Departmental Highlights

Stanford is able to leverage a series of "firsts," including the first heart transplant in the U.S., the first heart/lung transplant in the world, and one of the first left ventricular assist device (LVAD) procedures in the world. Stanford dominates the market in programs involving a high percentage of complex procedures. Several of Stanford's most successful cardiac programs have a broad geographical base, with over 20% of the volume for heart transplants, aorta and valve procedures coming from outside the Bay Area. Stanford also has a strong international cardiac market with cardiac patients representing more than 50% of overall international business. 


Joseph Woo, leading heart surgeon, appointed to head Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Joseph Woo, MD, a nationally recognized heart surgeon and leading researcher in new approaches to cardiovascular care, has been appointed chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine. He has led a successful career in the operating room, classroom and laboratory. As a surgeon who performs 350 to 400 heart surgeries a year, he has built a thriving clinical practice, pioneering multiple, innovative procedures, including minimally invasive techniques for mitral and aortic valve repair and reconstruction. His research encompasses basic, translational and clinical projects. His laboratory, funded by the National Institutes of Health, investigates new paths to myocardial repair through angiogenesis — the process through which new blood vessels form from pre-existing vessels — stem cells and tissue engineering. As an educator, he has mentored many future surgeons.

Stanford Heart Transplant Recipient Celebrates Historic 30-Year Anniversary
The Bay Area’s Lizzy Craze is America’s longest-living pediatric heart transplant recipient to survive with an original donor heart. She was the youngest successful heart transplant recipient in America at the time of her transplant in 1984

Aortic Valve Replacement Without Open-Heart Surgery Gains Ground
TAVR (transcatheter aortic valve replacement) has emerged from the trend over the past three decades toward less invasive heart treatments — catheter-based procedures instead of open-chest surgery. The artificial tissue valve is a feat of engineering able to fold up into a fraction of its functional size. To get it inside the heart, it’s compressed and placed in the tip of a thin catheter, about as wide as a pen. This gets inserted into a blood vessel, usually an artery in the leg, then threaded up through the aorta and down into the heart. At the site of the diseased valve, the artificial valve is released from the delivery catheter and expanded with a balloon. This pushes open the damaged valve and lodges the bioprosthetic one within its cavity where it immediately starts opening and closing, allowing blood to leave the heart and preventing it from leaking back in.


Miller Receives Earl Bakken Scientific Achievement Award
"Dr. Miller was chosen for this award because of his enormous achievements in the understanding and pathophysiology of mitral valve disease, as well as aortic pathology. He has contributed endlessly to the science and understanding of both disease processes and their surgical repair," said 2012–2013 STS President Jeffrey B. Rich, MD. "Craig is a world-renowned expert in both areas and has taught countless cardiovascular surgeons on the appropriate diagnosis and treatment of these conditions."


Stanford Announces Transcatheter Heart Valve Program: A new therapeutic catheter-based technology for the treatment of valvular heart disease
Stanford has been performing transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) for almost 4 years now and has treated nearly 200 patients as part of the PARTNER Trial using the Edwards balloon expandable SAPIEN valve. For the past number of months, Stanford has also been performing TAVR on a commercial basis in patients with symptomatic critical aortic stenosis who are deemed not to be candidates for open surgical aortic valve replacement (AVR). An FDA panel recommended approval of SAPIEN TAVR in high risk but operable (STS > 8%, PARTNER Cohort A) patients with critical aortic stenosis on June 13, 2012, and Stanford anticipates FDA release of SAPIEN for commercial TAVR use in this larger subset of patients in the Fall of 2012.

2012 Norman E. Shumway, MD, Visiting Professorship Lecture Highlights
William A. Baumgartner, MD, the Vincent L. Gott Professor of Cardiac Surgery; vice dean for clinical affairs; president of the Clinical Practice Association; JHM Sr. VP, Office of Johns Hopkins Physicians; and director of the Surgical Research Laboratory at the Johns Hopkins Cardiac Surgery Division , spoke at the fifth annual 2012 Norman E. Shumway, MD, Visiting Professorship Lecture on April 27, 2012. The day's events included meeting with alumni and current residents as well as Dr. Baumgartner's presentation at the Li Ka Shing Center for Learning & Knowledge, entitiled "Neurocognitive Dysfunction in Cardiac Surgery: Bench to Bedside."

