Dr. Himachal Veligandla was born and raised in India. He finished medical school in 1984 and practiced for five years in India before coming to the U.S. for his Master’s in Biology from A&M University.
He and his wife moved to Fargo, North Dakota, in 1998, where Dr. Himachal Veligandla started his externship in internal medicine, followed by a one-year residency at North Dakota State University.
He did a two-year residency at Creighton University in Omaha and passing the boards then led to his cardiology fellowship from 2001 to 2004.
Dr. Himachal Veligandla then started his interventional fellowship with his first job as an interventional cardiologist in St. Louis, Missouri, for nine months, before moving to Ashland, Kentucky, for one year.
From 2007 to 2014 he was in Somerset, Kentucky, as an interventional cardiologist before becoming a solo practitioner. Finding himself very busy and no time for family, he decided to change jobs and joined a small hospital in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, for about four years.
Youngstown, Ohio, was the next call, but upon the hospital closing, he was only there for one year.
Why did you choose to become a doctor?
That’s a fantastic question. When my mother had a heart attack, I went to the hospital and saw all the medical students and doctors taking care of patients and I asked my sister how to become a doctor. She told me it was tough, it’s impossible. I asked her, ‘Why is it tough?’ ‘Because in India, you have to be the best in college.’ My sister said it is impossible because you have to study every day and you had to sacrifice your childhood to become a doctor, it’s not easy. Before that, I was just an average student. From that day I wanted to become a doctor and never looked back. I got into medical school because the fascination in saving lives, that makes me happy. I want to be the captain of the ship, if somebody’s sick, you are the captain. You are the one who is taking care of the patient and helping the patient and their family.
What area do you specialize in?
I did internal medicine and I specialize in cardiology.
Why did you choose cardiology?
Because my parents died of heart attacks. Heart attacks are very prevalent in India. Even though they’re non-smokers and not obese, they don’t have diabetes, but heart disease is very common. We don’t have many opportunities like a hospital, a heart catheterization. When I see all these things back home, I thought I wanted to become a cardiologist, get a good knowledge of cardiology and go back to India and help people. That is my ultimate goal, to go to countries like India and Africa to help people who need cardiology help.
When you are working, what is your daily routine like?
I get up about 5:30-6:00, exercise for 30 minutes and go to the hospital at 7:00. See some patients, new consults, follow-up with labs. At 8:00 I do cases, heart catheterizations, stints, angioplasties, and other things. I finish up 9:30-10:00 and then if I have any patients in ICU, I’ll go and see them. Then go to my office, have a coffee and start my office at 10:30. I see six to eight patients, then have a small lunch, then see patients again until about 5:00. After the last patient has left, I pick up the echocardiograms, ultrasounds, the stress test, and the dictations and leave the office by 7:00-7:30. That’s my routine every day except Saturday and Sunday because we don’t have office hours.
When you are looking forward in your career, what trend in medicine do you see impacting your specialty the most?
Because there’s a lack of education for a lot of patients about microinfarction, heart attack, and heart failures, people are dying with heart disease. The common cause of death in this country is heart disease. That’s why I want to educate the patient, medical students, nurses, give more lectures to the prevention of heart disease.
What do you love about your job?
Happiness when attending a sick patient, especially a patient who comes in with a heart attack. When you open their artery, the patient comes out of the chest pain, out of the heart failure, they feel much better. You see the patient’s face and their family, they’re so happy, that makes me glad to work hard.
What would you consider to be the greatest accomplishment of your career?
Becoming a cardiologist in America. I’m a person from a farmer’s family in a small remote area in India. Getting the vast knowledge about heart diseases and treating patients with the latest technology. That’s my great achievement.
Can you tell our readers about some of the volunteer activities you’ve been involved in?
I usually go to local hospitals and when they have small functions, they invite doctors to talk. There is a Red Dress Day, for example, every year I talk about heart disease and women. How to prevent heart disease, how to avoid heart failures, treatments. There is an Indian conference I volunteer at to give a lecture about heart diseases in Indians.
How do you mentally separate yourself from your job?
It’s very, very difficult. If the patient comes as a sick patient, when he leaves is a happy man, I don’t think about the patient. If the patient has a problem, but he is not worried, I always think about it. That patient, what else can I do? Do I need to discuss it with somebody else? I always talk with experts about the decisions. I want to ultimately find the appropriate things or better things which I can provide to the patients. If a patient dies, I feel miserable. Sometimes when you are doing the procedures, they die on the table. I feel bad, I always think about that patient for the next two or three weeks. It’s tough for me not to think about a patient because I feel like they are family because God gave the gift to help them to me. If something happens, I always think about what else could I have done for that patient.
Where do you want to be in your career in five years?
I want to spend more time with patients, prevention more than treatment. Giving lectures about how to prevent heart disease. In Asia, like India, I’m also thinking of going to Africa, especially Ghana and New Guinea. A couple of my friends have businesses and they asked me to come and start a free clinic, hospital. I’m happy to help patients. That’s what I’m thinking of doing, at least six months in America, three months in Asia, three months in Africa.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with our readers?
I’m a person with a soft heart and feel for the patients and families. I feel like that patient is a member of my family. I want to help 110% for the patient. I want to do the best for the patient, with all my efforts. I want to work hard. That’s my attitude.