Dr. Yossavee Ukkayagorn: Path to becoming cardiac electrophysiologist is full of tears and sweat
Working for the Bangkok Heart Hospital, Dr. Yossavee Ukkayagorn has always grasped every opportunity coming his way and worked to the fullest of his abilities. Looking back, this cardiac electrophysiologist admits success has not come easy. It took lots of time, lots of tears, and lots of sweat to arrive at where he is today.
The romanticized image of a doctor clad in a white gown with a stethoscope around the neck rushing around saving lives makes medicine a much-envied career. But Dr. Yossavee, a specialist in cardiac electrophysiology and radiofrequency ablation, points out that a medical career requires time, effort and plenty of hard work.
“When I was young, I just thought that being a doctor would be cool. That was what came to mind when I saw a doctor wearing glasses and having a stethoscope around his neck. But when I became a medical student, I found that medical studies were much harder than I had ever imagined. Gross Anatomy, in particular, was difficult. I had to memorize so much. I looked at a skeleton and tried to memorize its parts. I poured over a skull, arm bones, and leg bones as I tried to remember what they were. I even brought these bones with me to my bedroom so I could recite what they were every night,” Dr. Yossavee recalled with a fond laugh.
After his graduation in 2001, he worked in the Emergency Room of the Rajavithi Hospital. While this job allowed him to meet a variety of patients, he could not help feeling that he was just a frontliner whose job it was to transfer patients to medical specialists. He could not take care of his patients throughout their treatment. So, he decided to resign and further his studies in the United States.
While waiting to hear if his application had been accepted, he met Dr. Chatree Duangnet – a former chairman of Bangkok Dusit Medical Services’ board – and was offered a job. Dr. Chatree recruited Dr. Yossavee as a medical coordinator of his group. Serving on its digital communications team, Dr. Yossavee handled email correspondence with foreign patients or embassies interested in bringing foreign patients to the Bangkok Hospital. That’s how Dr. Yossavee joined the Bangkok Hospital family.
Another Turning Point: “Why did you want to be a doctor?”
Dr. Yossavee had another turning point in his life when his girlfriend asked him why he wanted to be a doctor in the first place. After contemplating the question, he started following externs around to see how other doctors treated and took care of patients. Five years into his job, he successfully passed the Board of Internal Medicine’s exam with flying colors. And as the highest scorer in the exam, Dr. Yossavee shook off his previous fears and concerns about his next career step.
Path to Cardiac Electrophysiology
After studying internal medicine for five years, Dr. Yossavee furthered his studies in the field of cardiovascular medicine for another two years. In all, he spent seven years furthering his education at the Faculty of Medicine Vajira Hospital because while his mother hoped he would become a cardiologist, his hope was to be able to improve his patients’ conditions.
After completing his studies, Dr. Yossavee honored his promise to Dr. Chatree that he would return to the Bangkok Hospital family. He was put in charge of the Cardiac Care Unit (CCU), Mobile CCU and checkups.
Dr. Chatree then gave Dr. Yossavee another opportunity, one that came with a new set of challenges. Recognizing the younger doctor’s potential, he suggested that Dr. Yossavee study cardiac electrophysiology to treat an increasingly common condition known as cardiac arrhythmia. This is directly related to the modern lifestyle that includes a busy schedule, stress, smoking, alcohol consumption, too little sleep, staying up late, and consumption of tea, coffee and carbonated beverages resulting in excessive caffeine intake.
“I was interested because my idol, a lecturer at the Faculty of Medicine Vajira Hospital, is a cardiologist and a cardiac electrophysiologist. With a scholarship from the Bangkok Hospital, I studied cardiac electrophysiology at the Faculty of Medicine Siriraj Hospital. This is the second opportunity Dr. Chatree gave me. I took it and did my best,” Dr. Yossavee said.
“You save my life” Increases Job Value
At the Bangkok Hospital, Dr. Yossavee has treated many patients with heart disease. The most challenging case was that of 15-year-old half-Thai, half-Australian girl. She was transferred to the Bangkok Hospital with heart failure.
Upon arrival, the teenage patient showed signs of fatigue and a swollen abdomen. Ultrasounds revealed she had both cardiomegaly and heart failure. Shortly later, she developed short-run VT (Ventricular Tachycardia), a fast, abnormal heart rhythm . While nonsustained VT was detected in the heart’s lower chambers, the upper chambers struggled with atrial fibrillation (AF). In other words, this girl suffered from both VT and AF. Her heart failure was related to genetic conditions, which were rare in Thailand. Due to genetic problems, she developed cardiomyopathy, specifically Lamin A/C cardiomyopathy, from a young age.
“To help her, we used a defibrillator to adjust her atrial fibrillation. But because of her cardiomegaly, her heartbeat didn’t really come to the normal range. We thus performed surgery to give her an automated implantable defibrillator. She had used the device for between three and four months during which she checked into and out of our hospital frequently. She was usually rushed in with heart failure. So, in the end, we treated her with a heart transplant. She is the most serious case I’ve ever handled,” Dr. Yossavee said.
Treating Heart-disease Patients at Bangkok Hospital?
Patients are impressed with the world-class services at the well-equipped Bangkok Hospital. Backed by quality personnel and equipment, the Bangkok Hospital has also laid down protocols that are on par with international standards.
“We are truly well-equipped. Our defibrillator, for example, features Carto 3D mapping. Therefore, we have greater accuracy. With such state-of-the-art technology, we can ensure that the defibrillator is at the right spot. The device can effectively treat AF. Heart rate is also monitored after the treatment. The monitoring determines if any mistake happens. Occurrences are reported. Based on our protocol, doctors will recheck patients within a certain time period following the treatment. We have clear standards,” this medical specialist explained.
Because every second matters especially at hospitals, Dr. Yossavee’s hobby is collecting timepieces.
He relaxes by meditating because meditation enables him to concentrate better on planning treatments, treating patients, listening to them, and calmly answering their questions. Thanks to such hobbies, his mind has grown. As his career advances, his internal growth also progresses.
Dr. Yossavee recognizes that his girlfriend’s life-changing question, Dr. Chatree’s confidence in him, and his courage to keep going and learning have brought him to where he is today. Dr. Yossavee is now the Bangkok Hospital’s top-ranked cardiac electrophysiologist.