Quinn Capers IV, MD
by Luke Russel
It’s a noble history that, even in its brief telling, speaks to the perseverance of generations of African-Americans to make a better life for the next generation. “Quinn the first was a night watchman at Talladega College,” says Quinn Capers IV, MD, of his great-grandfather and his job at Alabama’s oldest private historically black college. “Quinn II migrated to Cleveland to work in the factories. Quinn III, my father, is a retired police officer, and,” he concludes modestly, “I’m the fourth.”
“In my life, I’ve always been dreaming about my next step,” says Capers, who is associate dean of Admissions for Ohio State’s College of Medicine. Although certain that he was going to be a physician since he was old enough to think about becoming anything, Capers decided on a career as a cardiologist while in high school biology class in Dayton, Ohio. His choice of colleges continued a thread stretching back to his namesake: “I chose Howard University almost sight-unseen because I knew I wanted to attend a historically Black college, I knew I wanted it to be in a major city (Washington, D.C.), and I knew I wanted it to be attached to a medical school. Howard fit the bill for everything I wanted,” and he earned his zoology degree with honors in 1987.
After graduating from medical school at Ohio State, Capers homed in on a decision he made while still an undergraduate at Howard: cardiology training at Emory University, where he remained for eight years completing his residency and three fellowships. Capers and his wife, Cheryl, had their three children during their time in Atlanta: daughters Christian and Camille and son Quinn V.
Capers not only accepted his first job in Nashville with a private practice that worked out of St. Thomas Hospital but he also had a contract with Vanderbilt University Medical Center. “It was a great experience for me. Half the week I worked in a private practice hospital, and the other half I was at Vanderbilt making rounds and doing interventional procedures with fellows, residents and students.” While in Nashville, Capers also served on the faculty of Meharry Medical College, one of the largest historically Black medical colleges in the country.
Wishing to raise his children closer to extended family, Capers accepted a position as an interventional cardiologist with a private practice in Columbus in 2004. “But after about two-and-a-half years, I really missed teaching,” says Capers. “I also liked doing complex cases, and the community hospitals where I worked weren’t really set up for that.” He sought and obtained a clinical auxiliary appointment at Ohio State, allowing him to work out of the Medical Center one day a week. “I waited all week for that day,” he laughs. “Finally, I said to myself, ‘Life is short. If you enjoy it that much, why not do it full time?’ So I accepted a full-time position at the Medical Center in 2007.” Capers is now a clinical assistant professor and director of Peripheral Vascular Interventions in Ohio State’s Division of Cardiovascular Medicine.
In his work as an interventional cardiologist, Capers applies many of the elements that make listening to jazz one of his passions. “In interventional cardiology, we’re the ones who directly go in and treat the heart attack, using a variety of interventions, including angioplasty or stents. There’s a lot of adrenaline involved. It’s exciting, it’s complex and, like jazz, there’s improvisation, especially when we run into something unexpected or there’s a complication. You have to be prepared to play off the page, so to speak.”
That approach extends to Capers’ research, determining the effectiveness of various drugs, devices and procedures in an ongoing effort to improve the process of vascular intervention. “One thing I’m a big proponent of is performing cardiovascular interventions via the wrist, the radial artery,” says Capers. “Data are showing us that entering through the wrist versus the groin increases patient comfort, decreases bleeding complications and may even reduce cardiac complications.
I’m really an advocate for the procedure, and I enjoy the challenge of training our fellows to use this approach.” The radial artery procedure itself is FDA approved, but Capers and his team are evaluating its use with carefully selected patients in what he terms a groundbreaking procedure: outpatient coronary stenting. “Very few places in the United States are doing this, and I am not aware of any places in Ohio that are performing outpatient coronary stent procedures,” says Capers. “This procedure has the potential to reduce costs, increase patient satisfaction and create a new paradigm in the treatment of heart disease.”
Students who learn from Capers are thankful for the experience. In his brief time on the faculty, Capers has received several Medical Center teaching awards. His teaching philosophy is straightforward: “I approach teaching like I’m a student. I think, ‘What would help me learn this material?’ I would want it to be very simple, and I would want it to be repeated. So I repeat it, and I make it simple,” he jokes.
“I want to give information to people the way I would want to receive it if I were learning something new.”
Capers this year received the University’s Distinguished Diversity Enhancement Award for efforts that include his work as associate dean of Admissions for the College of Medicine. “Both nationwide and at Ohio State, we need to keep pursuing not just racial and ethnic diversity, but also diversity of thought, diversity of background, and we’re getting better at it.”
“It’s critically important that we begin to address healthcare disparities, and I believe diversifying the physician workforce is one way to achieve that,” Capers continues. “I serve on the Medical Center’s Cardiology Fellowship Selection Committee, and this year we’ve matched two African-American women.” When Capers learned that, in the years since Ohio State’s cardiology fellowship started in 1955, Ohio State had never trained an African-American heart doctor, he sought to remedy the situation. “Since 2007, my colleagues and I, including our Division Director, Bill Abraham and fellowship director Al Kolibash, have worked hard to change that. We have matched an African-American cardiology fellow every year, and this year we have two. That’s something I consider one of my proudest achievements here at Ohio State.”