20 Questions: Michael R. Jaff, DO, Vascular Medicine

Last Updated on June 27, 2022 by Laura Turner

Michael R. Jaff, DO, is Medical Director of the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Vascular Diagnostic Laboratory and Vascular Ultrasound Core Laboratory, and Chair of the MGH Institute for Heart, Vascular and Stroke Care. Dr. Jaff is an active clinical consultant in all aspects of vascular medicine, including peripheral arterial disease, venous thromboembolic disease, aneurysmal diseases, and all diagnostic strategies in vascular medicine. Jaff earned a bachelor’s degree in biology (1980) from Dickinson College, and a DO in osteopathic medicine at Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine (1985). He completed a rotating medicine/surgery internship at Flint Osteopathic Hospital (currently Genesys Regional Medical Center), and a residency and chief residency in internal medicine, as well as a fellowship in vascular medicine, at Cleveland Clinic Foundation.
Dr. Jaff has been published in Cleveland Clinic Journal of Medicine, Journal of Endovascular Therapy, American Journal of Cardiology, Clinical Cardiology, Vascular Medicine, Journal of Invasive Cardiology, The American Journal of Medicine, The Journal of American Osteopathic Association, The American Journal of Human Genetics, and Angiology. He is the Past-President of the Society for Vascular Medicine and Biology, and received the first designation as Master of the Society for Vascular Medicine. He is a Fellow of the American College of Physicians, American College of Cardiology, the American Heart Association, and the Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Intervention, and is a registered physician in vascular interpretation (RPVI).

When did you first decide to become a doctor? Why?
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a doctor. The key moment was around the age of 10, when I was found to have a heart murmur and needed a test to determine if I had a congenital heart defect (thank goodness, I did not). I was so impressed with the caring nature, professionalism, and brilliance of my physicians. I knew this is what I had to do.
How/why did you choose the medical school you attended?
I applied to over 20 medical schools, and was accepted to Kirksville College of Osteopathic Medicine. I chose to attend rather than wait another year, and it was a fantastic decision.
What surprised you the most about your medical school studies?
There were several surprises–no matter how hard I thought medical school was going to be, it was much tougher. However, I was most surprised by how eager and helpful the professors were to want to make us all great physicians.
Why did you decide to specialize?
I was always interested in internal medicine, but during my residency, I became very interested in vascular medicine, and believed that I would be able to have a real impact on patients by specializing in this field.
If you had it to do all over again, would you still specialize in vascular? (Why or why not? What would you have done instead?)
Absolutely! It is a fantastic subspecialty–you never see two patients in a row with the same problem. You really need to have a broad grasp of multiple components of health care.
Has being a vascular specialist met your preconceived expectations? Why (or why not)?
Definitely. I have had the privilege of caring for many challenging and grateful patients, working with brilliant investigators to expand the knowledge of the field, and have made some great friends in the process.
What do you like most about being a vascular specialist? Explain.
I am never bored…my patients are always challenging.
What do you like least about being a vascular specialist? Explain.
The only thing I dislike is when I cannot figure out the cause of a patient’s illness.
How did your career path lead you to where you are now?
After finishing medical school, I completed a one-year osteopathic rotating internship, and then entered my internal medicine residency at the Cleveland Clinic. After a year as chief medical resident, I then completed a fellowship in vascular medicine.
Describe a typical day at work–walk me through a day in your shoes.
I am usually in my core lab at 6 a.m., then my office by 8 a.m., and, depending on the day of the week, have a series of administrative meetings, patients appointments, and often end my day back in the core lab. I generally get home between 8 p.m. and 9 p.m.
On average: How many hours a week do you work?
I generally work 70 to 90 hours per week.
How many hours do you sleep per night?
I sleep on average five hours per night.
How many weeks of vacation do you take?
I am allotted four weeks, but don’t routinely take them all.
Do you feel that you are adequately compensated? Why or why not?
Absolutely. I am very fairy compensated.
If you took out educational loans, is/was paying them back a financial strain? Please explain.
I did pay for my entire medical school education with Health Education Assistance Loans. It took me over 10 years following completion of my training to pay them all off. It was difficult, and required us to be very regimented.
Is there any advice you would give to yourself if you could go back to when you started your medical career? (Anything pertinent you’ve learned in hindsight?)
Be prepared for hard work; marry a spouse who has professional interests as well, and who understands the need for hard work; love medicine, because if you don’t, you are going to be miserable; don’t choose this career for money, because if you do, you stand to be disappointed and in debt; and realize that medicine is still the most noble of professions.
What information/advice do you wish you had known when you were beginning your medical studies?
I actually just wish that I was told how much work was required to be a successful physician before I started.
From your perspective, what is the biggest problem in health care today?
There are several major problems: not every U.S. citizen has access to great health care; there is no real tort reform within the health care system; and there is too much competition between physicians and hospitals for patients.
Where do you see your specialty in five to 10 years?
I am very excited about the future of genetics, genomics, and proteomics in cardiovascular medicine. I am hopeful that we will be able to identify specific genetic risks for cardiovascular disease, and then impact on the expression of disease over time.
What types of outreach/volunteer work do you do, if any?
I volunteer for several professional not-for-profit organizations, as well as on the parents’ executive committee for Colby College.
Do you have family? Do you have enough time to spend with them? How do you balance work and life outside of work?
I have the greatest family possible–I am married to a remarkably brilliant woman and phenomenal mother; my two daughters, ages 24 and 19, are both fantastic and accomplishing tremendous things in their young lives. The best thing I did was purchase a small vacation home when my children were young…they grew up in this paradise, and so they want to spend time with me. That is the smartest thing I ever did.
What is your final piece of advice for students interested in pursuing a vascular specialty as a career?
If you are interested in helping people and advancing a field full of challenging patients and not enough practitioners, vascular medicine is for you.