Paco Aguilar: In Cardiology, Measuring Patient Outcomes by the Minute

Bryn Mawr College’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical Program provides a rigorous and highly prestigious one-year program for those interested in applying to medical school but lack the required undergraduate prerequisite courses. In the summer of 2015, new alumni feature stories were written for use on the program’s recently re-designed website, targeting prospective applicants.

Read the article on Bryn Mawr’s website

Paco Aguilar remembers the day in 1997 that he got the acceptance letter for Bryn Mawr’s Postbaccalaureate Premedical program. He was riding in a cab in New York City on his way to the airport to fly home to see his family.

“I open this thick, tattered package, and I read the word ‘congratulations,’ and I just started crying right there in the cab,” he said. “All of the worry and concern over this change was over, and I realized it was all going to work out. To the casual observer of my resume, you have no idea how important that first bullet is. I still have the letter.”

After earning a bachelor’s degree in accounting from Georgetown University, Aguilar worked in banking for three years in New York. He knew it wasn’t right for him within months of starting an 18-month training program.

“I gave myself the benefit of time to finish what I started, work in the field, and make an informed decision about my next step,” he said. “It was the life experience that gave me a whole different perspective. Once I made the decision to pursue medicine, the path forward wasn’t daunting. It was liberating.”

Aguilar was never far removed from a life in medicine. With a physician for a father, Aguilar spent countless Saturdays in his father’s office lounge, waiting for him to be finished with patients. Medicine was always a topic at the dinner table. During his time at Georgetown, Aguilar worked for the campus emergency response medical service.

“Working on the ambulance, running the crew, making a tangible difference in someone’s life – that was where I was the happiest,” he said. “I remember springing the news on my parents – it wasn’t until my father got to ‘hood’ me at my medical school graduation at the University of Chicago [on honor bestowed on physicians], that I think he finally accepted it.”

After completing his medical residency at Yale University and serving as chief resident for a year, Aguilar completed his fellowship in cardiology and sub-specialty in electrophysiology at Tufts University.

Now in private practice in Chicago, Aguilar helps patients with heart rhythm issues and performs pacemaker procedures. He said Bryn Mawr allowed him to accomplish what he was truly capable of, and his work now is a true reflection of how dedicated he was to pursing this career.

“In cardiology, you can measure your success sometimes days, even minutes, later,” he said. “I can see someone get better before my eyes – they can all of a sudden breathe better, they can walk. The extra time with patients, explaining everything to them and balancing their fears, is what means the world to me.”

Photo credit: Bryn Mawr College, courtesy of Paco Aguilar.