Valve Clinic Tour: Dr. Junaid Khan Educates Patients About Heart Murmurs & Minimally Invasive Treatment

Last Thursday, I found myself at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Oakland, California. My reasons for traveling to Northern California were two-fold. First, I wanted to meet Dr. Junaid Khan, MD, a leading minimally invasive heart valve surgeon on the West Coast. Second, I was asked to speak at a a special, educational seminar titled, “For People With Heart Murmurs”.

Dr. Junaid Khan With Adam Pick
Dr. Junaid Khan and Adam Pick at “For People With Heart Murmurs” Seminar

My first meeting of the day was with Dr. Khan. I quickly learned several interesting facts about the surgeon who trained at UCLA Medical Center.

  • Dr. Khan performed over 250 cardiac procedures in 2010.
  • Over 60% of his surgeries are valve-related. Dr. Khan tends to perform more mitral valve surgery than aortic valve surgery.
  • Dr. Khan’s mitral valve repair rate is about 70% while the national average is about 42%.
  • Alta Bates Summit Medical Center was the only cardiac center to receive a “three-star” rating in California from Consumer Reports.
  • Dr. Khan is a dedicated father and husband. Currently, Dr. Khan coaches the baseball teams for his two sons.

Personally, I was most intrigued by Dr. Khan’s adoption and competence specific to minimally invasive valve procedures. While Alta Bates Summit Medical Center has a Da Vinci robot, Dr. Khan does not use the machine for valve procedures. Instead, Dr. Khan typically uses the port access approach… if the candidate qualifies.

“A median sternotomy is a great operation. However, the minimally invasive port access approach offers several advantages including less physical trauma, less pain and shorter hospital stays.” — Dr. Junaid Khan

It appears that Dr. Khan’s reputation for this type of procedure is growing rapidly. Several patients have traveled to Alta Bates Summit from Arizona, Colorado, Washington, Oregon and Florida to have Dr. Khan perform their surgery.

Dr. Khan’s Pre-Op and Post-Op Support Team

Next, I met with Dr. Khan’s pre- and post-operative teams. During this two-hour chat and tour, the team (JoMarie, Penny, Olvera, Leah, Provena, Connie, etc.) shared their unique, turn-key approach for managing and monitoring the patient’s surgical cycle – from respiratory therapy, to occupational therapy, to nutrition counseling, to cardiac rehabilitation. In addition to their patient-centric approach, I also noticed their commitment to the caregivers. That said, the cardiac center offers caregivers many complimentary amenities including a nap room, children’s rooms, computers and more.

On Tour Through The Alta Bates Summit Cardiac Center

A Surreal Moment with Gretchen Gillfillan…

An unexpected, personal highlight occurred when I entered the intensive care unit. There, I met Gretchen Gillfillan, a 79-year old retired school teacher who had aortic valve replacement just 24 hours earlier — using a pig valve. As I walked by Gretchen’s room, I noticed her eyes tighten on me. Gretchen then raised her hand, smiled and said, “I… I recognize you… Oh yeah… I read your book… Thank you soooooo much!”

Gretchen Gillfillan and Adam Pick in the Intensive Care Unit

There are no words to describe that heart-warming exchange of words. Without a doubt, Gretchen made my day, my month, my year. Most importantly, Gretchen is now home from the hospital, doing very well in her early recovery.

The Educational Seminar, “For People With Heart Murmurs”

To educate the community about heart valve disease, Dr. Khan hosted a complimentary seminar for patients at the Lafayette Park Hotel – just outside of Oakland – on Thursday night.

Even with the rain, the event was filled with patients and caregivers at maximum capacity. During the ninety-minute session, Dr. Khan and I shared our unique perspectives on heart valve disease and heart valve surgery. Needless to say, I learned a lot from Dr. Khan’s presentation about (i) the progression of valve disease (aortic stenosis and mitral regurgitation), (ii) the risks of not treating valvular defects, (iii) minimally invasive treatment using the port access approach and (iv) the future of percutaneous valve therapy and much, much more.

The Port Access Approach To Minimally Invasive Valve Surgery

After an interactive questions and answer session with the attendees, the event ended with a book signing. There, I was able to meet one-on-one with many patients and their caregivers.

Great Job To Alta Bates Summit Medical Center!!!

Even with the rainy Oakland weather and the very delayed flight home to Los Angeles, I was thrilled to have this special time with Dr. Khan, the staff at Alta Bates Summit Medical Center and the patients in their community. Thanks so much to Dr. Khan and his team for their dedication to and pursuit of healthy hearts. To learn more about Dr. Khan, please click here.

Keep on tickin!

Adam Pick
Written by Adam Pick

Adam Pick is a patient, author of The Patient's Guide To Heart Valve Surgery and the founder of

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