Michael W. Cullen, M.D.

What attracted you to cardiology?

Cardiology is perhaps the only field of medicine that integrates direct patient care with opportunities to participate in high-impact scholarly activity, clinical education, invasive procedures and multimodality imaging. Even though cardiology is becoming more and more specialized, its practitioners still interact with patients in a variety of settings.

The combined breadth of patient encounters, depth of knowledge and opportunity for a focused practice drew me to the field. I haven't been disappointed.

What attracted you to Mayo Clinic for fellowship training?

I came to Mayo Clinic for my internal medicine residency followed by a year as a chief medical resident. I soon realized that the values, structure and commitment of the individuals that make up Mayo Clinic are second to none.

From the faculty to the support staff to my peers across training programs, everyone takes pride in their work and demonstrates enthusiasm toward Mayo Clinic's fundamental principle that the needs of the patient come first.

What makes the Mayo Clinic Cardiovascular Diseases Fellowship unique?

This fellowship differs from others because the practice does not depend on the fellows for clinical service. Essentially, the primary role of the fellows is to learn. That learning largely occurs through direct patient care at a level of autonomy commensurate with the individual fellow's training and skill.

However, this program doesn't leave its learners on an island. As fellows, we learn how to practice cardiology from the best in the world with a level of guidance and supervision that makes us feel comfortable yet independent.

Did anything surprise you about Mayo's program?

I've been surprised at the clinical autonomy I've been given to practice cardiology within the bounds of my knowledge base and skill set. As an advanced fellow, I routinely see my own outpatients, prepare echo reports and correspond with referring physicians.

I've been quite pleased with the progressive independence that I've gained during my training. However, I know that my training isn't complete, and a world expert in any cardiovascular field is always just a phone call or a hallway conversation away.

What is it like living in Rochester, Minn.?

Rochester has grown by leaps and bounds over the last five to seven years. Opportunities for families remain plentiful, and the night life downtown has really come alive. On a warm summer's evening, both locals and visitors come out in full force to fill Rochester's dining and shopping establishments. In the winter, the tunnels and skyways make walking between the Mayo Clinic campus buildings incredibly easy.

Rochester has been a great place to call home. And with the commitment that Mayo's leadership has shown toward developing the Rochester community, that trend is only going to continue.

What does your future look like right now?

I'm currently completing my final year of training in advanced echocardiography. I then plan a career in academic cardiology, where I can pursue interests in structural heart disease, interventional echocardiography and cardiovascular education. Regardless of where I land, I know my training at Mayo will leave me well prepared for the path ahead.

Sept. 27, 2013