Daniel Muñoz ’00 was a medical resident at John Hopkins University when a 39-year-old having a heart attack was wheeled into the emergency room. After serving as part of the team that saves the man’s life, Muñoz discovered something: “I knew where I wanted to be: not watching but doing, on the side of the glass where I can help shape a patient’s fate. I would be a cardiologist.”
Alpha Docs: The Making of a Cardiologist, written with James M. Dale, is his account of his transformation from medical student to professional as he completes the first year of a cardiology fellowship at Hopkins. Muñoz describes how he arrives at diagnoses, counsels worried family members, and struggles to stay awake for days and nights on end. “As a trainee, you’re hungry to become competent, and you look for opportunities to try something,” says Muñoz, who now is an assistant professor of medicine and the medical director for quality at Vanderbilt University’s Heart and Vascular Institute. “At the same time, you recognize the patient wants it done right the first time, so there’s a tension between the two.”
Muñoz chronicles his arduous bedside training, from learning how to insert a catheter during a heart procedure to observing veteran physicians deliver bad news. “Despite how technologically driven health care is, good teachers remain essential, and patients teach just as much as doctors,” he says.