Clinical fellow Rotimi Mesubi says he was lucky to be born into a family of science educators. Since his mother was a high school chemistry teacher and his father was a chemistry professor, he spent many after-school hours in a lab watching students conduct science experiments.
Mesubi went into medicine because his parents encouraged him to be a physician, but he had always been interested in science and understanding how things work.
By the time Mesubi finished medical school in Nigeria, where he graduated top of his class, the largest health care problem the country faced was the burgeoning HIV and AIDS epidemic in sub-Sahara Africa. A significant number of people were getting diagnosed, he says, but there were no affordable or readily available treatments.
Following a plan he made, Mesubi came to the United States in 2003 to pursue a master’s in public health at Harvard University, with a focus on improving access to HIV/AIDS treatment in Africa. He then worked for two years on a government-funded program that he says provided him unprecedented access to HIV/ AIDS therapy program in developing countries.
During his second year of residency training at Case Western Reserve University, while on his first cardiac intensive care unit rotation, he became interested in cardiology. “I was fascinated by how sick people were when they came into the cardiac unit and what you could do for them,” he says. “For instance, someone presenting with a heart attack, you could fix the problem by putting in a stent with dramatic results.”
During a cardiology fellowship at the University of Iowa, he was invited to conduct research on atrial fibrillation at Johns Hopkins when his mentor, Mark Anderson, was recruited to be the director of the Department of Medicine.
Mesubi currently specializes in clinical cardiac electrophysiology, a subspecialty of cardiology that focuses on managing electrical problems of the heart, such as putting in pacemakers and defibrillators, or treating heart problems with medications or procedures.
His research is focused on trying to better understand the mechanisms that promote atrial fibrillation. “If we understand this better, we may find better ways to treat this condition,” he says. “Diabetes increases the risk of atrial fibrillation, and I have focused my studies in diabetic mice as a tool to understand how atrial fibrillation occurs.” This research is what earned him the American Heart Association Melvin L. Marcus Young Investigator Award.
When it comes to his approach to patient care, Mesubi says being empathetic is of utmost importance. “My mom experienced kidney failure about nine to 10 years ago, but was fortunate enough to have a transplant from a kidney donated by one of my brothers,” he says. “I think until you’ve been on the other side, it’s very easy to not realize that things that may be straightforward to you as a physician or health care provider, are scary and uncharted territory of the patient.”