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MUSC Medical Links Charleston Links Archives Catalyst Advertisers Seminars and Events Research Studies Public Relations Research Grants MUSC home page Community Happenings Campus News Applause


100 fellows later, cardiologist  hits historic milestone

by Dawn Brazell
Public Relations
He’s been known to strike fear into the hearts of the fellows he trains.
Bruce W. Usher, M.D., shakes his head, holding his hands up, an innocent look on his face. As director of MUSC’s Clinical Cardiology Fellowship Program, he has trained 115 fellows and recently was honored at a banquet for the rare milestone he reached in passing the 100 mark.
When not at work training cardiologists, Usher loves to spend time outdoors doing winter sports. One of his hobbies is photography. Behind him is a picture he took of a fox in Yellowstone National  Park.

“I know some of them say they’re scared of me, but I have no idea why that would be,” he said of some of the fellows who have come through the program.
Usher, 70 and gray-haired with seven grandchildren, appears innocent enough.
Fred A. Crawford Jr., M.D., said he’s had the privilege of working with Usher for 31 years, and that it’s respect for Usher’s high standards rather than fear driving the remarks.
“During that time, we have worked together on countless patients with cardiac disease. Almost overnight, I learned to respect the effort that he put into the management of every single patient,” said Crawford. “He left no stone unturned to be sure that he had all of the information about the patient necessary to proceed with a good operation. I watched and learned from him during his interactions with patients and tried to adopt this approach to patients.”
Usher, who has overseen the yearly changing of fellows since 1978, said the job is just as fulfilling now as it was when he first started. “I still look forward to getting up and coming to work every morning, and I attribute that to my fellows. There have been a lot who have come through. It’s been interesting to see them spread out and see how well they do. I’m very proud of all them,” he said.
He has former fellows working in at least 30 states, including Alaska. “We have populated the state of South Carolina with excellent cardiologists. We’ve trained our competition, but that’s OK. I’m proud that we’ve been able to improve the access to cardiology care.”
Usher, who has lasted through four chiefs of cardiology, said he’s been blessed in that each one has let him do what he wanted with the program, and given him full support. His job also has been made easier by attending physicians who have provided excellent role models for the fellows. Another job perk: a yearly ski retreat to West Virginia.
The brainchild of Usher, the retreat is critical to the program’s success, helping the group to bond and give constructive feedback in a way that wouldn’t happen otherwise. The faculty realizes the importance of the retreat and picks up the extra work, with former fellows picking up the tab so there’s no cost for those who attend, said Usher.
“If you look at our program, most people will tell you that one of the main aspects about our program, beside the excellent training that they get, is the esprit de corps among the fellows. That’s what makes my life easy and for the attending physicians who work with the fellows.”
Having an open-door policy, Usher welcomes young doctors’ ideas and concerns. Usher said he continues to learn from them, and loves to interact, mentor and watch them mature.
“The most important thing to do is to be patient with them, but to make sure they understand there is some discipline to the training. I expect very high performance. I expect them to enjoy what they’re doing. I expect them to look forward to coming to work every day.”
One of his goals is to make sure they leave understanding the art as well as science of medicine.
“I want them to realize that every time they see a patient, interpret a test or see a procedure that that person could be their family member. We think that bedside mannerisms are extremely important.”
That principle comes across very clear to his colleagues.
Crawford, a Distinguished University Professor in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery,
has referred many friends and patients to Usher, including his father, who had extensive coronary disease for more than 15 years until his death. “My mother always thought that I was a pretty good doctor and was proud of my accomplishments, but she really thought that Bruce was a level above me.”
Usher was one of the main reasons Crawford’s son, Fred, III, decided to go into cardiology after his internal medicine residency.
“I believe that  perhaps the most important thing influencing him to pursue this at MUSC was the fact that Bruce Usher was the program director.  I spent almost 30 years as program director for Cardiothoracic Surgery, but I do not believe I ever had the respect and admiration from my fellows that Bruce has had,” he said.
“He has contributed immensely to the success of the cardiology and cardiothoracic surgery programs at MUSC.”

Friday, July 2, 2010

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