Saving hearts, loving LaGrange

We talked to Kathryn A. McFarland, a cardiologist at Emory Clark-Holder Clinic in LaGrange about her thoughts on this community, how she’s adjusting to her new job at Emory and ways to keep your heart healthy.

LDN: How long have you been in LaGrange?
McFarland: I have been here at Emory Clark-Holder for about two and a half months. I guess the end of October I started. It has gone by fast.

LDN: Do you live in LaGrange?
McFarland: No, I don’t. Not yet. I’m working my way toward getting here. I am a sandwich generation person so I have my two elderly parents with me. My father is 84 and my mom is 80 and I have my two boys that I am taking care of, and they go to Carollton Schools. It was easier for me to commute from Carroll County instead of upsetting the applecart of four people.

LDN: How did you end up transferring to Emory Clark-Holder?
McFarland: Life just got really tough. I was working a lot and to me family is so important and to have a good work/life balance is what I was desiring and really needing. I stepped out on faith and said I’m not going to do this anymore. The moment I took that leap I put in two applications, and I got contacted by Emory Clark Holder. Eric [Blackmon] called me, and we started talking and it was smooth sailing from there. It was just what God had planned. One of the things that really drew me to LaGrange was immediately it was a sense of family.

LDN: When did you know that you wanted be a doctor?
McFarland: If you want the honest answer, after I graduated from college, my father gave me this beautiful leather briefcase with a beautiful red ribbon. There’s was a note attached, and it said get a job, and I was not ready to do that. So I said ‘OK, what are my options?’ I remembered my honors college mentor said I should think about med school.

LDN: Did you have anything that pointed you to cardiology?
McFarland: I was in residency and one of my colleagues had a family member that got sick. They are one month rotations and I was working in the coronary care unit. A family member got sick, and he had to leave. It was the end of the month, so they asked me since I had already done the rotation if I would stay and do another month. At first I wasn’t happy about that, but by the end of that second month, I knew this is what I wanted to do because it was the opportunity to really impact people at a critical time and make positive changes.

LDN: Do you have any children?
McFarland: Emmanuel and Jonathan. Both of them are six, but they are seven and a half months apart. One is adopted, and I found out about him the same day I took a pregnancy test, and I was already six to eight weeks pregnant.

LDN: What was your reaction to that?
McFarland: I was overjoyed. You are tired because you are pregnant, and you don’t know you are pregnant, so tired and overjoyed all at the same time.

LDN: How long have you been a doctor? And how have you helped people in the communities you’ve worked in with understanding heart health and eating right?
McFarland: It’s been 20 years. And I try to do everything I can. I grew up with a firm foundation in my family on community service in working and serving and teaching in your own community. Every opportunity I get, I will go and speak to churches. Talking to people at churches, talking to women’s groups, and since 2004 I have been doing Go Red for Women lunches and really organizing women to learn about heart health and their risk for heart disease. That has been an awesome avenue to teach women and teach their spouses about the No. 1 killer in America — heart disease.

LDN: What’s your biggest advice that people can do to affect their heart health?
McFarland: As Americans, we are very sedintary, so one of the biggest things you can do is going from being sedintary to active. In that transition from sedintary you decrease your risk for heart disease by 30 percent, and that’s not what’s added on top of changing your diet, changing your lifestyle, aggressively treating the diseases that you have. But that one thing, 30 percent. That’s huge.

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