Thomas Hoang, M.D., CHRISTUS Trinity Clinic-Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeon, is a humble hero, a mender of hearts. Hoang is only one of two surgeons in Texarkana currently, operating on 100 hearts in only 7 months since joining CHRISTUS ST. Michael Hospital.
Our hearts are invaluable, after all, we do only have one. Unlike many other vital organs that have pairs, like our eyes, kidneys, and lungs, there is only one heart. Unfortunately, heart disease is the leading cause of death in America, accounting for 1 in 4 deaths.
Coronary Arterial Disease is the most common heart disease in America, killing 70,000 people annually with triggers like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity and cigarette smoking. Heart attack affects 90,000 people year, of which about 114,000 will die according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Dr. Hoang explains that exercise and eating healthy, along with taking your prescriptions, are great ways to control heart disease. New changes have been made to guidelines for cholesterol and blood pressure, making it exceedingly important to visit your physician regularly to monitor symptoms.
“The old guideline was to keep the systolic pressure under 140, but those who have heart diseases should try to keep that number below 130. General guidelines say cholesterol should be below 200, but those who are at risk should keep their levels below 110.”
He explains that genetic and environmental factors are contributors of heart disease and those at risk should take proactive measures by seeing their doctors before anything develops. Congenital heart diseases are a different type of heart disease that affects people since birth and must be observed over their lifetime. Without medical intervention, many of the heart diseases can be fatal.
Heart disease is a generic name and can manifest itself in many various ways. The biggest risk to heart health is not making lifestyle changes after becoming aware of their disease. The last thing Dr. Hoang wants to see is a patient return due to negligence.
“It is a personal and professional gratification when a person comes to us very sick, almost dying, and we do a successful surgery. It’s wonderful to see them a few days later when they are awake and interacting with their families.”
Hoang is from Saigon, Vietnam, a country that fell to the communists in 1975 during war, making Hoang the primary provider for his family at a young age. His father and brothers were taken to “re-education camps” which Hoang explains more like prisons or concentration camps.
His father returned home in 1981 and Hoang fled to the Philippines to take refuge in a refugee camp with his cousins. A year later he received confirmation of sponsorship to America, providing a light at the end of a very long tunnel.
During the 28- day voyage, his cousins passed away with many others seeking a way to America by boat. The “boat people” traversed the trip with a diminished supply of food and water, but made it nonetheless. Hoang made his way to Austin, Texas where he found a night job at a bakery.
“I just wanted to assimilate myself into my new country and was willing to work hard to make a living,” he said. Hoang returned to school after he realized that his limited knowledge of English would limit his road to success. “I began to take additional classes and then enrolled at the University of Texas. I tried to get into nursing school but wasn’t accepted because my English was not strong yet.”
After his rejection to nursing school, Hoang enrolled in engineering and began to excel. One day while studying in the school library something caught his eye.
“I walked by a section in the library designated as preparation for MCATs,” Dr. Hoang said. “At that time, I didn’t even know what MCAT was, but out of curiosity, I decided to look into it further. As I read the materials on how to prepare for the MCAT or Medical College Admission Test, I decided ‘I can do that.’”
After receiving his engineering degree, Hoang was accepted into Southwestern Medical School in Dallas, Texas. He met with Dr. Michael DeBakey, the first surgeon to perform coronary artery bypass surgery. Hoang was so inspired that he decided to pursue cardiothoracic surgery.
His education at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School enabled him to complete fellowships in minimally invasive surgery, heart and lung transplantation, cardiovascular thoracic surgery and is trained and certified in the da Vinci Robotics Surgical System, available at CHRISTUS St. Michael Health System, where he performs his surgeries.
Since 1999, Dr. Hoang practiced cardiovascular thoracic surgery in the Dallas/Plano area, where he has received numerous recognitions over the years such as Best Doctor: Cardiothoracic Surgery for 12 years running in D-Magazine, Physician of the Year, Physician Hero Award for Outstanding Patient Care, and as a Texas Super Doctor, according to Texas Monthly Magazine.
His grit and determination are evident in his life journey and hard work as a surgeon. From a Vietnam refugee to a renowned cardiovascular thoracic surgeon, Dr. Hoang is a hero to hearts.