When most patients think about heart surgery, they focus on the operation itself. For Mehdi Oloomi, MD, an intensivist who oversees patient recovery in The Mount Sinai Hospital’s Cardiac Surgery Intensive Care Unit, it’s the hours immediately after surgery that claim his undivided attention.
“It can be a very tenuous situation while the heart is recovering from surgery, so those first few hours are critical. I watch very closely for any bleeding or arrythmia, manage a patient’s medicines, and monitor their overall heart function,” Dr. Oloomi said.
His intense focus on patients after they emerge from surgery is why Dr. Oloomi thinks of the ICU as “I see you.” And what he sees, he rarely forgets. “I can recall medical specifics from patients I treated years ago, and that experience can be very helpful when similar cases come up,” he said, noting that he has cared for more than 16,000 people over the past two decades. “My best teachers are always my patients.”
Dr. Oloomi works to impress these lessons – and his “I see you” philosophy – on those with whom he works, whether that’s at Mount Sinai or when he’s on medical missions around the world, building up local expertise in critical post-operative care.
After those initial hours of close observation and treatment, Dr. Oloomi turns his attention to a patient’s recovery beyond the hospital, including nutrition, home care and physical therapy. That holistic approach pays off – the vast majority of patients who undergo cardiac surgery at Mount Sinai are released from the Intensive Care Unit within 24 hours, leave the hospital within four days, and go on to full recovery within four to six weeks.
For Dr. Oloomi, medicine is something of a family calling – not only was his father a doctor, but so are three of his four siblings. He moved to the United States in 1992, after graduating from medical school at the University of Tehran. After acing the U.S. medical exam, he completed his internal medicine residency and a series of prestigious fellowships in pulmonary and critical care at Methodist Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, and later Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. He was also honored as one of Sloan-Kettering’s prestigious Heyward Critical Care Research Fellows.
It was at Methodist Hospital-Cornell Medical Center that Dr. Oloomi decided to become an intensivist. At the time, the field of post-surgical critical care was evolving into a specialty, as cardiac surgeons were beginning to operate on increasingly sick patients – people whose immediate post-surgical care would be vital to their full recovery. Within two years, he was the Medical Director of the Cardiac Intensive Care Unit at New York’s Maimonides Medical Center. He joined the Mount Sinai team in 2012.
Dr. Oloomi credits Mount Sinai’s success in complex heart valve repair to three things: medical expertise, leadership and collaboration. “I’ve worked at several different hospitals and with many different surgeons,” he said. “You have to gain their trust, and that trust needs to be reciprocal. And at Mount Sinai, it is.”
“I love medicine,” he added. “I love helping people. And when you see their smiling pictures afterward, that’s joy.”