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Can you tell us what you do?

As a cardiovascular perfusion student at Upstate, Meyyappan Arunachalam gets around.

During the past year, Meyy has given presentations at perfusion society meetings in Illinois, Missouri and Florida, and has won scholarships from the societies in Missouri and Florida.

A cardiovascular perfusionist, by the way, is an operating room specialist who conducts cardiopulmonary bypass. Perfusionists pump and oxygenate the blood of patients whose hearts or lungs are stopped, usually during open-heart surgery.He was also selected to be student liaison for AmSECT, the American Society of Extracorporeal Technologists, representing students from perfusion schools across the country.

Upstate’s Cardiovascular Perfusion program  accepts only eight students each year. Meyy is on track to earn a bachelor’s degree here in 2012.

Under the guidance of program chair Bruce Searles, Meyy developed web-based database software that gives a more objective assessment of perfusion students. Meyy presented this concept and software at the AmSECT “best practices” meeting in San Antonio, Texas.

What is your background? How did you end up in such an offbeat, unconventional and unique career?

Meyy grew up in India and studied electrical engineering at Vellore Institute of Technology . He worked four years in engineering and six more in computer programming in New York City. Fate helped him find his true passion.

Meyy happened to be nearby when a neighbor had a heart attack. He helped keep the neighbor alive until emergency crews responded. “It was an intense experience and I found I liked being able to do it,” he said.

Meyy began volunteering on weekends in a hospital. “When I came across perfusion,” he said, “I thought it was a great blend of medicine, technology, engineering, analytical skills and above all, personal commitment.”

He enrolled in community college while working full-time. “I was thrilled to be accepted at State University of New York Upstate Medical University,” Meyy said. “I could not find better people to teach perfusion, and our Orpheus perfusion simulator (one of only two in the nation) is a big advantage in perfusion student training.”

Meyy’s first clinical rotation was at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. His time in Maine will end soon, and his next rotation is at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

Meyy currently works as Cardiovascular Perfusionist at Alberta Health Services.