Life and Times of Leading Cardiologists. Guest: Gabriel Steg

Robert Califf, MD; Philippe Gabriel Steg, MD


October 22, 2013

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Today's Guest: Gabriel Steg

Robert Califf, MD: Hello. I'm Rob Califf. I want to welcome you to a new edition of Life and Times of Leading Cardiologists. As all of you know, this is a show where I learn a lot by talking to people whom I respect greatly. But we also hope to give inspiration to others about how to become excellent in cardiology and in life in general.

I'm here at the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) meeting, and I'm really pleased to have Gabriel Steg with me. He's a colleague and a very excellent interventional cardiologist in clinical trials and a highly respected person in the cardiovascular community. Gabriel just told me that at the ESC, they were expecting a smaller number of attendees than usual, but they've actually exceeded last year. They've run out of programs. This is really a major meeting. So welcome to the show.

Philippe Gabriel Steg, MD: Thank you.

Origins: Overcoming the Past

Dr. Califf: I would like to start out with origins. And I'll approach this as an American. I think France, to most Americans, is a bit of a mysterious place. George Bush could never really understand it. And we have a lot of interesting things that we say about it.

Tell us about what it was like growing up. Where are you from? What was your family like?

Dr. Steg: OK. It actually has a number of interesting features. I come from a Jewish family. And my parents arrived in France before World War II. My father came from Eastern Czechoslovakia, which actually was really more Hungarian than Slovakian or Czech at the time. My mother comes from Thessaloniki in Northern Greece, from the Spanish Jews, who relocated there in the Middle Ages after being expelled from Spain. They both arrived in France in 1932 and met during the war and survived the difficult times of the war. And, of course, that had quite an influence on my upbringing because I grew up in a family where you wouldn't buy a German car. You would never go on holidays to Germany, for instance.

Reflecting back now that Europe is getting more unified, and I've had the opportunity to go to Germany and work with German friends and collaborate with colleagues -- now some of my very best friends are German -- I have to say I'm amazed at how this history is now remote and how Europe has completely turned things around with a genuine friendship between France and Germany, and how people were able to overcome the things of the past and build a different spirit.

In fact, I think that in academic science, we're truly citizens of the world because we work together. I work and collaborate with friends overseas more than I collaborate sometimes with people who are in the office next door in my own department. That's one of the parts that's really fun about doing science and research together.

Childhood in 1960s France

I come from that kind of a background. And I grew up in the early '60s in France. I remember as a kid the '68 student revolution. I was 9 years old. Our teacher went on strike for a month. I remember my parents talking sugar and oil and food in case there would be strikes, and my older brother going to demonstrations. That was fun.

I had a really very happy childhood in a medical family. My father is a urologist. He's actually quite a famous urologist. He was part of the team that operated on General de Gaulle in the '60s. He was also a personal urologist to President Mitterrand. He actually treated 2 presidents!

Dr. Califf: Wow.

Dr. Steg: My mother was a gynecologist. I toyed with the idea of becoming a doctor myself. I was very curious about medicine. I heard medical talk all the time at home. And I think curiosity was probably the main reason I went into medicine. I wanted to understand what this was all about.


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