PLATTSBURGH — Alfred Loka was first interested in becoming a doctor when he was a 7-year-old boy living in central Africa.
Today, Loka has joined the CVPH Heart Center as an electrophysiologist, specializing in the electrical currents that power the heart and the medical conditions that disrupt those electrical impulses.
Whereas the cardiologist focuses on the flow of blood through the heart and blood vessels, the electrophysiologist concentrates on maintaining a healthy heartbeat.
“Both are very much interactive,” Loka said of the team of heart specialists at the Heart Center. “If you think of the cardiologist as the plumber who keeps everything running smoothly, we are the electricians who take care of the electrical current.”
He also likened the comparison to an automobile that relies on gas to power its engine but also on the battery and electrical system to start the vehicle and to keep it running smoothly.
As a youngster, Loka’s father had a heart condition that required him to see a cardiologist on a regular basis. Young Alfred would go with his father to the doctor’s office and was immediately impressed with the health-care field.
“I would tell myself that I wanted to be able to take care of my father one day,” he recalled of that early interest in becoming a physician.
Loka graduated from medical school in 1996 while still living in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, formerly known as Zaire. After working there as a physician for a few years, he decided that he wanted to expand his skills as a cardiologist and moved to the United States.
“I came to Detroit, Mich., in May 2001 and did not speak English,” he said.
While working in a research lab at Wayne State University School of Medicine in 2003, Loka was introduced to the study of sudden cardiac arrest and the causes that lead up to a fatal loss of heart rhythm.