Interview with Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Dr. Jonathan Calure, M.D.
I am pleased to share yet another interview on Future M.D.! This time it is with Dr. Jonathan Calure, M.D. a Cardiothoracic Surgeon, President and Surgical Director of Maryland Vein Professionals and alum of the University of Maryland, School of Medicine.
Dr. Calure provided me with a unique and valuable clinical opportunity that has encouraged me to look towards a future dedicated to providing exceptional patient care. Please, enjoy this interview because Dr. Calure has an awesome background to share!
Tell me about yourself.
I am 45 years old, I graduated from medical school in 1994. I then went on to do a general surgery residency from 1994-2000 and then I did cardiothoracic training from 2000-2003. I was in private practice cardiac surgery for a short time and then I started my own practice doing exclusively vein care.
Where did you go to medical school?
I am an alum of the University of Maryland School of Medicine. I love the University of Maryland! I was there in College Park for undergrad. I was at the University of Maryland, School of Medicine for medical school. I did my general surgery residency there and my cardiac surgery training as well.
What initially attracted you to the field of medicine? Did someone inspire you?
I decided I wanted to do medicine in high school and I always loved biology and I loved the life sciences. I also thought it would be the most challenging career I could set my sights for. As I matured, I really found that to be the case. As a doctor now, it’s a very fulfilling career. I go home everyday happy and satisfied. I feel as if I have made a difference.
I couldn’t say that I had any one person that was a big inspiration. There have been so many mentors and inspirational figures along the way. I could name, probably, 20. As a whole, it is important to have both positive role models, people you can look up to and aspire to be like. There are also some folks along the way who are a little on the pathological side. You can also learn from them. You can learn from them how not to be and how not to do things. Often times, those lessons are more valuable on how not to do things.
What were some of your most memorable experiences/challenges as a pre-medical/medical student?
As a premed student, I was a little bit unusual. I was an aerospace engineering student. In the 80s, when I was going through college, to get into medical school you basically had to have a 4.00 (GPA). If you did not have a 4.00, don’t even bother applying. I knew that if I did the typical premed major like biology or zoology, I would not be as strong as a math-centered major like engineering. I sort of had that in my game plan and I chose the path through aerospace engineering which I thought was a great background for medicine.
Retrospectively because engineering is essentially about gathering data, determining what the problem is, and initiating a solution–and that’s exactly what medicine is. My strategy worked out and I did pretty well in college and I was able to get into the medical school of my choice.
That’s good, because I know some students feel as though they have to be a biology major to get into medical school, even though they may have an interest in something like engineering or psychology. Would you say that students should follow what they like?
I would absolutely encourage a premed student to choose a major where their heart is. You’ll have a passion about it and an interest in it. Of course, you’ll have to do the core curriculum courses for pre-medicine but I think it is much better to be an individual. It’s much better to have a résumé that stands out from the crowd. If you are one aerospace engineering major applying with 300 biology majors, obviously, that’s going to separate you and make you a little bit different. I would encourage you to not feel like you have to major in one particular thing.
For instance, there was an english major in my medical school class and a woman who had been in the social security administration. She had a career and retired from social security administration and then went on to medical school at age 52. You really do not want to put yourself into a box where you have to be this, that or the other major. You have to do well in your core curriculum and you have to be a well-balanced applicant–but that does not necessarily mean you have to be a biology or zoology major.
While you were preparing for exams like the MCAT or USMLE, what methods worked best for you?
Looking back on the MCAT, there were certain things that I was strong at: math and the sciences and then there were certain things I needed to be stronger in like the writing section and more of the humanities side of things (verbal reasoning).
The natural tendency for a person is to practice what you know and feel comfortable with because it makes you feel more comfortable but that is not what you want to do. You want to do a self-assessment and focus on the things that are difficult and more challenging for you and work on those things.
It’s hard because it makes you a bit more anxious to review things you are not comfortable with and you want to feel comfortable with the exam but you definitely want to be honest with your self-assessment and figure out what you need to work on and focus on that.
If you could go back in time to your first year as a pre-medical student (or medical student), what would you say to your former self?
I still have dreams, when I am anxious, about being back in college and missing a class or missing a quiz and not being able to get an “A” in a class. This is 20+ years later. I wish I could tell myself, “Don’t be so anxious. Just stay focused.” It’s easier said than done.
The other thing I would tell myself is, “You need to study, realistically, all the time. Not just exam to exam. Because your life is going to be a lot less stressful if you start mastering the material in real time.” The other benefit of that is when you get to medical school you’ll have these study habits in place. I found, coming out of college and going into medical school, that I had to re-learn how to study. Part of it was because it was a different type of material.
The first two years of medical school are like opening up a phone book in Chinese and memorizing it. You really have to train your brain to function on a level to study for medical school because learning how to study in medical school is different than anything you have had to do before. Getting that skill set down or being aware that it is a different skill set is half the battle.
You provide excellent opportunities for pre-health students to receive clinical experience in your practice, what encouraged you to want to help train future clinicians?
We [MVP] have opportunities for pre-health professional students because, in a large way, I wanted to give something back. I remember coming up as a premed, there really wasn’t a lot out there in terms of clinical experience or observation. You really want to have that under your belt not just to put that on your résumé but to say that you can do this kind of career.
I can remember that having this kind of experience in the Stroke/Rehab. It was some nice clincial exposure but it was tough to setup and there really wasn’t a lot out there. I felt that was some way that I could give back.1
Part of the Hippocratic Oath is to give back. You have as your mission as a physician is to teach others what you know and physicians who do not do that are missing the boat.
As a practicing physician, what keeps you grounded and motivated?
You could go for the philosophical realities: you enjoy the work, you enjoy interacting with your patients, you enjoy the results and that’s all very true. There is also the path of reality: you have to feed your family, you have to be good, you have to have happy patients, you have to have happy, referring doctors, you have to do a good job and be a good person. If you don’t have that, you cannot pay the light bill and you cannot buy groceries for your children.
For more information about Dr. Jonathan Calure, M.D., please visit his website: Maryland Vein Professionals
- (1) Dr. Calure also has a training program for physicians interested in learning more about vein care at Maryland Vein Professionals.