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April 18, 2022

Meet Thor Stender - From Chef to Lead Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist

Illustration of a black woman carring her child in a cloth wrap.

Thorsten (“Thor”) Stender, Lead Cardiovascular Invasive specialist, RCIS (Registered Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist), recently shared his career path and some insights about his role here at Morristown Medical Center.

What made you want to do this?

Actually, I was a chef for years and owned a restaurant in New Jersey. Although I really enjoyed it for a while, I eventually decided that having a wife and family meant that I needed more of a ‘normal’ job that didn’t involve late nights and weekends. Patient care always interested me and was a direction I thought about going in from a young age. My mother was a registered nurse, and she always thought that a health care career would probably be a good fit for me. But it really was my wife who talked me into enrolling in the CV technologist program. I completed it in 2013 and went to work in the cath lab at Morristown. I’ve been there for 9 years now as an invasive specialist.

With all the career options in healthcare, what about working in a cath lab interested you most?

I figure I spent the first half of my life clogging people's arteries in the restaurant business, so to pay it forward, I decided to spend the second half of my life helping out with the unclogging! Seriously though, as a workplace, the cath lab offers challenges in patient care as well as opportunities to be involved in a rapidly progressing field in medicine. In my 9 years as a tech, I have seen so many changes and innovations in cardiac and structural heart procedures. Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement (TAVR) care has probably been the thing that has grown the most in my years working in the lab. Our hospital was in the top 5 for TAVR volume in the US last year. I think that a big part of what I enjoy about the cath lab environment is that it tends to be fast-paced and innovative. I love this job. I’m never bored, and I’m always learning something.

What is a typical day like for you?

We have six labs, one of which is mainly for structural heart, while the other five are used for interventions and diagnostic procedures. When I arrive for work, I check to see what room I’m assigned and see what we have going on in terms of the mix of cases we’ll be doing that day. Generally, I'll take a look at patient charts and familiarize myself with why they are coming into the lab. I'm always willing to help and take on procedures that are more involved than usual, and I know I’m not alone in that. Doing this job and doing it well means not necessarily knowing what is going to happen next but being prepared for anything.

Is there anything specific about the patient care in the cath lab that you especially like?

In some ways, coming from a restaurant industry background prepared me for some of the “tough customers” we sometimes get in the lab. Most patients who are about to have a procedure are a little bit anxious, which is understandable. A big part of our job is to help put them at ease.

What do you do when you’re not working?

I spend most of my free time with my wife and daughter. I also like to get out and do some mountain biking. It’s a great hobby and good way to relieve stress. Even though I don’t cook professionally anymore, I do still enjoy preparing meals at home for my family. My wife likes to remind me that I don’t have a kitchen staff to clean up after me anymore, though.

Illustration of a pregnant black woman walking while holding her belly.

The School of Cardiovascular Technology was founded at Morristown Medical Center in 1976 to meet the need for competent cardiovascular technologists to assist cardiologists in the diagnosis and treatment of patients with heart and vascular disease. Cardiovascular technology (CVT) is a growing field that helps improve the quality of life for patients with heart or vascular disease. 

To apply for admission, applicants must submit their application to the School of Cardiovascular Technology by April 30, 2022. This 18-month program begins the Wednesday after Labor Day.

Recently, as part of a comprehensive approach to recruitment and retention for the role in the catheterization (cath) lab, the “CVT” title was recently changed to Cardiovascular Invasive Specialist. Morristown Medical Center was an early adopter of an initiative to remove the word tech, and help eliminate the confusion between technician and technologist, and more accurately reflect what they do in the lab.