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Alumnus Helps Lead Rapidly-Developing Cardiac Care Procedure

4.1.17
“Interventional cardiology means using catheters, wires and small devices to treat the heart. Procedures range
from treating heart attacks by inserting stents in the heart blood vessels, to replacing heart valves using X-ray
guidance instead of open-heart surgery,” Ben explained. “It’s exciting to work in a rapidly-developing field that
keeps innovating every year.”
 
Ben is director of the Structural Heart Disease Program at the Mid-Atlantic Permanente Medical Group,
performing procedures at the Virginia Hospital Center in Arlington, just outside Washington, DC.
 
Ben earned his medical degree at Yeshiva University’s Albert Einstein College of Medicine. Following a three-
year residency at Columbia University Medical Center, he spent five years as a cardiology fellow at Brigham
and Women’s Hospital in Boston, including two years of focused training in interventional cardiology and
structural heart intervention beginning in July 2014.

“I always found cardiology interesting,” Ben said. “There are so many aspects to the heart: the electrical system
in charge of the heart rhythm, the powerful muscle pumping blood, and the arteries and valves ensuring the
blood’s circulation.”
 
He acknowledged that his father might have had some influence; Dr. Jonas Galper is a cardiologist, and also
suffered a heart attack urgently treated by interventional cardiologists when Ben was in his third year of medical
school. “Most impressive,” Ben said, “my dad’s case is not unique. In interventional cardiology, no matter how
sick a patient is presenting with a heart attack, through quick actions and procedures you can generally help a
patient and make them better. It is truly ‘feel-good medicine.’”
 
In his current position, Ben sits on the cutting edge of cardiology, focusing on using minimally-invasive
techniques to perform procedures like aortic valve replacement, which previously were some of the most
invasive surgeries in medicine. One of these procedures, transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR), “has
revolutionized cardiology and allowed patients who previously were too high-risk to undergo open-heart
surgery to be treated,” he continued.
 
Instead of inserting a valve surgically, “these valves can now be collapsed into a catheter and fit through a hole
in an artery in the leg, not much bigger than a pencil eraser,” Ben explained. The cardiologist and staff, using X-
ray imaging, “can then guide the valve to the heart, where it is deployed and starts working right away.”
Ben said the procedure takes less than two hours, and patients are usually discharged from the hospital within
two days with hardly any restrictions. “Just this past month we performed a TAVR on a 91-year- old patient who
went home the next day, feeling great. This is a patient who likely would not have survived open-heart
surgery,” Ben said.

While the TAVR procedure focuses on the aortic valve, the field of structural heart intervention is rapidly
expanding to other heart valves, and likely will be moving into the broader patient population, Ben predicted. “I
think that possibly over the next five to ten years, we will be treating the majority of patients with valvular heart
disease not with surgery but with catheter-based techniques.”

In his first few months on the job, Ben has also performed a number of other structural heart procedures which
are firsts at his hospital. These included the Watchman procedure, in which a device is implanted in the heart to
prevent strokes in patients with atrial fibrillation, and a procedure in which a disc is inserted in a congenital hole
in the heart to prevent repeat strokes in young patients who have had unexplained strokes in the past.
Intervention is especially beneficial to patients “who probably are not able to be treated conventionally. They
are too high a risk, or too old. Sometimes they go home the next day.”

Ben is excited about his work. “At this point in my career it’s an amazing opportunity,” he said. “It’s fun to be
able to be involved on the cusp of technology and innovation, and most importantly to be able to use innovation
to treat patients and improve people’s lives.”
 
He credits his drive to be a leader in medicine to one of his experiences at Maimonides School. A charter
member of the Maimonides Sports Hall of Fame, Ben was recognized for his crucial role in establishing
baseball as an interscholastic sport in 1997. In athletics, he observed, “You learn how to be a leader and how to
run a team. Everything you do in life, and especially in medicine, is team-related.”
 
Ben’s wife Dr. Merav (Weill) Galper ’02 is a radiologist and is completing her fellowship in musculoskeletal
imaging and intervention at Massachusetts General Hospital. She also will be working at Mid-Atlantic,
practicing both general diagnostic radiology and musculoskeletal imaging and intervention, performing
procedures and interpreting imaging related to joint and bone disorders.

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