Stanford paper most downloaded in Circulation Research
A Stanford study that advances the understanding of the molecular and genetic mechanisms of aneurysm formation in patients with Marfan syndrome was the most downloaded article in the January issue of the journal Circulation Research. The study, which investigated the role of microRNA-29b in aneurysm formation, was downloaded and viewed more than 450 times, the editors of the journal reported. The senior author, Michael Fischbein, MD, PhD, is assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at Stanford. Congratulations to him and to his collaborators.


Robert Robbins, MD, named President‐Elect of American Heart Association Western States Affiliate Board
Robert C. Robbins, MD, former chairman of the department of cardiothoracic surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine and former director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, was named president‐elect of the Board of Directors for the American Heart Association Western States Affiliate. The affiliate serves the states of Alaska, Arizona, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington.

Vincent DeFilippi receives honor from U.S. News & World Report
Vincent DeFilippi, MD, is the medical director of the Stanford Cardiac Surgery Program at Salinas Valley Memorial Hospital. He was named "top doctor" based on nominations by other physicians.

Dr. Frank Hanley Successfully Performs One of His Most Complex Repairs Ever
In May 2010, Shawna Albright delivered baby Kennadee at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital so that Hanley and the hospital's expert neonatology and cardiology teams could care for her from birth. Hanley soon realized the tiny girl was one of the most complex patients he had ever seen. Some infants have serious defects inside the heart; others have a hard-to-repair malformation of the artery leading to the lungs. Kennadee's case was even worse.

2011 Norman E. Shumway, MD, Visiting Professorship Lecture Highlights
Sara J. Shumway, MD, professor of surgery, vice-chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, and surgical director of Lung Transplantation at the University of Minnesota, spoke at the fourth annual 2011 Norman E. Shumway, MD, Visiting Professorship Lecture on May 20, 2011. Dr. Shumway's presentation: "VADS and Dads."


New Treatment for Severe Aortic Stenosis Shown to Save Lives, Researchers Say
Implantation of a new bioprosthetic-tissue valve into the hearts of patients who have severe aortic stenosis and are too sick or too old for open-heart surgery has been found to both save lives and improve the quality of those lives, according to a new multicenter study, to be published in the New England Journal of Medicine.

2010 Norman E. Shumway, MD, Visiting Professorship Lecture Highlights
Dr. Michael Mack, Director of Cardiovascular Research and Cardiovascular Medicine of the Heart Hospital Baylor Plano and Director of Cardiovascular Surgery for the Baylor Healthcare System, was this year's speaker at the Third Annual 2010 Norman E. Shumway, MD, Visiting Professorship Lecture on May 14, 2010.

Doctors Seek Heart Valve that Grows with Kids
Dr. Frank Hanley is a pioneer in an extraordinarily complex form of surgery to repair multiple defects in infant hearts - he saves their lives, giving his patients a chance to grow up and have a relatively normal childhood.

Growing Thoracic Surgery Program Emphasizes Minimally Invasive, Organ-Saving Procedures
From video-assisted thoracic surgery to laparoscopic procedures and sleeve lobectomies, the Thoracic Surgery Division at Stanford has an overriding goal of imparting a cure with the least invasive procedure available. Patients who come to Stanford have surgical options that are not widely available in the community, or even at many other academic centers, according to Joseph Shrager, MD, Chief of the division.


American Heart Association Academic Mentorship Award Goes to Dr. D. Craig Miller for His Exceptional Career Guidance Record
The American Heart Association presented one of its highest honors, the Eugene Braunwald Academic Mentorship Award, to D. Craig Miller, M.D., of Stanford University Medical Center, "for his exceptional 30-year record of training, mentoring and enriching the career development of emerging cardiovascular surgeons and researchers."

Robert Robbins and Three Other Scientists Receive Millions from New Federal Consortium to Study Progenitor Cells
Four research teams at the Stanford University School of Medicine have been tapped to join a new consortium funded by the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute to develop stem cell and regenerative medicine therapies.

Robert Robbins Briefs Senators on Cardiovascular Advances
Robert Robbins, MD, director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and professor of cardiothoracic surgery, spoke to the Senate Democratic Policy Committee July 9 about advances in cardiovascular science.

2009 Norman E. Shumway, MD, Visiting Professorship Lecture Highlights
Lawrence H. Cohn, MD, world-renowned expert in the field of valve repair and replacement surgery and minimally invasive heart valve surgery, spoke at the second annual 2009 Norman E. Shumway, MD, Visiting Professorship Lecture on June 19, 2009. Dr. Cohn's presentation: "Surgery of the Mitral Valve: Conceptual and Technical Development 1902-2009."

