Dr. Christian Bermudez: A world-renowned cardiologist in the City of Brotherly Love
Originally from Chile, Dr. Bermudez heads a department at the University of Pennsylvania that is a world leader in transplantation.
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For Dr. Christian Bermudez, the path to a career in medicine seemed natural from an early age.
Born to two Chilean doctors training in Washington, D.C., Bermudez grew up in an environment where he heard the medical jargon found in laboratories and operating rooms within his own kitchen and living room.
The young Bermudez also found himself inspired by the benefits his parents’ work created for their home city of Concepción, Chile.
“I saw since I was a young kid, the impact that they had on the local community,” he said.
His dad was a cardiologist on the cutting edge of Chile’s heart research and care, opening southern Chile’s first Intensive Care Unit for cardiology in Concepción, and his mom was an immunologist.
Despite their decorated medical careers, Bermudez said they never pressured him to follow in their footsteps.
Instead, what Bermudez learned from them was work ethic.
“My father was a very methodical man,” he said. “He would wake up every morning and go out at the same time every day and go to study for an hour before receiving patients.”
That process translated to Bermudez’s school work, and he was the top of his high school’s graduating class.
It left the then-16-year-old a choice between further study in law or medicine.
“I thought I could make a better contribution as a doctor,” he said.
In the footsteps of his father, Bermudez decided to become a cardiologist.
He started his training at home in Concepción, but moved north to Santiago for his surgeon residency.
After six years in Santiago, Bermudez made the jump to the U.S., accepting a fellowship at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
At the time, he had finished some of his cardiac surgery training, but wanted to learn about some of the cutting edge techniques.
Not only that, but the Mayo Clinic was also where some of the first cardiac surgeries took place.
“That history was immediately fascinating to me,” said Bermudez.
In addition to the rich history, he also found a rare Latino mentor in Dr. Francisco Puga, a Mexican and cardiologist at the Mayo Clinic.
While the Mayo Clinic offered an important history and mentorship, Bermudez’s next stop at the University of Pittsburgh showed him the importance of innovation.
When he got to Pitt, it was one of the nation’s leading centers for heart, lung and liver transplants.
From Pittsburgh and with transplantation as his specialty, Bermudez moved across Pennsylvania to the UPenn to become Director of Thoracic Transplantation and the Surgical Director of Lung Transplantation and ECMO.
In that position, UPenn has become a world leader in both types of transplantation — something Bermudez says is his proudest achievement.
His advice for other Latinos pursuing careers in medicine? Prepare to work hard and prepare to sacrifice.
“It really doesn’t matter where you come from, it’s what you make of it,” said Bermudez.