Faces of Cedars-Sinai: Dr. Raj Makkar
May 24, 2021 Agata Smieciuszewski
Meet Dr. Raj Makkar!
When Dr. Makkar was in medical school in India, he learned all about Cedars-Sinai's pioneers in cardiology, such as Jeremy Swan and William Ganz. After moving to the U.S., he had a goal: training at Cedars-Sinai. Now, Dr. Makkar is the associate director of Interventional Technologies at the Smidt Heart Institute.
What drew you to Cedars-Sinai?
Dr. Raj Makkar: I came here because of the rich background and rich history that Cedars-Sinai has in the field of cardiology. And this seemed like a place where I thought I could flourish. There was tremendous academic freedom and also tremendous support from people who actually were the leaders here.
I did my cardiology training here for five years, which included general cardiology and international cardiology. And then I was hired as junior faculty—and the rest is history. I've really never looked for another job.
What got you interested in interventional cardiology?
RM: There was a lot of innovation occurring in the field with stents, and then I got to be part of the next big thing: valve replacement. Transcatheter valve replacement is changing somebody's aortic valve without cutting them open and sending them home two days later without any incisions. It was awesome and inspiring!
And now Cedars-Sinai is the largest center for transcatheter valve therapies, which started with the aortic valve and then actually moved to the mitral therapies.
"Cedars-Sinai is a very special place. I'm invited to go to hospitals around the world to give talks and to do procedures, but I can tell you that compared to all of these amazing places I go to, when I come back, I just realize how special Cedars-Sinai is."
What is your favorite part of what you do?
RM: I'm blessed. Besides blazing the trail and being involved in absolutely cutting-edge technologies, there are times you're doing the first case in the world with certain technology—and all of this, most of the time, translates into really good clinical medicine and advances for our patients.
Another would be the fact that you can train the leaders of tomorrow. And this is where it happens, at Cedars Sinai. It also allows us as an institution and me as a professional to just go beyond one hospital.
I have been very fortunate to train young people. Over the last 15-20 years, I've trained almost 50 people in doing these procedures who have gone around the world now. And some of them are here in the U.S. running their own programs.
Where do you see your field of study in the next five years?
RM: We are still in the midst of this transcatheter heart valve revolution, so yes, while the aortic valve replacement has matured quite a bit for narrow aortic valves, we are now taking this technology to leaky aortic valves. And mitral valve replacement is just beginning to boom.
What do you like to do when you're not working?
RM: I like watching movies and hanging out with my family. Traveling is actually a great interest of mine too, along with my wife and kids. But of course, that's been somewhat on the back burner because of COVID-19.
Where are you excited about traveling to post-pandemic?
RM: Napa. Europe, especially France. Hawaii's always fun.
I'm also equally excited about going back to conferences where we used to meet our colleagues in person. These conferences are not just for presenting, but a lot of networking and exchanging of ideas. I miss the energy of meeting with my colleagues.
What person would you say you most admire?
RM: Besides my dad, I'd say I'm inspired by the lives of Gandhi and Albert Einstein. Those are some of my heroes.
Anything else you'd like to add?
RM: Cedars-Sinai is a very special place. I'm invited to go to hospitals around the world to give talks and to do procedures, but I can tell you that compared to all of these amazing places I go to, when I come back, I realize how special Cedars-Sinai is.