day is the joy of knowing that I was headed to my dream program. It concluded with a call from our program director Dr. Mike Fischbein, who told me to get ready to get to work. I haven't looked back since, and if I had to make a choice again, I'd make it a thousand times over.
What advice would you give to medical students?
Your reputation as a student/young doctor really matters: the way you interact with colleagues, approach problems, and most of all, advocate for your patients will stick with you and set the tone for how much trust is afforded to you. Intern year is one of the most transformative years of your life, so approaching it with intentionality, to build a reputation of dependability and skillfulness, will set a foundation that lasts at least through the rest of your residency and likely your career. I think a great way to approach this is to draw inspiration from mentors. If you identify with a particular style with which someone you admire approaches a problem or situation, adopt it for yourself, and aggressively seek out opportunities to practice it. This can and should be applied to technical skills as well—ultimately, you will be armed with a whole range of skills, approaches to clinical problems, and a unique bedside manner that will allow you to step up to the challenges of patient care. Ultimately, this is the crux of academic medicine.
Also, whether you're operating or not, spend as much time as you can in the operating room, and write down everything—the room set up, patient positioning, the steps of the operation, etc. As an intern, get as much of your work done physically from the operating room.
What's your favorite thing(s) about the Bay Area/California?
I played water polo for my club team in college, and I still, when able, love to get in the pool to swim—there is really nothing like an outdoor swim in the middle of "winter" in the Bay Area. I feel like Stanford and the Bay Area are so conducive to a healthy lifestyle, and that contributes a ton to my sense of wellbeing.