Yousef agreed. "When I was in high school, I went with my dad to a cardiologist in Pakistan. I was so impressed with the way he treated my dad that from there on, it was only one interest: a physician and a cardiologist. Since then, everything fell in place. Born again, I'll still be a cardiologist."
Doctors have about 90 minutes from the second a patient walks through the door of the emergency room until the end of the surgery to ensure the least amount of damage to the heart, they said. The four cardiologists at Thomas Memorial Hospital averaged 57 minutes per surgery last quarter.
"We take care of patients from a janitor to high-level government executives to quarterbacks to people working in the hospital," Challa said.
"My father gave me one piece of advice when I graduated medical school: 'Take care of your patients as if you're taking care of me, and you can't go wrong.' "
Yousef noted that doctors don't work alone.
"A lot of thanks goes to the support staff, the nursing staff. They help make it happen. Without them, we can't do anything," he said.
The two are beloved by their patients, as evidenced by some of the distances they travel. Challa has one patient who comes from Georgia.
"When I saw him first, he was driving on the interstate. He had a heart attack. That's an exception — 99 percent are from this area; he still sends me a birthday card every year," Challa said.
Another patient who had a heart attack on a Sunday was sent home Tuesday after recovering from his surgery, Yousef said.
"He almost died there. They had to zap him. He arrested on the table. Zapped him again, and now he's doing well. That's the personal satisfaction you get."
Challa mentioned another source of that.
"I guess the clearest example of what we are doing right is my son is going to become a cardiologist," Challa said. "He's starting his cardiology fellowship in a couple months. This field — helping people — it's instant gratification. It's all worth it."