Robert Robbins Appointed to Endowed Chair
Robert Robbins, MD, professor and chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery and director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, has been appointed the Thelma and Henry Doelger Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery II.

W. L. Gore & Associates Announced Dr. Michael Dake as "Pioneer in Performance" for Exceptional Work in the Field of Endovascular Therapy
Seven practitioners were recognized by Gore for their unrelenting dedication to advancing endovascular therapy and minimally invasive treatment options for patients worldwide.


Observing the 40th Anniversary of the First Human Heart Transplantation in the United States
Four decades ago, years of research by Dr Norman Shumway and his colleagues culminated in the first successful human heart transplantation in the United States. In the years since that momentous surgery, Dr. Shumway's team conducted clinical and basic research that have made heart and lung transplantations relatively common procedures, providing decades of life to patients worldwide.

Denton Cooley, MD, Speaks at First Annual Shumway Lecture
Legendary heart transplant surgeon Denton Cooley, MD, could easily just talk about his own achievements on June 20 as the debut speaker for the first annual lecture in honor of Stanford's own heart-transplant pioneer, Norman Shumway, MD, PhD.

Shumway and Cooley, along with heart surgeons Christian Barnard in South Africa and Micheal DeBakey at Baylor College of Medicine in Texas, became household names in 1967 and 1968, when, one after another, they performed the first human heart transplants. Now, the procedure has become almost routine, thanks to solutions developed by Shumway at Stanford Hospital, Cooley and others to overcome crucial obstacles in diagnosis, tissue rejection, and donor heart preservation. The pair — and other physicians they trained — continued to break lifesaving ground over the decades in transplant technique and heart repair.

Cooley said he feels complimented that he will be the first to give a Shumway Lecture, but he will not give any great oration. "I don’t want to be one of those seniors who talks about the good old days," he said. "I'll talk more about personal matters and the accomplishments of Shumway."

D. Craig Miller, MD, and Other Leaders Commit to Improve CT Surgery Education
Over the past several years, the specialty of cardiothoracic surgery has experienced a continued decline in enrollment in CT residency training programs. If left unchecked, the result of this decline in qualified residents, combined with the aging of the US population, will be a serious deficit of CT surgeons and restricted access for patients with cardiovascular and thoracic disease. In fact, demand for surgeons currently exceeds the supply, a trend which is predicted to worsen significantly over the next 15 years.

The leaders of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS) (led by 2007-2008 President D. Craig Miller, MD), American Board of Thoracic Surgery (ABTS), Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), and Thoracic Surgery Foundation for Research and Education (TSFRE) are responding to this crisis by joining forces to create and fund a Joint Council on Thoracic Surgery Education (JCTSE) with the express purpose of changing the current training paradigm and coordinating all thoracic surgery education in the United States.


Dr. Robert Robbins Helps Boost Interest in Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine
On May 30, 2007, the Stanford University Medical Center hosted a program entitled "Harnessing the Power of Stem Cells: A New Medical Frontier" that was attended by over 200 members of the community. In addition to the keynote address by Dr. Irving Weissman, some of the most challenging and exciting areas of investigation were presented by a highly diversified and outstanding faculty group from across the university, including Robert Robbins, former professor and chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery and former director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute.


Berlin Heart keeps five-year-old alive for 234 days, longer than any other child in North America
On February 6, 2006, five-year-old Jason Zhao from Vallejo received the best Valentine's gift the boy could ask for — a healthy new heart. But Jason, whose own heart failed the previous June, wouldn't have lived long enough to accept the transplant without the assistance of a mechanical external pump known as the Berlin Heart. The device kept Jason alive for 234 days, longer than any other child in North America. Only three other children in the world have survived on the pump for longer than Jason.

Robbins' stem cell work featured on "60 Minutes" 
The widely watched television news show, "60 Minutes," heralded the revolutionary healing potential of embryonic stem cells in a February 26, 2006, report — the night before a trial that could determine whether $3 billion would become available in California for stem cell research.

Kai Ihnken leads investigations into the potential benefits of beating-heart surgery 
Despite its reputation as a technically tricky procedure, beating-heart surgery has garnered renewed attention recently as the trend toward less-invasive methods of heart surgery grows stronger.

