April 24, 2023 — When you are voted Most Likely to Success in high school, how does your life play out?

Monday Morning Magic from Inkandescent® PR + Publishing Co.When he was just a lad in junior high (yes, the time before they called it middle school), Stephen Ksiazek was voted Most Likely to Succeed. His classmates again honored him at the end of his senior year at Plymouth-Whitemarsh High School in suburban Philadelphia — along with fellow classmate Elise Marks.

So, what did Steve grow up to be? “I’m a cardiologist at Lehigh Valley Health Network,” shares the doc who initially joined a small private practice and then, in 2012, a larger multi-specialty practice. “In late 2019, we joined Lehigh Valley, just in time for the pandemic.”

It’s great fun to catch up with classmates — a project I embarked on after our 40th high school reunion in October 2022 with the reunion organizers. Click here to read more. Scroll down for our Q&A with this old friend, and find some tips at the end to keep your aging heart healthy!

Until next Monday: May you follow your heart (and take care of it!) and live up to your potential! — Hope Katz Gibbs, founder and president, Inkandescent® Inc. Inkandescent.us

Living Up to His Potential: A Q&A with Dr. Stephen Ksiazek

What was your path to cardiology? After leaving Plymouth-Whitemarsh, 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 a lot of math and physics. But I also had a chance to get a very broad liberal arts education, which is a 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: the town of 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 then attend the University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine. Penn made it very easy and attractive to do other things to broaden one’s 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.

Are you married? Kids? Getting married was something that I apparently forgot to do. I’m parenting 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.

What did you dream of becoming back in high school? 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.

What advice would you give to your high school self? 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 two 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.

What advice do you have about creating your best life? 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.

What would you tell your classmates today? I enjoy the reunions immensely. I had spent 13 very formative years with some of these 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.

Now for some doctorly advice: Here are a few lifestyle tips to keep our aging hearts healthy:

  • 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 problems.

Click here to connect with Steve on Facebook.

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