Health Care Headliners: Dr. Dhiraj Narula

Editor's note: This story was originally published in Health Care Headliners, a magazine meant to introduce the community to the people making a big difference in local health care. The doctors honored in the magazine come from nominations accepted by VEGAS INC.

As a boy in his native Mumbai, India, Dhiraj Narula was inspired by his physician father, who committed his mornings to the local teaching hospital working with students and treating indigent patients on a pro bono basis, then spent his afternoons and evenings running his own medical practice.

“India is a very poor country with few resources for health care, but my father had a reputation as being among the most knowledgeable physicians in the area, and he always made it a point to stay up to date on the latest developments in medicine,” said Narula, who attended medical school at the University of Bombay (now known as the University of Mumbai), moving to the United States in 1996 to further his education, completing fellowships in clinical cardiac electrophysiology and cardiovascular disease at St. Luke’s Roosevelt Hospital Center, and a residency in internal medicine and a fellowship in cardiovascular disease at the University of Connecticut.

Narula moved to Las Vegas in 2005 and joined Cardiovascular Consultants of Nevada, which merged with HealthCare Partners in 2012. In following his father’s footsteps, Narula — who had teenage aspirations of joining NASA to become a rocket scientist — is dedicated to providing his patients with cutting-edge health care, and recently made great strides in advancing medical technology on an international level, while also making a name for Southern Nevada.

In July of 2014, Narula became the first physician in the Western U.S. to conduct an implant of the Evera MRI implantable cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD) system, the first version of the life-saving ICD technology that will allow patients with the implant to undergo MRIs. Narula and his team conducted nine of these surgeries as part of a groundbreaking international clinical trial, and his research team’s ongoing success with the trial in 2015 has helped position Southern Nevada as a leader in the health care industry.

An ICD compatible with MRIs allows patients with the implant to receive these scans that can diagnose numerous health issues. In the past, patients with ICDs — implanted devices that provide life-saving shocks to the heart when abnormal rhythms occur — could not undergo MRIs because the magnetic fields and radio waves of the scanners posed the risk of dangerous reactions.

“Medtronic, the company that developed the device, approached the FDA to do a clinical trial and we asked to be considered,” said Narula, adding that HealthCare Partners was competing with academic institutions such as the Mayo Clinic and the Cleveland Clinic for one of 40 test sites around the world. “After a detailed evaluation, we were selected. But the surgery itself wasn’t necessarily the cutting-edge piece: It was the fact that we were doing it in Southern Nevada, which will help position (the region) as a place where one can actually develop new technology.”

Narula has introduced other innovations to Southern Nevada, in 2012 co-conducting the state’s first-ever cardiac cryoablation procedure, which involves freezing damaged heart tissue to treat irregular heart rhythms. Since then, the team at HealthCare Partners Cardiology has completed more than 120 of these procedures.

Narula also performed Southern Nevada’s first ablation procedure, a technique to treat cardiac irregularities using a needle puncture inside of open chest surgery, and was on the team that conducted the first implanted pulmonary artery pressure monitor procedure.

“In addition, we are also studying a Vagal Nerve Stimulator in management of patients with Class 3 heart failure who have tried all standard treatment and medications already, and I’m also the medical director for the Quintiles EKG research laboratory,” said Narula, who credits his HealthCare Partners team for continued success. “I’m fortunate to be part of a group of accomplished and dedicated physicians improving health care in Southern Nevada, while also taking steps forward to improve and advance the reputation of the local medical community.”