Amazing Kids! Magazine

Amazing Mentor! Spotlight Interview with Dr. Reuter

By Anni Racibarskas, age 9, Contributing Writer


Dr. David Reuter received a bachelor’s of science degree in Civil Engineering from Purdue University.  He then went on to receive a combined MD / PhD degree in Medicine (Indiana University School of Medicine in Indianapolis) and Biomedical Engineering (PhD from Purdue’s Department of Vet Physiology and Pharmacology). Dr. Reuter completed his residency in pediatrics at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh in 1997 and practices pediatric emergency medicine at the University of Washington.

In 2001, Dr. Reuter co-founded Cardiac Dimensions Inc. where he created and developed a catheter-based implant for patients with heart failure and mitral regurgitation (a disorder of the heart in which the mitral valve does not close properly when the heart pumps out blood.)  As Chief Medical Officer, he has raised over $60 Million dollars, managed a multi-million dollar research budget, and has trained and proctored physicians in Australia, Paraguay, Europe, and the United States.  He is currently an instructor at the University of Washington and has been recognized for his contributions to Bioengineering. Dr. Reuter has 14 patents and over 34 abstracts and manuscripts published in numerous medical journals.

Let’s speak with Dr. Reuter to see how he became so successful in his field.

AK:  What or who inspired you to become a doctor and or a medical researcher?

DR:  As a doctor,  I enjoy interacting with people, and I find the biology of the human body fascinating.  The notion that learning about how the body works would allow me to care for people who need a compassionate physician inspired me to be a doctor.  The book Dear and Glorious Physician confirmed my interest.

As a researcher, caring for children that are diagnosed with an incurable disease inspired me to research better ways to care for our patients.

AK:  Did you have a mentor who helped you learn what you would need to do to prepare for a career as a physician?

DR:  The faculty I had in medical school were committed to teaching both the science, and the art, of medicine. I completed my residency training in Pittsburgh. There were several physicians there who were amazingly smart, but were best known for their compassion.  I try to model myself after them.

AK:  What was your undergraduate college degree?  How did this help you prepare to study medicine in medical school?

DR:  My undergraduate degree in Engineering was of tremendous value because engineering teaches you how to think through a problem; how to apply fundamental principles to a problem in order to find a solution.  This thought process is used every day in medicine.

AK:  How did you become interested in research in the field of cardiology?

DR:  A young patient of mine who I diagnosed with heart failure in my first year of residency died two years later.  Since the heart is just a pump, I knew that I could apply my engineering knowledge to solve problems in the field of cardiology.

AK:  Our current Amazing Kids! Magazine issue theme is called “Our Amazing Body.”  What amazes you about the human body the most?

DR:  The more you challenge your body, the more it can do (physically, intellectually, emotionally).

AK:  Describe your research work you are currently involved in.  Who are you working with in your research and where do you do the research?

DR:  In my research, I am addressing the problem of heart failure which causes the valves inside the heart to leak (blood goes backward instead of forward)

As an inventor, I developed a cardiac implant that treats the leaky heart valves without requiring open heart surgery.  My patients walk out of the hospital the day after I treat them.

I have the privilege of working with the best and brightest cardiologists / surgeons all around the world:  Chicago, Boston, Seattle, Australia, Germany, Paraguay, Netherlands.

AK:  How can your research work help in the discovery of advances in the medical field?

DR:  As we treat patients with the device that I invented, other researchers are developing better tools to image patients (echo and CT), and to diagnose problems sooner so that the therapy works better.

AK:  What are your goals you hope to eventually accomplish, both as a doctor and as a medical researcher?

DR:  My goal as a physician is to make every one of my patients know that I care for and respect them, and that I’m doing all in my power to make them better.

My goal as a researcher is to tackle some of the toughest problems that others have not been able to solve in order to find a solution.  My next goal is to find a cause for the problem of high blood pressure that occurs sometimes with pregnancy.

AK:  What do you think is one of the greatest medical inventions in the field of cardiology?

DR:  The development of bypass surgery 50 years ago revolutionized the field of cardiology.  A great book King of Hearts summarizes the amazing pioneering work of early researchers in this field.

AK:  What advice would you give kids who dream of becoming a doctor or a medical researcher someday?

DR:  If you enjoy caring for other people, and if science is interesting to you, then I know of no job (vocation) that is more rewarding than being a physician.  If you work hard in school, and surround yourself with friends who support your aspirations, you’ll likely find medical school to be absolutely fascinating, and medicine to be tremendously rewarding.