Father’s heart attack inspired 2012 Iatros winner to pursue cardiology

By Lin Lofley

Samvit Tandan, PhD

When Dr. Samvit Tandan won the Iatros Award at the celebratory social gathering of the 2012 medical school graduating class, perhaps the biggest surprise was that he wasn’t there. He had always been there for other class events.

But Dr. Tandan – “Sam” to his friends, which means pretty much everyone in the Class of 2012 – was between flights at the airport in Charlotte, N.C., delayed returning from a housing search in New York City.

 “I got a call from a friend telling me about the award,” the recent UT Southwestern Medical School graduate said, “and right after that I started to get a lot of texts of congratulation. I never expected it, I can tell you that.”

Classmate Dr. Bruce Koehler, who made the congratulatory phone call and whom Dr. Tandan calls his best friend, had a different take: “I wasn’t surprised, and I couldn’t be happier for him. He did a lot for our class, and because he’s been around for a while, he’s done a lot of things. He’s an interesting person and very busy, but he’ll still give you a ride to the airport.”

The Iatros winner is determined by votes of the graduating class to honor the individual who most emulates the complete qualities of a physician. “Iatros” is a Greek word for “physician.”

Dr. Tandan, 33, worked in the laboratory of Dr. Joseph Hill at the University of Iowa after earning his undergraduate degree in biology in 2003 from Knox College in Galesburg, Ill.

Dr. Hill, now Chief of Cardiology and Director of the Harry S. Moss Heart Center, came to the medical center in 2002, and Dr. Tandan rejoined the Hill lab early the next year while working on his doctorate. After earning a Ph.D. in integrative biology in 2008, he set his sights on medical school.

 “Before and after matriculating at UT Southwestern, Sam has impressed me as a bright student who further distinguishes himself through his intellectual curiosity, diligent work ethic, and polished interpersonal skills,” Dr. Hill said of Dr. Tandan, now in residency at the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City.

Dr. Tandan, a native of Mumbai, India, became interested in medicine at age 8. His father, Atul Tandan, had suffered a heart attack, and during recovery at their home, Dr. Tandan saw his dad’s electrocardiograms and angiograms.

“That got me interested in cardiology right there,” Dr. Tandan said.

Dr. Tandan is enthusiastic about his internship in the Bronx: “The hospital there felt a lot like Parkland Memorial Hospital, and in my interviews I could tell that they have a passion for teaching.

“It felt like UT Southwestern, to be honest. From my PhD years all the way through my medical school years, I benefited from the passion for teaching at UT Southwestern. I felt the pure support from top to bottom.”

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Dr. Hill holds the James T. Willerson, M.D., Distinguished Chair in Cardiovascular Diseases and the Frank M. Ryburn Jr. Chair in Heart Research.

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