Cardiologist talks about his new home at UBMD and why he challenges medical students to look at medicine critically
By Chris Motola
Q: What path led you to your current role?
A: I’ve always been interested in cardiovascular disease, being that it’s been the No. 1 cause of death and illness in our country. So I saw it as the biggest opportunity to impact people’s lives. The treatment, the variety of therapies developed over the past 20 or 30 years have provided an ability to improve the health of individuals and the population at large. In terms of joining UBMB, the group I was a part of [Buffalo Cardiology & Pulmonary Associates] dissolved, so when I was exploring opportunities, I saw that UBMB offered not only the ability to practice, but the opportunity to teach the next generation of physicians.
Q: How does being in proximity to medical research help your practice?
A: I have access to individuals working on research, clinical trials, cutting-edge technologies, which I can apply to cases I see. Clinical trials allow us to meld the clinical aspect of the business with the research.
Q: Can you give an example of this in action?
A: I should add that not only are these technologies available here, but so are the individuals trained to use them. So even if I don’t necessarily perform a particular procedure, my colleagues do. We’re talking about people who specialize in very particular niches, so if I need an interventionist, I can easily refer. We’ve got a number of treatments for arrhythmias and pulmonary heart disease. So those are just a couple of examples of what I have at my disposal at UBMD.
Q: Cardiology seems like it’s at the forefront of medical advances. How hard is it to keep up?
A: There’s been a sea change so far as technology goes, but with that goes knowing which technologies are most appropriate for a particular individual. The educational resources we have are of paramount importance for maintaining that knowledge base. Our area in Buffalo is particularly fortunate in having the resources to able to bring optimal therapies to bear based on the individual’s needs. So it’s the concept of personalized medicine that’s really important these days rather than a one-size-fits-all approach.
Q: You’re also an assistant professor at University at Buffalo. How do you prepare the next generation of physicians to be ready for a rapidly changing medical landscape?
A: The most important thing is having an open mind and questioning principles, not accepting them as dogma without some critical evaluation. If there’s one thing I hope to impart to students, residents and fellows, it’s that everything should be questioned. Not necessarily in terms of criticizing, but in terms of asking if this is the way we do things now, can we do them better? Are there other ways to approach the problem? Is this the best treatment? The landscape for how we take care of a variety of populations is changing, so the students, residents, fellows and trainees are going to have to ask themselves what do they do and can they do it better. So they will have to keep up and keep reviewing.
Q: Do you find it’s at odds with our more test-focused culture? How do you teach critical thinking within a medical context?
A: The important thing for them to realize is the education they receive in medical school is just the beginning. That it’s a foundation to build upon, which you then use as a basis for your critical thinking. When they’re examining a patient, which is really the biggest test you can take, it’s figuring out what the best measure is, what’s affecting them and how to treat it. So it’s a lot of listening, learning and then applying.
Q: Is there anything new and important people should know about keeping their hearts working well?
A: Often we focus on the technology but, while it’s important and crucial, the most important elements are preventive. For every individual we treat with surgery, it would have a greater impact by far to educate adolescents, children and young adults. Dietary modifications are important. Obesity is an epidemic that we’ll be seeing the negative effects of going forward. Curbing tobacco use. Encouraging exercise. These things all have a huge impact. It’s unlikely that we have enough people to address all the cardiovascular problems that’s needed, but we certainly have enough people capable of educating about preventive care. You get a force multiplier on preventive care that’s much higher than what one individual can do. Preventive health is probably where a lot of the future of cardiology lies.
Q: On that note, what does a successful lifestyle intervention tend to look like?
A: It’s a matter of helping them realize the benefit. We try to show that, if they modify their diet, improve their cholesterol, do cardio. It’s education, but education with a purpose that helps them appreciate the effects of it rather than leaving it abstract. It’s showing the difference between living very much in the moment and taking a longer view of their health and happiness, to live not only a longer life, but one with substantially less impairment.
Name: George E. Matthews, M.D.
He is a cardiologist with more than 30 years’ experience. The primary focus of his patient care is the diagnosis, treatment and prevention of coronary artery disease, arrhythmias, valvular heart disease, lipid abnormalities, heart failure and hypertension
Position: Cardiologist with UBMD Internal Medicine, assistant professor of medicine at Jacobs School of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences, UB. Formerly with in private practice at Buffalo Cardiology and Pulmonary Associates, PC (1984-2016)
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
Education: medical degree, Cornell University Medical College (1979); bachelor’s degree in biology, Brown University (1975)
Affiliations: Kaleida Health
Awards: Best Doctors in America – 2005-2008; America’s Top Doctor, 2012-2015
Organizations: American College of Cardiology; American Heart Association
Family: Married, one son