Dr. Emily A. Farkas is a Cardiothoracic Surgeon who divides most of her time between performing heart surgeries in the U.S. and performing heart surgeries for free in underserved regions of the world (with a little time for climbing mountains, boxing, and off-roading on the side).
Dr. Farkas also holds the distinction of being the first woman to train as a heart surgeon at Yale University, has a day named in her honor in St. Louis (“Dr. Emily Farkas Day,” August 3rd), and was awarded the honorary status of a tribal “Chief” in Nigeria – which all adds up to one of the most interesting people in the world.
Words cannot express how long I’ve wanted to sit down and ask Dr. Farkas these questions, or how excited I am to share it with all of you.
In This Conversation We Cover:
- [2:00] Emily’s dual interests of dance and medicine
- [3:00] Attending Yale University
- [5:10] Getting started with Crossroads Africa and humanitarian work
- [6:50] Delivering a baby in Kenya before graduating medical school
- [8:00] Removing a spleen after someone was hit by a coconut
- [10:20] Contributing to the collective good with CardioStart
- [17:00] Receiving the tribal title of “Chief” in Nigeria
- [19:20] What it felt like the first time Emily had a human heart in her hands
- [21:45] How we keep a heart beating during a transplant
- [24:30] Emily’s pre-surgery routine and superstitions
- [25:30] The scariest and most memorable surgery that Emily has performed
- [27:45] Being zen in surgery and in life
- [28:55] The typical personality of a heart surgeon
- [30:40] How Emily was raised and what she recommends to other parents
- [32:40] The most Emily has ever travelled in one week
- [34:45] Emily’s favorite failure
- [36:50] What’s giving Emily’s life fulfillment outside of medicine (spoiler: it’s exceptionally cool)
- [39:10] The bucket list trips that Emily has taken.
- [40:00] How Emily clears the chatter and drowns out the noise of the world
- [40:25] The challenge of relationships
- [42:30] The ONE thing that Emily implemented to help her feel better
Between Emily’s first and second years of medical school, she saw a poster for Crossroads Africa, an organization that assembled medical teams and brought them to places in need.
On her first of many humanitarian trips, she visited Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda.
“I delivered my first baby in Kenya. I think it really opened my eyes. We all think medicine sort of transcends the socio-economic status of a country, and I was just floored to see what was around me and what could be done.”
It was like nothing Emily had ever experienced before, and she realized that medicine isn’t all about the CT scans, MRIs, and excess we have in the U.S. – It is about the real fundamentals and helping those who need it most.
Emily then finished her medical training and, five years later, had an enviable and cushy job in St. Louis – what most surgeons hope and dream for while they’re in school.
But she looked at where she was headed – becoming the chief of a department – and that didn’t drive her or align with her goals. “I know what meant the most to me was when I was in these places and doing these missions with people who would walk for five days because there’s no access to healthcare… That moves me.”
There probably aren’t many other part-time heart surgeon, part-time humanitarian adventurers out there, so we’re lucky to have Emily.