10-Minute Interview: Leslie A. Saxon, MD

Interview by Jodie Elrod
Interview by Jodie Elrod
In this month’s 10-minute interview, EP Lab Digest speaks with Leslie A. Saxon, MD, Chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at the University of Southern California. Why did you choose to work in the field of electrophysiology? Tell us about your background in EP. I had very little exposure to EP until I started my Cardiology Fellowship at Rush-Presbyterian-St. Luke’s in Chicago. My first rotation was in EP and Dr. Pablo Denes, the EP Director, was a very positive role model. I went on to train in EP under William Stevenson at UCLA. Bill really helped me develop into a clinical researcher and interventionalist. He is a very patient man. Describe your role as Chief of Cardiovascular Medicine at USC's Keck School of Medicine. What is a typical day like for you? We are in the building phase at USC and have hired 17 cardiologists in four years. Our program is growing and we are working very well as a team. It’s exciting to work in a place where everyone is motivated to leverage their expertise in the interest of the patient. At our Cardiovascular and Thoracic Institute, we work alongside cardiac and vascular surgeons and we all find it very stimulating. We are learning how to implement emerging technologies such as percutaneous assist devices, valves, implantable pressures sensors and endografts. Our days are long, but the weather here is good, so I can put my top down on the way home. Explain your involvement as Chief Medical Advisor and Health Matters Host on LIVESTRONG.com. How did this come about? I have been very interested in learning about new media and social media. The parent company of LIVESTRONG.com, Demand Media, is a very successful and active player in these spaces. We invited one of their executives, Joe Perez, to our annual Body Computing Conference, and Joe’s vision of how social media can expand and engage patients and physicians and create a rich and personalized environment was really fascinating. We then looked for ways to work together on a couple of their networked sites. We started with LIVESTRONG.COM and are expanding to eHow.com. Bringing the highest quality medical information to users on-demand is the future. Tell us about your Twitter site (http://twitter.com/DrLeslieSaxon). What has this experience been like? It makes me much more aware of what is going on now and allows me to comment and then learn from others’ comments. It is an incredibly efficient way to get your thoughts out there. Discuss the importance and availability of wireless health devices (e.g., wellness phones, healthcare applications for smart phones) and the role they will play in the future, especially for EP patients. This area is one of great interest for us now. We recently formed the Center for Body Computing at USC to house and expand our various activities both within and among the Schools at USC and with outside companies, like Demand Media and QUALCOMM. We’ve worked with Boston Scientific to develop a mobile app for LATITUDE, their remote monitoring system. My initial interest in this area was very simple. I wanted to be there for my patients when they needed me. Networked ICDs and other implanted and wearable devices enable that virtual presence. For me, it’s about patients feeling cared for by their doctors, even their sub-specialty doctors. We’ve only just begun to connect patients. It’s their right and it will improve our patient care paradigm. A connected, entertained and motivated patient and an efficient, busy doc that embrace the technology because it makes his/her patient care better is the goal. Tell us about USC’s Body Computing Conference. It’s a great day when people get together from disciplines as diverse as medicine, cinema, NGO’s, telecom, design engineering, government and finance to share ideas about the future of medicine. It’s informal, unplugged and intimate. Students get in free. Describe your iPhone applications: Beating Heart, and Connect. Beating Heart is about bringing heart rate to social play and CONNECT is a mobile app for doctors using LATITUDE that creates connectivity and efficiency for EP docs. It is also a great marketing tool for docs because it keeps the referring docs in the loop very easily. Are you currently involved in any EP-related research or writing projects? I’m very engaged in the ALTITUDE project, a research initiative around Boston Scientific’s LATITUDE networked data. We’ve made some great observations and it has been a learning experience for us all. I get to work with a talented group of physicians from the Mayo Clinic, Penn State, and Duke. Boston Scientific has been extraordinarily supportive of this effort. At USC, we are also involved in a number of clinical trials using multipolar leads, implantable pressure monitors and wearable networked patches. We’re busy. What advancements do you still hope to see in the field of cardiac EP or networked medicine in the next 5 years? What areas of EP or patient care need more attention? I think we need to complete the communication loop to the patients, better understand their needs and partner with them in a more democratic way in their care. We should not be the gatekeepers of the information and then withhold it. The network makes our lives easier in so many ways and it can do the same for medicine. Issues like privacy and liability are real and need to be addressed, but they should not be used as excuses. If you think about an issue like the primary prevention ICD, I think we could grow referrals through networked education and use the device for much more than a shock delivery system. We can connect to patients and use the device to do things that they need, like track medications, keep their loved ones in the loop, etc. It’s really a cultural change that will be profound for all of us. Is there anything else you'd like to add? Thanks for giving me this opportunity. I’m happy to discuss any of these issues further with your readers.