Meet Raymond L. Singer, MD
Raymond L. Singer, MD, was named Chief of Cardiac Surgery at Einstein Medical Center Montgomery in March 2019. Previously, he was Physician in Chief of the Institute for Special Surgery at Lehigh Valley Hospital, where he spent 27 years and performed more than 7,000 surgeries. Dr. Singer is a fellow of the American College of Surgeons, the Society of Thoracic Surgery, the American College of Cardiology, and the American College of Chest Physicians and a past president of the Pennsylvania Association for Thoracic Surgery.
We recently sat down with him to talk about his career, his interests, and cardiothoracic surgery at Einstein.
Q: How did you decide to become a doctor?
A: Ever since I was young, I wanted to be a physician. In fact, there are reels of silent 8-millimeter movies from the 1960s showing me with my play doctor’s kit, examining everyone in the family.
Q: What drew you to your specialty?
A: Originally, I was interested in being a family physician. I guess I was influenced by some of the TV shows of the late 1960s. I had applied to the brand new medical school in Hershey because there was a newspaper article in the Philadelphia Bulletin saying they were going to be creating country docs. So I just pictured I would live in the country and get a big dog.
I got accepted at Hershey and then, lo and behold, I got accepted to the University of Pennsylvania. They didn’t really have a family practice track. Next thing I know I was hanging out with surgeons and found it very exhilarating to be able to intervene in somebody’s life in such a dramatic fashion, particularly with heart surgery. And so sometimes I think of myself as being a family doctor on the inside and a surgeon on the outside.
Q: Where did you receive your training?
A: When I finished my medical school, I did my training in general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. That was eight years: five years in general surgery and three years in cardiac surgery. I did additional training in Paris with Dr. Alain Carpentier to learn advanced techniques in mitral valve repair surgery, as well as in Belgium with Dr. Hugo Vanermen and in London under Dr. Magdi Yocoub.
Q: You’re a cardiothoracic surgeon. In layman’s terms, what does that mean? What kind of conditions do you treat?
A: We are trained to do heart and lung surgery. In fact, I started a website in 1999 called heartlungdoc.com. At Einstein Montgomery, my focus is heart surgery. With heart surgery, we deal with heart valve disease and coronary artery disease primarily. We also perform complex aortic aneurysm surgery.
In addition to the conventional valve and bypass procedures, we also perform less invasive procedures, ranging from small incision “keyhole” operations using telescopes, to trans-catheter procedures to repair and/or replace faulty aortic and mitral valves. It’s exciting to work at Einstein because of the collaborative efforts of the cardiologists and surgeons, working together to get our patients back to their normal lives as soon as possible.
Q: Can you explain a little bit about the transcatheter aortic valve replacement procedure, or TAVR?
A: Currently, the TAVR procedure is used for aortic stenosis, which means that the patient’s aortic valve is restricted from opening, typically due to the development of calcium deposits on the valve. In the TAVR procedure, we do not open the chest and we do not use the heart-lung machine. We don’t stop the heart. We’re able to do about 90% of them just from catheters in the groin, like a cardiac catheterization procedure. Using x-ray guidance, we can place a new valve inside the patient’s own valve, pushing aside the calcium deposits with a stent. Most patients can go home in just a day or two after a TAVR procedure.
Q: Can anyone with aortic stenosis get the valve replaced with the TAVR procedure instead of open-heart surgery?
A: In order to have a TAVR, you need to be either high risk or what they call intermediate risk patients. I was among the first in the country to do the TAVR procedure in 2012, and I was a principal investigator for what is known as the low-risk TAVR trial. We anticipate this spring or summer that the FDA will approve this technology for patients who are low risk.
Q: You came to Einstein recently from Lehigh Valley Hospital. What drew you here?
A: I grew up down here. I went to Cheltenham High School and my wife went to Plymouth-Whitemarsh. So, this is home for us. Einstein is an extraordinary place with excellent care. I’m particularly drawn to Einstein Montgomery, where there is a feeling of warmth and caring, along with state-of-the-art technology and highly trained and experienced doctors and nurses. I feel that Einstein Montgomery is a real gem and I’m thrilled to be home and to be able to make a difference in that community where I grew up. My dream is that in only a short time, the good people of our community will ask a simple question, “Why would I go anywhere else for my care than Einstein Montgomery?”
Q: Do you have a favorite book?
A: I’ve always enjoyed reading Dr. Wayne Dyer’s books and listening to his lectures on health and wellness. Two additional books that have great meaning to me are Tom Brokaw’s The Greatest Generation and Mitch Albom’s Have a Little Faith.
Q: Favorite hobby?
A: My favorite hobby is playing piano and singing. I’ve played the piano since I was very young, and I’ve enjoyed theater and playing keyboard and singing in bands. My favorite role in a play was Don Quixote in The Man of La Mancha. I also helped pay my way through college and medical school working as a disc jockey.
Q: Favorite movie?
A: No doubt, it’s Field of Dreams. For one thing, it was the first date I had with my wife, and I’m also a big baseball fan. I can remember my father taking me to Connie Mack Stadium as a boy. My two daughters now love going to Phillies games with me. I think it’s a good sign that I’ve moved back to Philadelphia the same year it looks like the Phillies could go all the way back to the World Series!
Q: What is something that people might not know about you?
A: I’ve often said I come from a family of patients, not a family of doctors. Both my parents worked so hard to give me the opportunities in life that they never enjoyed. They survived the Great Depression and World War II. Both my parents had cancer and heart disease. I’ve sat in many doctors’ offices and surgical waiting rooms, praying for their recovery. I know what it feels like to be on the other side, so I try my best to always treat my patients and my colleagues as if they were my own family.