April 2023: Stephen J. Ksiazek, MD, FACC, cardiologist at Lehigh Valley Health Network — voted Most Likely to Succeed!

PW Class of 1982: What do you do now for work?  And what has your career path been?

Steve: I’m a cardiologist at Lehigh Valley Health Network.  Most of my practice is in the Bethlehem area, where I live, although I sometimes go to our main campus at Cedar Crest. After finishing my training, I landed back in eastern PA, up in the Lehigh Valley, initially joining a small private practice and then, in 2012, a larger multi-specialty practice.  In late 2019, we joined Lehigh Valley Health Network, just in time for the pandemic. While I see mostly outpatients these days, for the first part of my career, I had a chance to use the broader array of skills I had been trained in, for which I was grateful.  The smaller practice setting also allowed much greater continuity of care back then, which I also valued.

PW Class of 1982: Where did you go to college, grad school, etc.?

Steve: After leaving PW, I went to college at LaSalle.  My dad taught there so that kept it in the family.  I continued studying the sciences- biology, chemistry, and actually a lot of math and physics. But I also had a chance to get a very broad liberal arts education, another virtue of a small school.  And I need not say how not having any college debt has played out over time.  Another small school advantage- I took up the sport of rowing, a great, albeit strenuous, way of viewing the Schuylkill River.  (NB: Conshohocken now has three boathouses that host a number of area high school rowing programs.  Alas, PW is not one of them.)

I was fortunate enough to attend the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Penn made it very easy and attractive to do other things to broaden your experience, for example, research or studying for other degrees.  I took a year for a research fellowship in molecular biology. Looking back, what took me a year to do could now be done with an instrument on a benchtop in maybe a day. But that is progress, I guess.  I also realized that career researchers spend most of their time writing research grants.  A worthwhile experience, but I got that bug out of my system. Upon graduation, I then went to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center for my residency in internal medicine, followed by a fellowship in cardiology.

PW Class of 1982: Are you married? Kids? Grandkids? Details, please!

Steve: Getting married was something that I apparently forgot to do.  I’m living vicariously through my niece and nephew, who live in Blue Bell, playing (hopefully?) the role of Cool Uncle.  (“You have that album?”)  My niece is a voracious reader and thriving scholar at Mount St. Joseph’s and a neo-vinyl Swiftie and varsity oarswoman (#gomountgo.)  For now, my nephew plans on a career in Minecraft or Lego.

PW Class of 1982: What did you dream of becoming when you were in high school?

Steve: I had already developed a pretty strong interest in medicine by that point. What I learned at PW from revered teachers like Rich Coletta, Tim Rea, and Pat Campbell has served me immeasurably well.

PW Class of 1982: What advice would you give to your high school self?

Steve: A piece of advice that I wish I had realized sooner rather than later — Perfect is the enemy of good.” And, what sometimes is “good enough” is indeed “good enough.”  I think I came to this conclusion around 3 am on a call night when I still had 2 more H&P’s to write up before trying to go to sleep.

That, and go see Caddyshack in the theater.  It’s the funniest movie ever made- don’t wait for video.

PW Class of 1982: What advice do you have for others about creating your best life?

Steve: You will constantly need to evolve and reinvent yourself.  A certain major might get you your first job, but what about your second, third, and fourth?  Look over the horizon to the best you can.  Educate yourself broadly in the fundamentals.  Don’t be afraid to wander down an unknown path.

PW Class of 1982: What would you like to say to all of your classmates today?

Steve: I enjoy the reunions immensely. I had spent 13 very formative years with some people, so to see them again is a real treat.  I have also had the opportunity to advise some people professionally, which has meant the world to me.

PW Class of 1982: Can you share a few lifestyle tips to keep our aging hearts healthy?

Steve: Most of my takes are pretty old-school.

  • If you have high blood pressure or diabetes, treat these as best you can, of course, in conjunction with your doctor.
  • Discuss if you would benefit from treating high cholesterol- risks may vary according to your history. If you smoke, don’t.
  • With regard to diet, I think most of what is out there is nonsense. Everyone now is a biochemist. People, in general, simply eat too much.
  • Supplements? Supplement your diet with good food. On this topic, I’ve been highly
    influenced by the work of Michael Pollan, a food writer and journalist (whose real claim to fame is that he is Michael J. Fox’s brother-in-law.) Try reading his little book Food Rules, a highly entertaining collection of aphorisms about food and nutrition that you can easily read through in one or two sittings.
  • Pollan’s top 3 rules include: Avoid processed foods and ingredients you don’t recognize. Use meat for flavor, not the main course. Pay more, eat less And, watch his Netflix documentary series Cooked, based on his book by the same title. (I loved when the vegan invited to his party had to admit that the barbecued pork was really good.)
  • Finally, don’t neglect the role that good sleep plays in all of these above issues. I am continually fascinated by how sleep and its disorders can influence and even mimic heart

PW Class of 1982: Blast from the past: Stephen and Elise Marks were voted Most Likely to Succeed, PW Class of ‘82. Steve also earned that title from his peers at Whitemarsh Junior High. Clearly, he has lived up to his potential. (We look forward to bringing you a feature on Elise soon!)

Click here to connect with Steve on Facebook.