Listen to Your Heart: The Story of Dr. Mouatou Mouanoutoua
At the intersection of childhood and becoming an adult, many parents dream of great futures for their children, whether it is to become a business person, a lawyer, a professional sports star, a pharmacist, or a surgeon. These dreams, though challenging to achieve, are possible.
For one man, becoming a successful pharmacist and businessman did not enable him to fully help others. So Dr. Mouatou Mouanoutoua chose to start a new path all over again because he knew in his heart there was more he could do.
A refugee from Laos, Dr. Mouanoutoua followed his heart to find education and opportunity in his journey to improve the lives of others. As a cardiologist in Fresno, he heals the hearts of his patients.
Before arriving to America in 1976, Dr. Mouanoutoua almost never started on his path to medicine. “At birth,” he shares, “I was very sick and was not going to survive. I was lucky to be alive and it made me believe that I should help people survive, because I lived.” Surviving this illness spurred his desire to heal others.
Dr. Mouanoutoua’s journey to become a cardiologist began at an early age. He began volunteering at hospitals where his desire to pursue a career in the medical field strengthened.
After high school, Dr. Mouanoutoua took his first steps toward a career in Pharmacy, selecting the University of California, Irvine for his undergraduate studies. Graduating with a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Pre-Pharmacy in 1985, he moved on to the University of the Pacific to receive his Pharm. D degree. After graduating from pharmacy school, he moved to Fresno and thrived as the owner of Tou’s Pharmacy for four years.
Despite his success, Dr. Mouanoutoua still wanted do more for others. As a pharmacist, he explains, he can “dispense medication to patients,” but his desire to help others made the career field “not satisfying enough.” He was feeling a call to do more to help people.
“Pharmacists are limited in what they can do,” he continues, “mainly educate the patient about their medicine and dispense medication. However, [due to the education required]Pharmacists have extensive knowledge related to human anatomy/physiology and disease process which [they]cannot put into practice.”
Faced with this dilemma, Dr. Mouanoutoua decided to return to school and pursue a Medical Doctorate so he could further his ability to help others.
His journey to become a doctor led him to the West Indies, in the Caribbean, where he attended medical school at Ross University. During his first three years Dr. Mouanoutoua studied General Medicine, which is typical for medical students as it allows them time and experience to determine their field of specialty.
In his fourth year at medical school, he chose to concentrate in Cardiology, focusing on the heart and blood vessels. “Changes in the medical field in the early 90’s,” he shares, “made the field more popular, as more could be done for the patient, through research and advancement in technology.” Dr. Mouanoutoua says he chose Cardiology over General Practice “because heart disease is the number one cause of death in the western world and an interventional cardiologist can actually alter the disease process by performing angioplasty and stenting (open the blood vessel without surgery) to restore blood flow to an obstructed vessel.”
After finishing medical school, Dr. Mouanoutoua spent an additional seven years training in Internal Medicine and Cardiology at the University of Wisconsin Medical School in Milwaukee, WI. Upon completion of his training in 2005, he returned to Fresno and gained employment at the University of California, San Francisco (UCSF) Medical Center. Currently, he is the only board certified interventional cardiologist at UCSF of Fresno and will become the Interventional Cardiology Director at The Community Regional Medical Center of Fresno.
Utilizing his skills, Dr. Mouanoutoua spends four days a week at the hospital and devotes his fifth day to a clinic where he sees patients from the Hmong community. Through his advocacy, he educates others on how to achieve and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Yet he has often had to strike a delicate balance between Hmong and Western views on disease and treatment. In the case of a middle age Hmong woman with heart disease, the patient’s family expressed their wish to use cultural and religious practices to determine the health and future impact of the patient. Being Hmong himself, Dr. Mouanoutoua understood the family’s request for time to perform these rituals before resorting to Western medicine. He did explain to them the possible repercussions of not allowing sufficient time for medical treatment, but they decided to proceed with the rituals. Time passed, and by the time the family had brought the patient back to him, it was already too late.
Mindful of the needs of the community, Dr. Mouanoutoua is concerned for Hmong people over 30 years of age, as well as elders. “Vascular problems,” he notes, “have escalated within the Hmong community over the past 10 years.” This includes strokes, heart attacks and renal failure. Dr. Mouanoutoua also notes that these health concerns are not related to genetics because, “in Laos, these diseases were uncommon.”
He attributes the problem to poor eating habits and lack of exercise. “Many Hmong,” he says, “are not taking care of themselves by monitoring blood pressure, diet, cholesterol, and activity levels.” Dr. Mouanoutoua says he will strive to continue educating and treating those with heart illness because “the problems will only grow with future generations.”
He emphasizes that people over the age of 40 need to be more “aware of their health, exercise more, and improve their eating habits.” Maintaining one’s health at this age, adds Dr. Mouanoutoua, “is critical in ensuring the long-term health of an individual.”
He also advises it is important to monitor your health and to be aware of any bodily changes, keeping in mind that “just because you do not feel pain does not mean you are healthy.” Most importantly, he recommends healthy eating and regular exercise to maintain good health.
In the end, for Dr. Mouanoutoua, it has always been about a desire to help others improve their lives through health and healing. All of this happened because he heard the ringing in his heart calling him to heal, and he answered.