July 5, 2011


Senior vice president and dean Ray Watts


Dr. Vijay Misra

A month ago, Dr. Vijay Misra, director of the UAB Heart and Vascular Center Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory, passed away suddenly at the age of 51. A member of the School of Medicine faculty for 13 years, Dr. Misra was internationally known for his pioneering research, particularly in the development of innovative cardiology techniques and devices. He was also a beloved and respected teacher and a remarkably gifted clinician.

Working with Dr. Misra in the Department of Neurology, where he also held a faculty appointment, I saw firsthand his commitment to his patients and their families; his students, residents and interventional fellows; and his colleagues. Whether he knew it or not, Dr. Misra taught all of us a few lessons about life and work, and I would like to share them with you.

Take Care of Your Patients

Dr. Misra never stopped exploring the frontiers of cardiology because he wanted to find new and better ways to help his patients. He became known for his successes with complex and high-risk interventional procedures, and as a result, he offered help and hope to many patients who had no other treatment options.

In an online guest book and at the memorial services following his death, patient after patient emphasized Dr. Misra’s skill, with several thanking him for saving their lives. They also mentioned his compassion, kindness, gentle demeanor, humor, and his smile, which proves that there is much more to medical treatment than medical knowledge. We owe it to our patients to keep learning about health care and to provide them with the best solutions, but at the same time, we must take the time to get to know each patient, answer their questions and explain things fully, and earn their trust.

Take Care of Yourself

Caring for our patients is our top priority, but in doing so, we shouldn’t overlook our own health. It’s vital that we get some exercise, eat healthy foods, and get enough sleep so that we have the energy to do our jobs—and can serve as role models for our patients, students, residents, fellows, and colleagues. Too often we neglect our own health while we are protecting the health of others.

We should also be aware of our stress levels, and make sure our work doesn’t overwhelm us and cause us to burn out. This is especially true for physicians in small or solo practice settings, though it can happen to any of us.

Dean Watts meets with Atlanta-area alumni at a reception in June. Click the photo to view a slideshow of photos from the event.

Don't Postpone Joy

As physicians, we spend each day doing our best to protect and extend the lives of our patients, and seeing firsthand that life is precious and all too short. Now is the time to make the most of the days we have been given. Take time for yourself and your family, and do the things you’ve always wanted to do. Travel. Plant a garden. Take your children (or grandchildren) fishing. Create memories together. Get outside and enjoy the summer. Don’t wait to do what makes you happy. You will be a better physician—and a happier person—for it.

We pray that Dr. Misra’s wife, Mary Jo, and their three children—daughter Drisana, a sophomore at Yale, and sons Jivin, a freshman at Northwestern, and Hans, a freshman at Indian Springs School—as well as his family in the U.S. and in India will find comfort in the fact that he did not postpone joy. His life and his heart were full, and he spent every day of his 51 years working to improve the lives of others, from his family and friends to the countless patients whose lives he saved. We miss his presence, and we will continue to learn from his example.