I now have the dubious distinction of being the oldest physician in the group and I never thought that day would come. I have been in practice for 35 years and often refer to myself as “the last of a dying breed,” meaning I was broadly trained in cardiology and picked up other skills during my career. Currently, I am the chair of the Cardiovascular Department at Monument Health Rapid City Hospital. I represent Cardiac Surgery and Cardiology in the larger medical staff structure, assist in assuring safe and high-quality cardiovascular patient care and help colleagues improve behaviors or practice patterns.
My goal is simple, and has not changed from what I was taught in medical school. Learn something new every day. Deliver the best care to your patients, and place them at the center of any decision made about their care. Communicate well with patients, their families and with colleagues. Don’t be afraid to admit you were wrong and to change course. Be humble. Take the time to listen.
In the practice of medicine, it is the joy found in helping people and in medical detective work. By detective work I mean using my knowledge and experience to figure out what is causing
patient’s symptoms and arriving at a diagnosis. In my personal life it is spending time with family and enjoying the great outdoors.
Dr. Heilman says his career as a cardiologist is a privilege. He realized in medical school that cardiology would be a rapidly advancing field with lots of tools to help his patients. Medical advances through the years have allowed him the ability to continue to treat his patients as unique individuals — new technology and medicines are great, but aren’t always best for every patient. “The knowledge base has grown exponentially since I was trained so newer graduates must focus on an area of cardiology such as noninvasive imaging, heart failure or electrophysiology. That is the way the field has evolved and, I think, rightly so,” he says.