Interventional Cardiologist Dr. Craig Walker became interested in the medical field at just 8 years old. The youngest of nine children, the Bourg, Louisiana native was inspired by his two oldest brothers, who are also physicians.
“They would show me pictures, discuss interesting cases and talk about their experiences in training,” he says. “It seemed challenging, exciting and rewarding.”
At age 12, he was a first responder to a severe automobile accident, and was heroically able to stop the bleeding with tourniquets made from his shirt while his friend called EMS for help. The trauma victim recovered thanks to his swift efforts, and Walker’s fate was sealed: He would become a doctor. After medical school, Walker initially went into internal medicine, because he wanted to practice general medicine with his brothers, but he soon became intrigued by cardiology.
Over the course of his career, Walker has taken care of many patients who came to him as a “last resort,” he says. One of his primary areas of concentration is in salvaging limbs to help patients avoid major amputations. He also performs treatment of chronically occluded coronary arteries in patients who remain symptomatic with large areas of ischemia noted by perfusion studies.
One of his toughest cases involved a 45-year-old man with multiple prior injuries, a history of heparin-induced thrombocytopenia syndrome (a deficiency of platelets in the blood which causes bleeding into the tissues, bruising and slow blood clotting after injury). The man also had a gangrenous foot. He arrived at Walker’s office for limb salvage.
“His prior surgeries limited access sites,” says Walker. “His grafts were occluded with clot that had to be removed, and his low platelet count made the use of thrombolytic drugs (which relieve clotting) impossible.”
The patient refused to follow suggestions of getting his leg amputated above the knee — saying that instead, he’d prefer death.
“I advised him that intervention carried substantial risk,” says Walker, “and no guarantee of success.”
The surgery took seven hours but was ultimately successful.
“Not only does the patient still have his leg five years later, but he’s able to walk with no limitations,” says Walker.
Despite his accomplishments, Walker remains humble — a trait that helps him succeed.
“[As a doctor], you must have faith in your judgment,” he says. “There is no room for ego or laziness. If you devote yourself you will reap emotional rewards greater than any other occupation. It is magical to see people regain their health.”
Cardiologist at Cardiovascular Institute of the South (locations in Houma and Lafayette)
Education: Nicholls State University (undergrad) in Thibodaux
LSU School of Medicine in New Orleans
Additional training: Cardiology fellowship at Ochsner Foundation Hospital in New Orleans and a research fellowship at Harvard Medical School