Meet the Doctor: Sahil Banka, MD
Sahil Banka, MD, a cardiologist, is Director of Interventional Cardiology and Medical Director of the Cardiac Catheterization Lab at Einstein Medical Center Philadelphia. He sees patients at the Einstein Cardiology Associates offices on Tabor Road in Philadelphia and on Township Line Road in Elkins Park.
Dr. Banka is board certified in internal medicine, cardiovascular disease and interventional cardiology. He is a Fellow of both the American College of Cardiology and the Society of Cardiac Angiography and Interventions.
Dr. Banka is a Clinical Associate Professor in Cardiology of the Department of Medicine, Drexel University College of Medicine, and a Clinical Assistant in Cardiology in the Department of Medicine, University of Pennsylvania College of Medicine.
We spoke with recently with Dr. Banka about his career, his interests and interventional cardiology at Einstein.
Q: When did you decide to become a doctor?
I grew up with medicine. I have a lot of doctors in the family, including both my parents and one grandparent. I was always in the culture of medicine and I was taught from early on that it was an important goal to help people and use your knowledge to do that.
Q: Tell us about your medical education.
I received my medical degree from Howard University College of Medicine and did my residency in internal medicine at Washington University, St. Louis, Barnes-Jewish Hospital. I later completed fellowships in cardiovascular disease and interventional cardiology at Drexel University, Hahnemann University Hospital.
Q: How did you choose cardiology?
I do the same type of work as my father. I got to see him go to the hospital at all hours of the day and night and how satisfied he was with his career and the long-term relationships he had with patients. That was a big influence on me.
I was also attracted to the field because it’s rapidly developing. The technology continues to evolve. Every day something new is happening, and it’s incredible what a dramatic impact it can have on people’s lives and well-being.
Q: What’s the simplest way to describe the care you provide?
Interventional cardiology involves all sorts of catheter-based procedures, which are used to open blood vessels or even repair other structures in the heart, like valves. These are called minimally invasive heart treatments.
Most patients are referred from other doctors after they report shortness of breath or chest pain, or leg pain while walking. Many people seek cardiologists when they have these kinds of problems, or even have a strong family history of heart disease.
I also think about the type of care I provide. I try to give very personalized care, with a lot of listening to the patients to really understand what they are dealing with and what goes into the medical problems they have. I try to communicate very clearly and trust what the patient is telling me, and give that the appropriate amount of attention.
Q: How do you describe cardiac catheterization?
It can sound very complex, and it’s important to make clear to patients what we do and how we do it. First, it’s a minimally invasive procedure. We insert a small, flexible tube called a catheter into a blood vessel and pass it to the heart to take pictures of the heart vessels and look for blockages that cause symptoms. We can then open the blockages with tiny devices called stents, which are thin metal scaffolds that open the arteries. During times when a total blockage occurs, we can stop a heart attack and restore blood flow with the heart.
Q: Does the stent stay in to hold the artery open?
A stent doesn’t necessarily hold the artery open. It relieves the blockage, and then normal healing takes place. Stents are coated with a drug to keep the artery from re-narrowing in the future because people can develop new blockages.
Q: What are your clinical interests?
I focus on peripheral vascular disease and blockages in blood vessels, and particularly in coronary arteries. I specialize in opening totally blocked arteries, which are more complicated procedures called chronic occlusions. I also work with the liver transplant team to help patients get their hearts ready for transplantation.
Q: What does it mean to get a heart ready for a liver transplant?
A transplant is a very intense procedure. The person has to have good cardiac function, and they need a thorough evaluation from a cardiology perspective so they can go forward with the transplant. We make sure that their heart is pumping normally and that their heart arteries are open so they can undergo that life-saving transplant procedure.
Q: What drew you to Einstein?
I was running the cath lab at Hahnemann, where I trained, and before it closed I had spoken to doctors at Einstein, which has a very state of the art cath lab. We do a lot of high-level coronary artery work here and that was one of my main reasons for coming here. It also let me continue to care for patients in the Philadelphia area. I was able to see old patients and new patients, too. I also wanted to continue to help educate residents and fellows in training.
Q; Who was your greatest influence?
Definitely my parents. They are immigrants to this country and have set a wonderful example of being valuable members of the community and taking care of their family as well. Professionally, I have had many great mentors. My former partner, Dr. William Kussmaul, has been a great influence on me in my career as just a gentleman and an excellent doctor. He’s retired but had a wonderful way with patients.
Q: Who is the person you would most like to meet?
I’m going to say Jackie Robinson. He would be a great person to meet because, one, I’m a huge sports fan, and two, I just think it would be very educational to hear about the challenges he faced in his life, and to understand how he had the inner strength to overcome injustice and discrimination to become a role model and set an example for others to learn from him.
Q: Do you have a favorite sports team?
Well, this is a big thing for me. I’m a huge Philly sports fan from growing up here and following all the teams, particularly the Eagles and Sixers. I made the trip to watch the Eagles win the Super Bowl, which was an incomparable experience. Sports definitely brings me together with friends and family. And, unfortunately, I listen to sports talk radio, which can be a little obsessive, but I love to hear all about the teams.
Q: Do you have a favorite vacation spot?
I always like to go somewhere different. We try to take our kids to see new places and to experience new cultures. Our vacations are often less relaxing and more like adventures. Sometimes they’re not that comfortable, but I think that helps you grow as a person.
Q; What is something that people might not know about you?
I was an English major in college, not a science major. And I worked for a newspaper for a little while and was an editor of a magazine, so I’ve had other interests in life, but I think all of that contributes to my ability to relate to people.
Learn more about interventional cardiology at Einstein.