Meet Riley Heart Surgeon Dr. Jeremy Herrmann
When he was a college student, Jeremy L. Herrmann, M.D., says his dream of becoming a heart surgeon felt like “staring up from the base of a very tall mountain.” It was a dream that began when he was a little boy.
As one of four brothers growing up in Evansville, Ind., Herrmann and his family spent a lot of time in their pediatrician’s office. “I saw the trust my mom had in him to take care of us, and as I saw that relationship grow I thought, ‘I want to be a doctor.’”
He began college with a career in general pediatrics in mind. But something happened that he never forgot, and he was drawn toward heart surgery.
Herrmann was doing a heart surgery rotation at IU Health Methodist Hospital during his third year of medical school. For the first time, he saw a heart in full arrest―no longer beating. The surgery team was able to re-start that heart in a way that was “so elegant” from Herrmann’s perspective that he could not get it out of his mind.
Still, there was that tall, steep mountain, looming above. The path to the top, to that dream of being a heart surgeon, looked almost unsurmountable. There would be years and years of training, the challenge of finding the right fellowship opportunities, and then the obstacle of finding an open position on a heart surgery team, when so few are available nationwide each year.
But his path began twisting, slowly, up the side of the mountain. Herrmann started his medical training in general surgery at Riley Hospital for Children. As a second-year resident he worked with Riley’s heart surgeons and got to know them. Later, as his medical studies continued at the University of Pennsylvania with a focus on adult medicine, he did a rotation at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP) and discovered that working with children once again “just felt right.” He was offered a fellowship there, and after discussing it with his wife, he took a leap of faith and accepted.
The path to the top of that mountain became clearer yet because Riley’s world-renowned heart surgery team that he had worked with years ago, made up of Dr. John Brown, Dr. Mark Turrentine and Dr. Mark Rodefeld, had not forgotten him. In fact, they were interested in bringing him on board once he completed his fellowship.
What seemed so impossible was becoming his reality. Everything “just fell into place.” Dr. Herrmann officially joined the Riley Pediatric Cardiothoracic surgery team in August 2016.
“I’m thankful every day that I get to do this,” he says. “The surgeons are great mentors who have taught me a lot. Much of pediatric heart surgery relies upon experience. Understanding all the nuances that can influence surgical decisions takes time and repetition.”
As a dad of two boys, ages 7 and 9, Dr. Herrmann finds his spare time filled with activities like basketball, scouting and baseball. “Being a parent has made me a better doctor,” he says. “I have a better understanding of some of the fears parents face.”
That empathy also drives his research passion: making futures better for children with heart defects through long-term outcomes research at Riley. “It’s not as glamorous as other types of research,” he confesses. “I can’t take you to our lab or show you our new device. But, we can analyze 30 years’ worth of data on patients and use that to improve the way we care for patients. You never stop learning. I’m looking forward to getting my arms around the research. The more involved we are with research, the better we can care for our patients.”
For this doctor whose professional dream has come true, what’s the best part about reaching the “peak of the mountain?” The answer comes easily. “The opportunity to join such a renowned surgical team was tremendous, and I feel grateful every day to be a part of it,” says Dr. Herrmann. “Working with the excellent cardiology, ICU, anesthesia, nursing, and perioperative teams has also been very rewarding. There are few things more gratifying than seeing a child get better from a condition they never asked for.”
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