Mostafa El-Refai, M.D., thrives on the quick results of opening blocked arteries

For Mostafa El-Refai, M.D., interventional cardiology is the best of both worlds. He gets to develop long-term relationships with patients and their families. He also gets to perform emergency stenting procedures to open blocked coronary arteries after heart attacks.

“Interventional cardiology gets my blood rushing a little bit because we get to treat patients with heart attacks who come in unstable, and I get to really make a huge difference very quickly,” Dr. El-Refai said.

Dr. El-Refai sees patients at several Norton Heart & Vascular Institute locations

“People don’t realize how many heart attack patients and [catheterization] patients there are in suburban hospitals,” Dr. El-Refai said, explaining that the number of skilled nursing facilities nearby is largely responsible for the high volume of cases.

Studies have shown the volume of procedures an interventional cardiologist performs is inversely related to in-house mortality after emergency procedures.

Born and raised in Louisville, Dr. El-Refai was offered a full scholarship to attend the University of Louisville. Having grown up comfortably in the suburbs, Dr. El-Refai decided to challenge himself by going outside his comfort zone. He turned down the University of Louisville scholarship and attended a combined college and medical school program at Ain Shams University in Cairo, Egypt, the country’s premiere medical school, set in a metropolitan area of 20 million people.

“Moving to a developing country, you see struggle. It grounds you,” said El-Refai, whose parents emigrated from Egypt to the United States. “It reminds you how fortunate we are, and everything we have here. Practicing in a resource-limited environment teaches you to strengthen your clinical skills, talk to your patients, examine them, and treat the patient not just the test results.”

After medical school, Dr. El-Refai did his medical residency at the prestigious Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan, where he was named chief resident for internal medicine. Dr. El-Refai then trained in cardiology and interventional cardiology at Baylor College of Medicine Medical Center in Houston, Texas, where he was chief interventional cardiology fellow.

Dr. El-Refai returned home to Louisville and joined Norton Heart & Vascular Institute in 2018.

“If every day, I work as hard as I can and do the best I can for my patients, that’s success,” Dr. El-Refai said. “You invest a lot of years in education and training in hopes you can make a difference every time you meet a patient, and my hope is even when they come in very sick with a heart attack I can get them at ease, they can feel comfortable, and let the phenomenal team that we have, not just physicians but everyone else, take care of them and do the best we can for them.”

At home, Dr. El-Refai likes reading, as well as watching educational videos and TED talks. He enjoys traveling, which leads to growth as well.

“I am a lifelong learner,” Dr. El-Refai said. “I always want to feel like I am learning and expanding.”

In addition to his medical degree, Dr. El-Refai earned two master’s degrees, one in research, the other in business.

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