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LEWISTON -- Dr. Rizwan Khan is the newest member of the Department of Cardiology team at Mount St. Mary's Hospital and Health Center, which hopes to soon open the first cardiac catheterization lab in Niagara County.

Most recently of the Amarillo Heart Group in Amarillo, Texas, Khan began seeing patients here on Oct. 11.

Tell me a little bit about your background, where you're from, your age, education.

I'm originally from Pakistan, moved to the U.S. about 10 years ago. Initially on moving here I was an associate professor at a chiropractic college, went on and did my residency in internal medicine in Boston and subsequently my cardiology fellowship in Boston. I'm going to be 40 at the end of this year.

What led you to this field?

I'd done my M.D. in Pakistan and eventually wanted to get into mainstream medicine over here. All my schooling was done in Pakistan, including my medical school, and over here I did my residency and fellowship with Tufts University hospital in Boston.

So from Tufts you went to Texas?

Yes, I went to Texas for about 11 months. My family didn't adjust well at all there, so I wanted to come back to the East Coast. There were a lot of differences in culture and climate and so on.

And, how did that bring you to Lewiston and St. Mary's?

I was looking for something along the East Coast and I was called and asked to come to interview here. I had some special interest because I have several relatives in the Buffalo area and Toronto, and that makes for a nice sort of homecoming. And certainly the hospital itself, with their vision to start a heart catheterization program over here, made it very attractive.

Before you became interested in St. Mary's were you aware of the high rate of heart disease in Niagara County?

Yes, to a certain extent. Of course, not having lived in this area or in the Buffalo, Niagara County area, it wasn't very prominent.

For a cardiologist, did that make it a more attractive job offer?

Heart disease is so prevalent that no matter where a cardiologist goes, there's plenty to do. I think the overall vision of Mount St. Mary's, particularly of the reasonable goal in their quest for a new heart cath lab and the need for somebody to do the basic work.

Youu have children?

I do, three of them. I have a 16, a 15 and a 5.

You were talking about St. Mary's vision of what it wants this new service to be. Could you go into a little more detail about that?

St. Mary's has a certificate of need (application) for a heart catheterization lab, which we really hope will be visualized very soon, and that's the ultimate in diagnostic testing for heart disease. So far, all the patients that require an angiography are being sent out to Buffalo hospitals where the angiography is being done.

Do you have a private practice as well?

I will. It's probably going to start in early December because of the office opening. It's going to be on Witmer Road, the Witmer Medical Plaza.

So tell me a little bit more besides the family connections that appealed to you and your family about this area?

Coming from Texas, this area was really nice, lush green, with the falls over here and the water, which is seldom seen in Texas. It was really beautiful in terms of the landscape itself. In terms of the people, it was really nice and friendly. In terms of work environment, very friendly, very collegial. In addition, the excellent schools in this area.

Have you gotten out and done any sightseeing yet?

We've been to Toronto a couple of times. We've been over to Fredonia. We've been over to Boston a couple of times. There is just so much culture over here, which is very different from the Midwest and deep South, so much diversity, which again is very different. And there's a general tolerance for various religions, for various nationalities. . .

Is there anything you would like to add?

Just a general appeal for people to really be aware . . . there's a huge amount that the general population can do to keep themselves healthier. It doesn't take all of the risk away, but it certainly decreases some of the risk for coronary disease. They can eat healthy. They can exercise. They can keep a tab on their cholesterol. The primary goal, I think, for every physician is to prevent heart disease and hope not to treat it. We're getting better and better at treating it. We'd really like to be at the point where we prevent it and not necessarily have to treat it, and for that the first step has to be taken by any individual themselves.