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Vital Signs

Clinical Observation

In this section, we highlight the human side of clinical academic medicine, putting a few questions to a physician at DMS-DHMC.

Armin Helisch, M.D.
Assistant Professor of Medicine (Cardiology)

Helisch cares for patients with cardiac problems and performs echocardiography. He also does research in angiogenesis, the development of new blood vessels; his hypothesis is that collateral arteries develop from existing vessels so small they're nearly invisible.

Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Bonn, Germany, and went to medical school at Rheinische-Friedrich-Wilhelms Universitaet in Bonn.

What made you decide to become a physician?
It sounds cheesy, but I wanted to help people.

How did you end up in the United States?
I came to the U.S. in 1988 as a medical student to do some rotations at Harvard hospitals. I loved teaching rounds. In Germany, most teaching happens in lecture halls. In 1992—after a two-year residency in Germany and a year as a physician on a German Navy vessel—I returned to the U.S. for a residency at the Harvard-affiliated Deaconess Hospital and a cardiology fellowship at Albert Einstein in New York. I then went back to Germany and was a research associate at the Max Planck Institute in Bad Nauheim, and I came to Dartmouth in 2003.

How did you end up at Dartmouth?
In 1994, I interviewed with Dr. Michael Simons, now chief of cardiology at DHMC, for a fellowship at Harvard's Beth Israel Hospital. I didn't get it but later visited his lab for training in in vivo

angiogenesis models. We discovered we were both tango lovers, so after that we'd talk about tango when we saw each other at meetings. He later offered me a position at Dartmouth because of our shared research interests.

How did you get interested in research?
The angel of research kissed me one day during my residency. Suddenly I wanted to understand what was happening at the cellular level in vessels affected by coronary artery disease.

How did you get interested in tango?
I was walking through Central Park in New York one day and heard beautiful, melancholic, passionatemusic. I came upon a man playing a bandoneon, which

looks like a little accordion, and couples dancing Argentine tango. I realized that tango was very close to my soul and organized classes at Albert Einstein. Now I'm a faculty advisor of the Dartmouth Argentine Tango Society, which I helped some students found in 2005. It offers free classes and is open to anyone.

What are your favorite nonwork activities besides tango?
I enjoy photography; opera; hanging out with friends; eating good food and drinking good wines; cooking; listening to music—classical, world, and jazz; watching movies that I find truly artistic, like Pan's Labyrinth; bicycling to work; seeing the fog rise over Lake Mascoma; and hearing the frogs outside my bedroom window.

What do family and friends give you a hard time about?
My still being single (but some of them seem envious), my tendency to procrastinate with regard to less pleasant things (such as taxes and grants), and my German accent.

What bores you?
Talking about baseball or American football.

What do you admire most in other people?
When intelligence, ability, or professionalism is combined with a passion for what one does in life (work or nonwork), as well as with empathy, gentleness, patience, and some humility. I don't think there ever is any justification for arrogance, however accomplished one may be.

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