This interview with Dr. Susanna Mak, clinician scientist at Sinai Health’s Lunenfeld-Tanenbaum Research Institute, or LTRI, is part of Behind the Science, a regular series from Sinai Health Foundation that asks some of its brightest and world-leading researchers about what drives their curiosity about the human body in health and illness. February is #HeartMonth and Dr. Mak is a cardiologist, the director of the Anna Prosserman Heart Function Clinic and also the Director of the Harold & Esther Mecklinger and The Posluns Family Cardiac Catheterization Research Laboratory at the Mount Sinai Hospital.
What is your area of research and what are you hoping to discover?
I study the integrative physiology of the cardiovascular and pulmonary vascular system in humans who are both healthy and who experience heart and lung disease. I would like to understand what precisely leads to breathlessness and how we might fix that.
What’s been your biggest ‘A-HA’ moment to date?
The amount of pressure that the heart and lungs are exposed to during exercise is really surprising. Our biggest revelation was understanding how our new knowledge could be adapted into a new type of stress test to diagnose breathlessness.
What’s one of the biggest challenges you’ve faced and why?
Balancing the clinical work as a Clinician Scientist with life as a researcher, getting grants and doing studies is always difficult.
What’s been one of your greatest rewards in your career so far?
My graduates students and post doctoral fellows.
What is one thing you’d like to accomplish in the next decade?
I would like to determine whether our new diagnostic stress test has broad utility and can predict future outcomes.
Did you change any of your or your family’s habits as a result of anything you learned from your research?
Exercise has always been extremely important to my family, and that has been reinforced by my research.
What advice would you have to share with your 19-year old self?
What is on your bucket list?
Actually taking off a summer, and traveling for an extended period of time.
What would your perfect day be like?
A day doesn’t need to be perfect, I would just like to have a long string of good days all together.
Who would you invite, alive or dead, to your dream dinner party?-
Harper Lea, Atticus Finch (if he were real), Jo March (if she were real) and Nanny McPhee.
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