Med School Friends Now Neighbors in Practice

A bittersweet aspect of medical school is that close friends often become long distance after graduation, dispersing across the country for residency and fellowship. Not so for Drs. Hamid Ghanbari and Reema Hasan, two AUC grads who work just an office apart. Both alumni are cardiologists and assistant professors at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

“I never would’ve imagined that we’d be practicing in the same building, let alone right down the hall from each other,” said Dr. Hasan (Class of ’05), a heart failure transplant cardiologist with a focus on advanced heart failure therapies. Dr. Ghanbari (Class of ’04) is a cardiac electrophysiologist, treating patients with complex electrical disorders of the heart. 

In recognition of American Heart Month, we caught up with both grads on what inspired them each to pursue cardiology and what they’ve been up to since graduation. 

Changing Careers to Pursue Medicine

Dr. Hasan came to AUC with a background in health care consulting. After graduating from the University of Michigan, Dr. Hasan moved to Washington D.C. to work for an advisory board, helping emergency departments decrease patient wait time and improve patient satisfaction. But she soon realized that she wanted to be directly involved in patient care rather than the administrative side. 

That’s when Dr. Hasan committed to going to medical school. At that point, it was January, and she knew that due to the U.S. medical school application cycle, she’d have to wait almost two years to attend if she were accepted. After researching medical schools in the Caribbean, Dr. Hasan applied to AUC, particularly intrigued by AUC’s affiliated hospital teaching sites in Michigan, as well as the numbers of graduates who earned residencies there. 

“I knew I could come back home to Michigan,” said Dr. Hasan, who grew up in Bloomfield Hills, a suburb of Detroit.

True to her words, Dr. Hasan earned an internal medicine residency at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. She then took on a cardiology fellowship at Providence Hospital, followed by subspecialty training in heart failure and cardiac transplant at the University of Michigan.

“What appealed to me about cardiology was the continuity of care,” said Dr. Hasan. “It was really important to me to find a specialty where I could develop relationships with patients. Each case is very challenging, but being able to give a patient a second chance at life is so rewarding.”

Expanding the Reach of Heart Medicine

For Dr. Ghanbari, pursuing medicine was a no-brainer: His father was a physician, and so he grew up around the field. The Toronto native graduated from McMaster University with a degree in biochemistry before pursuing his medical degree at AUC. 

But beyond continuing the family legacy, Dr. Ghanbari soon found that he was particularly drawn to the challenges and procedures associated with the heart. He completed his internal medicine residency and cardiology fellowship at Providence Hospital, followed by a fellowship in cardiac electrophysiology at the University of Michigan. He’s stayed on as faculty since completing fellowship in 2011, cultivating his research interests in the intersection of digital health sensors and cardiovascular arrhythmia.

“I love the creative process of discovery and problem solving,” Dr. Ghanbari said. “In my research, I try to find new ways to use technology to improve patients' lives."

He’s currently involved in several ongoing studies in those areas, including a grant funded by the National Institutes of Health to study arrhythmia. That research, funded for the next five years, centers around developing machine learning and signal processing to establish new bio markers and predict symptoms in patients with atrial fibrillation. 

In addition, Dr. Ghanbari is part of a team working to develop new car technology that could predict cardiac events on the road to prevent vehicle crashes, funded by the Toyota Collaborative Safety Research Center. The goal is to create sensors that would non-invasively monitor a driver’s physiology, while machine learning algorithms would collect and analyze data to predict cardiac events that might have otherwise resulted in a car accident. 

An International Education

Both Drs. Ghanbari and Hasan agree: Their medical school experience was made unforgettable by the exquisite backdrop of St. Maarten, as well as the United Kingdom—where they both completed clinical rotations.

“If you get an opportunity to practice health care in a different country, by all means take it,” said Dr. Hasan. “I got so much hands-on training in the U.K., and the whole experience gave me a valuable perspective on medicine, which was a strength in my residency applications. Program directors were really impressed when I discussed it during interviews.”

And they both look back fondly on their time in St. Maarten. “I miss it,” Dr. Ghanbari said. “I had a wonderful time there. Even though you’re studying most of the time, you’re in a beautiful place and you meet great people.”

Dr. Hasan agreed. “The best part of being in St. Maarten was the friendships we made,” she said.