SARATOGA SPRINGS — The cardiology unit of Saratoga Hospital Medical Group has a new face.
Dr. Disha Mookherjee joined the practice in late 2019 from St. Luke’s Hospital in Duluth, Minnesota, where she was founding director of the Women’s Heart Clinic. Mookherjee also served as director of St. Luke’s Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation program and echocardiography lab.
Despite moving from the Midwest, Mookherjee is no stranger to upstate New York. The Syracuse native earned a medical degree in her hometown from the State University of New York Upstate Medical University.
Though Mookherjee’s father was chief of cardiology at the Syracuse VA Medical Center for more than 30 years, he wasn’t exactly the reason she chose the profession.
“He loved medicine, but he didn’t specifically encourage me to become a cardiologist,” she said. “The heart happened to be the organ that made the most sense to me in medical school.”
Mookherjee’s family, however, was one of the main reasons she chose to return to upstate New York after a decade in Minnesota.
“I wanted to come back to the area to help support my family as we navigate the challenges that go along with aging parents,” she said.
CITY OF HEALING
Mookherjee was drawn to Saratoga Hospital in part by the city’s history of healing.
“I was attracted to Saratoga Hospital because of its location in Saratoga Springs, an entire city dedicated to health and wellness,” she said.
“Historically, Saratoga Springs has been a place that presidents and other leaders of our country — and people from all over the world — have come to heal. I wanted to be part of a hospital and community that values and cherishes healing.”
President Franklin D. Roosevelt created Saratoga Spa State Park and opened the Roosevelt Baths & Spa in 1935 as a way to promote health and preserve the naturally carbonated mineral springs that dot the city. His goal was to create a park that would improve the health of all Americans.
“I feel blessed to be able to be part of a community that values healing and caring for its community,” Mookherjee said. “I also greatly appreciate the hospital’s willingness to be open to new ideas.”
According to Mookherjee, there is so much that can be done to help a patient’s heart.
“Heart disease is one of the most studied and researched areas in medicine, which is no surprise since it is the leading cause of death in the modern world,” she said. “We can help prevent heart disease and extend the lives of those who have it. With today’s innovative medicine, procedures, surgery and lifestyle changes, we can improve their quality of life as well.”
Though Mookherjee focuses on the quality of life of others, she doesn’t neglect her own.
“My day usually starts at 5:15 a.m. with exercise followed by yoga, meditation and my spiritual practice,” she said. “My spirituality centers me and my meditation helps me stay grounded.”
Mookherjee began meditating in 2015 while juggling two kids under the age of 3 and a full-time cardiology practice.
“My stress level had hit an all-time high and I knew something had to change,” she said. “Learning and practicing meditation has transformed my life.”
According to Mookherjee, true healing comes from the inside.
“I like to say that I am a cardiologist who deals with ‘all matters of the heart,’ ” she said. “While I find the technology and progress in medicine fascinating, I have learned that a pill, stent, or bypass does not always cure or fully heal. I love guiding patients who are ready to change their lifestyles so they can live at their healthiest.”
Dr. Theo Laddis, chief of the division of cardiology at Saratoga Hospital, said Mookherjee brings an incredible energy to the group.
“Everyone on our cardiology team brings a special perspective to patient care,” he said. “Along with her passion for seeking out the best paths for each of her patients’ care, I believe she will also be an important part of how we engage the community.”
Laddis said Mookherjee was part of the Saratoga Hospital team that presented CPR kits to Ballston Spa High School, which was done in partnership with the American Heart Association to support teaching CPR to high school students.
“While the team demonstrated the kits, Dr. Mookherjee inserted the inspiration for the students to understand the value of learning CPR by saying, ‘There may come a time when you can save a life,’ ” he said. “That’s who she is and what she believes.”
For Mookherjee, nothing is more fulfilling than seeing a patient completely turn their life around.
“I’ve seen patients successfully quit smoking, change their eating habits, lose 50 or 100 pounds, improve their numbers and even heal their emotional hearts, coming to realize that the whole purpose of life is love and joy,” she said.
Mookherjee became a Chopra Center-certified meditation teacher, and in her former role as director of cardiac rehabilitation she taught patients in rehab how to start a meditation practice as part of their healing journey.
In the future, she hopes to participate more in Saratoga Hospital’s cardiac rehabilitation program. “For those patients who are ready and interested, I like to teach techniques to get back to a more heart-centered life,” she said.
Mookherjee also has an interest in navigating grief after walking that path in 2008 following the death of her first daughter.
“Our lives changed forever and though she was only physically here for a short time, her presence is with me always,” she said. “My journey through grief has taught me many lessons, compassion being one of the greatest. When I see patients who are experiencing grief, we connect in a deeper way.”
Adding to the healing For Mookherjee, she’s happy to have joined an already strong cardiology team at Saratoga Hospital.
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“I hope that I can add to the healing that my colleagues are already providing,” she said. “I also hope that we can raise more awareness about women and heart disease, and how to prevent it.”
Mookherjee said the cardiology team at Saratoga Hospital is already in the process of creating a program geared toward younger women, ages 30 and older, to help them learn about their risk factors and how to take control of them.
“In this way, we can help lower their risk of heart disease, keeping them out of the hospital and living their best lives,” Mookherjee said.
Laddis said the program will help meet the unique needs of the community.
“We believe women’s heart health is an incredibly important component of preventative patient care that deserves our attention,” he said.
‘ON THEIR TEAM’
Mookherjee said her patients are the reason she remains passionate about the cardiology profession.
“When I go into the exam room to meet a new patient, I walk in with curiosity and wonder about what this person will be bringing to me, and how together we will help them get better,” she said. “Sometimes I walk in thinking that it may be a procedure that they will need, but actually it ends up being something very different indeed. My goal is to always help the patient walk out feeling better, feeling confident because I am on their team.”
Though every job comes with its own challenges, Mookherjee said the medical profession especially benefits from those who feel called to help others and are naturally hardworking.
“If you remain focused on the good that you are doing every day, you will go home each night knowing that you made a positive difference in someone’s life,” she said. “That is a life worth living.”