It can be hard to differentiate between specialists for patients, especially those that require visits to multiple doctors for different diseases. Dr. Allen Amorn, a cardiologist from Canfield, Ohio understands that it can be especially frustrating when patients cannot understand why they are seeing different doctors. As a cardiologist, he knows that he is able to give specialized attention to his patients with various heart conditions, while his patients’ general practitioners are able to look over their health with a more holistic approach. With specialized training, he is able to give his patients the appropriate level of care that they need in regard to their health, optimizing their ability to prevent or manage their conditions.
Cardiology is the study of diseases and disorders that have to do with the heart, and other aspects of the circulatory system; the name originating from the Greek words kardia for heart and logia for study, while those that practice cardiology are known as cardiologists. Their scope of practice is specialized to diseases and processes that affect heart health and cause disease, examples including heart attacks, valve disorders, heart failure, and electrophysiology, a subspecialty that Dr. Allen Amorn, MD practices. Electrophysiology is the study of electrical properties of cells, and as a cardiologist, it is the study of electrical impulses within the cardiac tissue and cells that help keep the heart beating, and changes can lead to disorders such as arrhythmias (irregular heartbeats/rhythms).
On a daily basis, cardiologists such as Dr. Amorn typically will see patients in an inpatient, or outpatient setting. When on service in the hospital, they will typically be seen rounding on patients they have previously been consulted on, helping the primary team in management and treatment. As the specialist, they help provide valuable input on best practices and recent research that helps with evidence-based practice. If consulted on a new patient, they will conduct a thorough history and physical, sending off for any tests or imaging that they require, and come up with a list of possible diagnoses. From there they will work on a management plan and help educate patients on disease processes and answer any questions they may have. Most cardiologists in the hospital are responsible for ordering and interpreting EKG/ECGs (electrocardiograms) that measure the electrical activity of the heart at different areas. They are also primarily responsible for ordering echocardiograms, which are ultrasounds of the heart; they show heart function, structure, and blood flow. Many cardiologists may also have booked catheter lab time during which they can perform coronary angiography on patients to assess blockage extent, and at the same time can place stents if needed.
Dr. Allen Amorn explains that their outpatient role is quite similar in that they will see both new referrals as well as patients they have been following for months, or even years. For new patients, they may have been given an idea through the referring physician on why they have been sent and can focus on patient’s pertinent history of what is going on, as well as conduction of a thorough physical. They can then evaluate and decide on what tests, if any, need to be done, and can work with the patient on coming up with a management plan, as well as educate patients on disease processes.
For follow-up visits, Dr. Allen Amorn will generally take an interval history noting any changes in patient symptoms and helping provide guidance on any changes that may be required. In the outpatient setting, many cardiologists may additionally provide clinic based cardiac stress/exercise stress testing.
To become a cardiologist in North America, it takes a minimum of 11–13 years after high school. Students will generally take health science related courses or general science during their first 4 years of undergraduate studies. During this time, they will also take the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) which is used as a standardized entrance exam. During their 3rd or 4th year of university, students will apply to medical schools and once accepted they will complete 4 years of medical school.
During this time, students will decide which field of medicine they wish to enter and which residency programs they want to apply to and attend. For cardiology, most will apply to internal medicine programs that are 3 years in length. Once completed, they start fellowship training in cardiology for a further 2 years. At this point, they can decide if they would like to pursue further fellowships or begin practice as a cardiologist.