When I started college, I did not want to go into medicine,” Dr. James McKinnie says. “Originally, I wanted to be an engineer.” That was the first thing McKinnie wanted to explain about how he became a doctor.
He continues, “Then, I took a job as an orderly at West Jefferson for a summer. I got really interested in the technical side of cardiology.” It was this introduction to medicine that led McKinnie to concentrate his specialty in cardiology on irregular heart rhythms.
“Back then, there wasn’t much you could do for heart attacks,” McKinnie says. “But, I really liked the excitement of cardiology.” He found this passion while observing that doctors examine heart rhythms to try to understand what was happening inside the heart.
Over his career, McKinnie has seen defibrillators evolve into life-saving devices. Now, this technology is made accessible, portable and increasingly easy to use to many levels of medical care. “It’s incredibly exciting that technology cures what could never be cured before,” McKinnie says.
“Now, we can save their life and we’re doing it every day.”
After practicing for 20 years, McKinnie continues to build on his experience applying new technologies. “I’ve learned the tricks to find safe and effective solutions,” McKinnie says. “I’ve had experience with a lot of complicated procedures and seen so many variations of these complicated and life-threatening conditions.”
With this experience, McKinnie has successfully applied the use of new technologies to more and more cases in the New Orleans area. One developing tool is the catheter that’s allowing cardiologists to cure heart rhythm conditions that could never be cured before.
“There was a patient with an implanted defibrillator device,” McKinnie says. “He was being shocked up to four times a day. These defibrillators don’t prevent the rhythm from happening – they just shock you out of it.
“It got to the point where they were discussing DNR (a “Do Not Resuscitate” order). But, we took him into the catheter lab, found the spot that was causing the rhythm and used the catheter to fix the problem. He has been problem-free for six months.”
Now, McKinnie continues to invest his wealth of experience in his hometown, New Orleans. He received his undergraduate degree from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge and his medical degree from the LSU Medical School in New Orleans. McKinnie then completed his residency at Oschner. After moving to Wisconsin for clinical research, he joined the team at Tulane University’s Medical School.
After Katrina, he saw many patients suffering from discontinuity of care or no care at all while relocated around the country. Since the storm, he has seen the medical institutions in the city redefining their roles to keep the medical community on the road to recovery.
“Tulane really stood by everybody,” McKinnie says. “They worked hard to guarantee salaries to keep faculty here. That was tough. When there’s no revenue in the city, it’s really tough to keep a practice going.”
McKinnie sees making the latest technologies available in all of our facilities as priority number one. Knowing what these technologies can do for people, McKinnie thinks, “we need to make sure we can do that for people here.”