John D. Day, MD, FHRS, received the ceremonial gavel Friday night during the annual Presidents’ Reception, signifying the start of his term as the 37th President of the Heart Rhythm Society.
An HRS member since 2002, Dr. Day has been a frequent participant in the Annual Scientific Sessions and also served on a number of HRS committees and groups, including the HRS Strategic Planning Committee, Health Policy Committee, Education and Meetings Committee, Allied Professional Committee, and International Task Force.
Dr. Day works as director of heart rhythm services at Intermountain Medical Center in Murray, UT. In 2004 he launched the atrial fibrillation ablation program at LDS Hospital/Intermountain Medical Center, which has now become one of the largest atrial fibrillation ablation programs in the United States.
Dr. Day has performed more than 4,000 atrial fibrillation ablation procedures and holds board certifications in cardiology and cardiac electrophysiology. He has published more than 100 manuscripts, abstracts, and book chapters and regularly lectures both nationally and internationally on heart rhythm disorders. He also served as the first editor-in-chief of the Journal of Innovations in Cardiac Rhythm Management.
He earned a degree in Chinese from Brigham Young University prior to obtaining his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University. He completed his residency in internal medicine, cardiology fellowship, and cardiac electrophysiology fellowship training at Stanford University.
He takes over the presidency from Richard I. Fogel, MD, FHRS, CCDS, staff cardiologist and electrophysiologist at The Care Group, LLC, and chief executive officer of the St. Vincent Medical Group.
Five Questions with the New President
Why did you decide to become an electrophysiologist?
Since my earliest memories, I have always wanted to be a cardiologist. I’m not sure where this originated since there are no doctors in my family. Perhaps it was from my mother who is a nurse. As an impressionable child, several times a week we would have neighbors come over to our home for free medical care or advice from my mom.
While I always knew I was going to be a cardiologist, the electrophysiology component came much later. For some unknown reason as a child I dreamed of rushing into the hospital in the middle of the night to open up an artery and save a patient from an otherwise fatal heart attack.
This “dream” stayed with me until I began my cardiology fellowship at Stanford University. My first memory as a young cardiology fellow was taking care of a World War II veteran whose life was in jeopardy from complete heart block. Without a pacemaker his life would quickly be at an end. I still remember making the pacemaker incision for the first time and threading the pacemaker leads into his heart.
To give this veteran a new “rhythm of life” was something I had never experienced before. I was hooked. I quickly forgot my dreams of opening up arteries and instead dedicated my life to helping people struggling with maintaining a normal rhythm.
In your opinion, what has been the most interesting advancement in the field of electrophysiology in the last year?
In my opinion, the Watchman Device is definitely the most interesting advancement in the field of electrophysiology. In my practice I have thousands of atrial fibrillation patients, many of whom struggle with anticoagulants each day.
The fear of a stroke or life-threatening bleeding is something that weighs down on them everyday. Others live a very active lifestyle and worry about the risk of significant bleeding from bodily trauma should they get injured.
On a personal level, much of our research has been focused on minimizing the long-term dementia risk of atrial fibrillation patients. While we are all aware of the potential risk of strokes, I worry about the long-term dementia risk of cerebral microbleeds from years of anticoagulation therapy. We really do not have any real, long-term data of these medications when it comes to cognition.
The Watchman Device may just allow our patients better long-term cognitive function by protecting them from both the risk of a stroke as well as cerebral microbleeds.
What do you see as the biggest challenge facing all members today?
As heart rhythm specialists, our goal is to provide the best possible care for our patients. Unfortunately, our biggest challenge is ensuring that our patients have access to the potentially life-saving and life-benefiting therapies available.
For example, government regulations in the United States have not been in sync with recent ICD and pacemaker clinical indication documents. This is something that has created a moral dilemma for many electrophysiologists. If you follow the established clinical guidelines and do what is best for your patient, you may be at odds with government regulators.
An additional example is with anticoagulation for our atrial fibrillation patients. My elderly atrial fibrillation patients would clearly be much better off, when it comes to the risk of intracranial bleeding, with one of the new novel anticoagulants. However, due to limited financial resources, most of my Medicare patients simply cannot afford these medications. I struggle with this each day as these patients put themselves at increased risk of intracranial bleeding because they are on a fixed income and cannot afford their medications.
What would you tell a new HRS member is the culture of the Society?
The Heart Rhythm Society culture is one of selfless sacrifice. Our mission is to end death and suffering from heart rhythm disorders. This is both a noble and humbling purpose.
As heart rhythm professionals, we are all very busy caring for patients every day. Despite our many professional demands, I am always amazed at how countless members willingly volunteer their time to create new educational material, advocate on behalf of our patients for better access to medical care, or even mentor a younger member.
When I reflect back on my career thus far, it has been the relationships I have had in these volunteer opportunities that have impacted me the most. For example, I will be forever grateful for the mentoring Doug Packer has freely given to me over the years as a volunteer in the Society. As I meet with electrophysiology fellows or early career electrophysiologists, I always encourage them to join the Society as their lives will be forever changed for the better.
Outside of medicine, what are your hobbies and interests?
Those that know me well know that I love the mountains in Salt Lake City, my family, and all things related to health and wellness. I will confess that I am a “ski-aholic.” With the first snowfall of the season, even if it is just an inch or two in late September, I will be the first to climb the mountain with my skis strapped to my back in search of something to ski.
Likewise, even until late July or early August, I will still be hiking the back country of Utah looking for the last traces of snow on the highest peaks to ski. My family shares this same passion for skiing, and we love to spend every weekend and holiday skiing together.
Outside of skiing and my family, I have also committed myself to helping my patients live better through proper nutrition, fitness, and other healthy lifestyle behaviors. After my recent health struggle, I believe passionately that most chronic medical conditions can be prevented through making healthy lifestyle choices each and every day.