Eric Joel Eichhorn, M.D.

MD News spoke with Eric Joel Eichhorn, M.D., about the future of health care.

Q: What is the most significant change you have seen in health care in the last decade?
A: The use of medical therapy (statin drugs, ACEI inhibitors, aspirin and beta blockers) in tandem with drug-eluting stents has reduced the need for bypass operations significantly. Patients are now surviving their myocardial infarctions more, but there is a rise in the incidence of heart failure due to fewer patients dying at the time of their heart attacks and surviving to have heart failure. Also, the increase in obesity in the population has produced more heart failure.

Q: What do you think is going to be the most surprising health care development that is on the horizon?
A: The development of percutaneous valve replacements (valve replacement without open-chest surgery) is revolutionizing valve care.

Q: What new development in medicine excites you the most for its potential effect on patient care, and why?
A: We are getting to a point where genetic modification is becoming a reality. For example, we recently did a study at Medical City Dallas Hospital where we injected a gene attached to a virus, which carried the gene, into a failing heart. The gene was incorporated into the heart cell and produced a protein that is deficient in heart failure. When the gene was replicated, the heart became stronger! This is a first baby step, but a step in the right direction, nonetheless!

Q: What do you think will be the biggest change in health care in the next 10 years?
A: The biggest change will be visible to health care professionals, but less visible to patients. I think more and more physicians will become part of hospital systems, rather than private practices. This will not change the quality of medical care delivery, but will change the structure of our practices.

Q: Why are you so passionate about health care?
A: My father and grandfather were physicians. My parents used to tell me as a little boy that medicine is the most noble of professions. I still believe that today. Taking care of the sick and trying to prevent illness in those who are well is a commitment that I do not take lightly. It takes more than just understanding the literature of medicine or knowing what pill to give. It is about a personal relationship with each patient, a personal bond. It is involvement in the patient’s life. It can be very satisfying, or heartbreaking. Medicine is about continued learning. You can never know everything, and that can be humbling. It is about smiling and hugging a patient or a family member in a time of happiness or extreme sorrow. There is much left to do in this life, and I hope I can leave this world a better place for my having been here.

MD News Future of Health Care 2011, Dallas/Ft Worth



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