Faculty Spotlight: Munir Janmohamed
Creating Connections with Patients
The pocket of Dr. Munir Janmohamed’s white coat is just large enough to hold his iPad, which he frequently uses to show patients videos of heart failure devices and the latest heart pumps.
"It’s important to spend that extra time to communicate with your patients," said Dr. Janmohamed, an advanced heart failure and transplant cardiologist. "Heart failure can be a terrifying disease. So instead of using medical jargon, I strive to answer their questions in a simple way, and use videos and pictures as much as possible to help them understand what is going on with them."
He knows what it’s like to be on the other side of these encounters, since his mother was treated for cancer at UCSF. "We met some great people here who did a wonderful job of communicating with my mother and our family," he said. "I won’t ever forget that. So when I see my patients, I try to put them at ease by making sure they’re informed."
Inspired to become a doctor by observing his father, a primary care physician in Sacramento, Dr. Janmohamed earned a bachelor’s degree in biology from UC Irvine, then graduated from Ross University School of Medicine in the West Indies. He completed his residency at Louisiana State University – University Medical Center in Lafayette, LA, followed by fellowships in nuclear medicine fellowship at the University of Southern California, cardiovascular medicine at UCSF Fresno, and advanced heart failure and transplantation at UCSF, where he trained with Dr. Teresa De Marco.
"As a heart failure cardiologist, I’m really able to take patients from the beginning of their disease all the way through to advanced medical therapies, such as pumps called LVADs [left ventricular assist devices] or until they receive a new heart with a transplant," said Dr. Janmohamed. "Then, with their new heart, we can work on areas of cardiology such as primary prevention and help them to manage medications to prevent rejection of their new heart."
Bringing Care to More Patients
His training at UCSF Fresno has helped him to understand the challenges facing populations outside urban settings. Now, in addition to providing care in the hospital and clinic, Dr. Janmohamed is pioneering satellite facilities outside of San Francisco which will bring advanced heart failure care to small communities. The purpose of these clinics is to conduct assessment of potential candidates for advanced heart failure therapies in order to identify more patients who may benefit from these life-saving treatments. (UCSF has already successfully established such outreach clinics for kidney and liver transplantation in cities such as Fresno, offering patients ease of access and convenience within their local communities and facilitating the intake process.)
"Advanced therapies used to be reserved only for heart failure patients who were dying, and we realized that often we were seeing patients when it was too late," said Dr. Janmohamed. "The key is having a heart failure cardiologist involved early on, when patients don’t have a lot of kidney or liver problems that might preclude them from receiving these advanced therapies."
These treatments, offered to appropriate patients at the right time, can dramatically improve both survival as well as quality of life. Patients who experienced constant fatigue and shortness of breath can often return to work and daily activities. Also, while the number of heart transplants will always be constrained by the shortage of donor organs, LVADs can be offered to many more patients as a result of such outreach programs. Dr. Janmohamed is training local cardiologists to co-manage patients who have received LVADs and transplants, so patients can receive routine follow-up care closer to home.
In addition to clinical care, Dr. Janmohamed is conducting academic research in pulmonary hypertension – a complex disorder involving high blood pressure in the arteries to the lungs. "This is a condition that more commonly affects young women, and has a high mortality rate," said Dr. Janmohamed. "Yet in the last 10 years, there has been a marked increase in the number of therapies we are able to offer."
As a physician, he feels privileged to get to know his patients as whole people. "I really enjoy establishing close connections with my patients, and that’s what I love most about medicine," he said. In his spare time, Dr. Janmohamed enjoys traveling internationally, cheering on the 49ers and savoring San Francisco’s cuisine with good friends.