Cover Story

First Annual Heart Rhythm Bowl: Making Learning Fun!

Mohit Turagam, MD and Venkat Vuddanda, MD
University of Kansas Medical Center 
Kansas City, Kansas

Mohit Turagam, MD and Venkat Vuddanda, MD
University of Kansas Medical Center 
Kansas City, Kansas

The first ever Heart Rhythm Bowl was conducted at Heart Rhythm 2017, the Heart Rhythm Society’s (HRS) 38th Annual Scientific Sessions, which took place May 10th-13th in Chicago, Illinois. The goal of the Heart Rhythm Bowl was for cardiac electrophysiology Fellows-in-Training (FITs) to participate in a friendly quiz competition to test their knowledge on an international platform. The Heart Rhythm conference, which brings together clinicians, scientists, researchers, educators, and innovators from around the globe, was an excellent opportunity for EP fellows to showcase their knowledge and aptitude regarding various aspects in the field. 

The Heart Rhythm Bowl was one of several new events taking place at this year’s scientific sessions. This competition was the brainchild of renowned electrophysiologist Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, MD, FHRS, who chaired and moderated the session. 

A group of eminent academic electrophysiologists were picked from various regions of the United States to create questions, organize, and judge this event. This included:  

  • T. Jared Bunch, MD, FHRS from Intermountain Healthcare;
  • Pugazhendhi Vijayaraman, MD, FHRS from the Geisinger Wyoming Valley Medical Center;
  • Amin Al-Ahmad, MD, FHRS from the Texas Cardiac Arrhythmia Institute at St. David’s Medical Center;
  • Phillip S. Cuculich, MD from the Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis;
  • Rakesh Gopinathannair, MA, MD, FHRS from the University of Louisville; and
  • Jason Bradfield, MD, FHRS from UCLA Medical Center.

Several other EPs also contributed in the design of the program format and questions.

This year’s Heart Rhythm Bowl included a total of 12 teams: 8 from the United States and 4 from other countries (India, Australia, Germany, and Malaysia). Each team was made up of 3 fellows grouped from different institutions from within a geographic area from either the United States or the other 4 countries. There was one designated alternate member for each team; this person filled in if a team member was unable to make it to a session. 

The candidates went through a very rigorous selection process. All were required to take an online screening test consisting of 100 questions on various aspects of electrophysiology, including devices, EGM tracings, knowledge of clinical trials, pathophysiology, pharmacotherapy, and basic electrophysiology. The test was of very high standard, and those who scored the highest percentile from the specific geographic area were requested to represent the 3-member team. Most of the fellowship programs had the opportunity to send a FIT to participate. The fellows who were selected from the screening test were then invited to prepare for the event and collaborate with one another over a period of 2-3 months, building camaraderie and networking on research, education, and innovation. It also created an atmosphere of team spirit that would help them perform in front of a large crowd of their professional colleagues, seniors, and legends in the field of electrophysiology.

The quiz bowl format consisted of two sessions: a preliminary session where all 12 teams competed with each other in two rounds, and a final session where the top four teams advanced to the semifinal and final round. The initial preliminary round was conducted on Wednesday, May 10th at the EPicenter Theatre 1 in the Exhibit Hall. It consisted of two rounds, with six teams competing in each round; the top two teams from each round then advanced to the final round on Thursday, May 11th. The final four teams that qualified for the finals with their outstanding ability and knowledge were “The Entrainers” (Sirish Chandra Srinath, Hariharan Sugumar, Troy Watts), “Vtach Has No Chance” (Syeda Batul, Srinath Yeshwant, Sujata Balulad),  “The Fibrillators” (Daniel Moura, Renner Pereira, Bill McIntyre, Mehrdad Golian), and “Crocodile Dund-EP” (Adam Lee, Aleksandr Voskoboinik, Ramanathan Parameswaran). 

During the two rounds, the fellows were quizzed on a broad range of topics including cardiovascular implantable electronic devices (including device interrogation strips), basic EP imaging and cardiac mapping, clinical electrophysiology and catheter ablation (including heart failure, radiofrequency ablation, and cryoablation), clinical trials, electrograms, and more. 

The EPicenter Theatre had full attendance at both sessions — people even showed up early to reserve seats for colleagues and friends. It was great to have the current HRS Scientific Sessions Program Committee Chair Thomas Deering, MD, FHRS, the legendary Douglas Zipes, MD, FHRS, and former HRS president Michael Gold, MD, PhD, FHRS — among many others — cheering on teams from the audience. As the clock ticked down, the tension was palpable — it was often only a few seconds between winning and losing. The atmosphere in the EPicenter was lively among both the participants and the audience — as the participants answered questions, there was significant clapping and reaction from the audience. This kind of recognition from colleagues and leaders in the field was invaluable, especially for our participating fellows. 

The program created significant buzz among fellows, faculty, and other attendees, and there were also many mentions of it on social media sites such as Twitter and LinkedIn. The program organizers began tweeting interesting vignettes a month ahead of the event; this was done to allow fellows and early career faculty to expand their knowledge in the various aspects of electrophysiology as well as to provide a preview of what would be discussed at the Heart Rhythm Bowl. Several hundred tweets were also posted about the Heart Rhythm Bowl before and during the competition. 

After a rigorous final round, the Crocodile Dund-EP team from Australia was in first place, and The Fibrillators from Canada/Brazil were the runners-up. The winners received a Heart Rhythm Bowl trophy and a certificate of excellence. 

There was a reception that evening to celebrate the hard work of all the participants and organizers. The chief guest for the event was Thomas Deering, MD, FHRS, who personally congratulated the winning team. He also spoke about the importance of team spirit and how this event fits into the core HRS principles of fellow engagement, advancing knowledge, and creating bonds among various participants.

The 2017 Heart Rhythm Bowl was a tremendous success thanks to the many FITs who traveled from all over the world to participate in this event. We believe this competition should not only become a regular feature at the annual Heart Rhythm Scientific Sessions, but also be utilized at various local and regional arrhythmia conferences. This program not only provides an opportunity for more FITs to get involved in the HRS, but also helps to recognize FITs for their clinical knowledge at the national level. We would like to thank Boston Scientific and Janssen Pharmaceutical Companies of Johnson & Johnson for their unrestricted grant in sponsoring this fun and exciting educational event with program chair Dhanunjaya Lakkireddy, MD, FHRS.