Doctor Spotlight: Mark Vossler, M.D.

Dr. Mark Vossler, photographed at EvergreenHealth Medical Center in Kirkland on May 9, 2013

Specialty: Cardiology
Practice: EvergreenHealth Cardiology
Hospital affiliation: EvergreenHealth

What attracted you to your specialty?
My interest in cardiology started during my residency. I had originally wanted to be an internist, but when I saw how people were so sick and got better so quickly, I changed my focus. It is very gratifying when you thought someone was going to die and then they walk out of the hospital a week later.

What’s the most challenging part about congestive heart failure for a patient?
The challenge of a chronic illness is that it changes your life. To an extent, it’s a disability. You have to accept that you can’t do some things you used to, and that is very hard. But take control of the disease; don’t let the disease control your life. I want my patients to be as active as they can.

At what age does congestive heart failure become an issue?
Depending on the cause, it can happen at any age, due to a variety of underlying conditions. Although there is no age cutoff, heart failure, hypertension and coronary disease generally relate to getting older. It’s a big problem with elderly people who are sick enough to end up in the hospital. A career goal of mine is to get elderly people to spend less time in the hospital with heart-related illnesses.

What advice do you wish every patient would take to heart?
A lot of disease in modern society is related to diet and exercise habits. My advice is to eat vegetables and take a walk. If everyone did this, then I’d have a lot less work to do.

There have been some connections between pollution and the rise of cardiovascular diseases. How do you suggest Seattleites stay healthy?
Kill two birds with one stone and bike to work. You get your exercise in and you’ll reduce pollution. To the extent we use mass transit, bike around town and drive less, there are no downsides.

Are there any recent major advances?  
In the last decade, we’ve seen more refinements than breakthroughs. The pacer and defibrillator technology is better, as well as bypass surgery and coronary stenting. There are also small changes in echocardiography. While it may seem a little disappointing, judging from 10 or 20 years ago, the advancements are huge.

How do you combat heart problems in such a stressful job?
I have the best job in the world! But I take my own advice. The key is balance. I work hard when working and I schedule time for family and outside pursuits.

What’s the most fun you’ve had lately?
I skied the 30 kilometers from Mazama to Winthrop in eastern Washington by myself. It was such a nice and sunny day that I didn’t feel sore until I was finished. —

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