His heart gave out and his car lost control, causing him to break several bones in the serious accident. A device in the man’s heart brought him back to life, but it wasn’t a long-term solution.
That’s when Daniel Kaiser, M.D., of El Camino Hospital stepped in. He helped save the man’s life earlier this summer by implanting a new device that should enable him to live a normal life.
“I feel incredibly blessed that it’s a job I love to do and an outcome that is truly meaningful,” said Kaiser, whose job title is a mouthful – cardiac electrophysiologist.
Kaiser’s profession requires a profound understanding of mathematics and engineering, which he said is unlike any other area in the health field.
“I tell all of my patients that I’m an electrician of the heart,” he said.
Kaiser studies the electrical activity of the heart to determine the origin of his patients’ irregular heartbeat, or arrhythmia. The 36-year-old primarily cares for older patients with heart disease, arrhythmia or heart failure.
After detecting the problem, he selects a treatment method, typically consisting of prescription medications or placement procedures for devices such as pacemakers or Implantable Cardioverter Defibrillators. He also performs ablation procedures by using electrodes and magnets on a patient’s chest to burn tissue that causes the abnormal heart rhythms.
“The procedure is like a video game: There’s a challenge that takes dexterity, it takes real-time thinking on the job,” Kaiser said. “It has real implications, and you love these patients and want them to do well.”
Path to innovation
Raised in Nashville, Tenn., Kaiser thought he would become an engineer. He grew up competing in math competitions; his pediatrician father steered him away from medical school. However, Kaiser was intrigued by cardiology, as it challenged his mathematics and engineering mind.
“I love the idea of incorporating science and engineering into human physiology,” he said. “You can’t figure out what’s going to happen in other specialties since the body is so complicated.”
Kaiser earned a bachelor’s degree in biomedical engineering from Duke University in 2004 and attended Vanderbilt University for medical school and his residency. After an additional three years of training at Vanderbilt, he moved to Palo Alto in 2013 for post-doctoral work at Stanford University with a desire to innovate new technologies in the health field.
He started at El Camino Hospital in 2016 and also does work for St. Helena Hospital and Santa Clara Valley Medical Center.
“El Camino is super unique, and it’s a small community that’s doing first-class research (with) the potential to change the world,” Kaiser said.
Although he described himself as a “workaholic,” Kaiser said he enjoys golf, wakeboarding, hiking and Duke basketball. Nevertheless, he added that he is thrilled he can apply his passion for innovation while in Silicon Valley.
When he’s not on the job, Kaiser spends much of his time developing devices to prevent heart failure. Through his startup CardioFlow Technologies LLC, he wants to change the way therapy is delivered to patients. His products are patent-pending, but he hopes to receive funding in the next couple of months to further his endeavors.
“Electrophysiology is a new field … with vast opportunity,” he said. “There’s no area of medicine that’s changing that dramatically. … Devices have new technology that’s better this year than they were a few years ago.”