Dr. James Fann Receives Donald B. Doty Award
Through a generous grant from Medtronic, the Western Thoracic Surgical Association (WTSA) has established the Donald B. Doty Educational Award. The purpose of the award is to foster innovative educational initiatives in cardiothoracic surgery by WTSA members and provide an opportunity for the dissemination of this information to other training centers and academic institutions. Active and senior members in good standing of the WTSA are eligible.


Dr. Robert C. Robbins named cardiothoracic surgery department chair 
In his new position, the internationally known heart transplant expert who performs around 40 transplants each year, will oversee the department's clinical and research programs. In addition to adult cardiac surgery, the department has a pediatric cardiac surgery program, which is one of the largest such programs in the country, and a thoracic surgery program, which treats patients suffering from lung and esophageal diseases.

Pediatric surgeon, Dr. V. Mohan Reddy performs an arterial switch procedure on the smallest baby ever to survive this type of open-heart surgery
The successful operation marked a dramatic turnaround for 1-week-old Jerrick De Leon, who was airlifted to the hospital after doctors in Southern California gave him a zero chance of survival. Barring unrelated complications from his prematurity, Jerrick is now expected to have a normal lifespan.

Dr. Peter Fitzgerald, associate professor of cardiovascular medicine, and his colleagues Dr. Scott Mitchell, professor of cardiothoracic surgery, and assistant professor Dr. Marc Pelletier use laser-based imaging system during open-heart surgery for the first time in the United States
Up until this technology became available, doctors usually were not able to confirm whether a coronary bypass surgery had been successful while the patient was still on the operating table. In most cases, only after the chest had been closed could doctors get an image of the heart and see whether blood was flowing through the newly created vessels.

Dr. Leora Balsam Receives Outstanding Woman Resident Award 
The prize honors her "exceptional leadership abilities" and "excellent technical and patient management skills" as well as recognizing her as a role model for other surgeons and those who aspire to join the profession.

Dr. Stephen Hendry, II Receives AHA Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Award 
This is the tenth anniversary of this award, and Hendry’s manuscript, "Myocardial Restoration with Embryonic Stem Cell Transplantation in a Murine Myocardial Infarction Model," is the first-ever entry from a member of the Robbins Lab.

Dr. Frank L. Hanley Appointed First Holder of the Lawrence Crowley, MD, Endowed Professorship in Child Health
His research and clinical work focuses on the development of interventional techniques for fetal and neonatal treatment of congenital heart disease, pulmonary, vascular physiology, and the neurologic impact of open-heart surgery. He developed and pioneered the "unifocalization" procedure, in which a single procedure is used to repair a complex and life-threatening congenital heart defect rather than several staged open-heart surgeries as performed by other surgeons.


Drs. Bruce Reitz and Robert Robbins successfully install a Berlin Heart in the smallest and youngest baby to ever receive the pump
Five-month-old Miles Coulson is a bit of a technological wonder, for he would not be alive today without the benefit of a German heart pump that's been used only three times before in this country. The pump, a fist-sized piece of polyurethane shaped like a diaphragm, thumps quietly at the baby's side, collecting the blood from the left side of Miles' failing heart and directing it back to the body via the aorta.

Dr. Bruce Reitz performs a rare surgical approach known as heterotopic transplantation on Camila Gonzalez, the youngest child in the country to benefit from the procedure 
On September 16, 2004, cardiovascular surgeon Dr. Bruce Reitz implanted a new heart alongside her own to help improve the heart's output and lower the blood pressure in her lungs.

Dr. V. Mohan Reddy provides the surgical expertise required to fashion a stent/valve combination for the youngest patient ever to benefit from non-surgical heart valve replacement at Lucile Packard Children's Hospital
Developed two years ago by a British physician, the procedure has never before been done on a child under age 7. It has been performed only once in the United States, and in that case on an adult.


Stanford's heart-lung transplantation team becomes the longest continually-active team performing heart-lung transplantation in the world 
The Stanford team is the longest continually active team performing lung transplantation, and new advances continue to be made in our research laboratories. At Stanford, more than 210 patients have received a heart-lung transplant, and recently, more than 200 patients have received either a single lung or double lung transplant.

Dr. Bruce Reitz, Norman E. Shumway Professor in Cardiovascular Surgery, is appointed Chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery


Bruce Reitz, MD, performs the first Heartport procedure, using a device that allows minimally invasive coronary bypass and valve operations.


The first living lobar lung transplant is performed in the United States at Stanford 
In 1990, Vaughn Starnes, MD performed the world's first lobar transplant using a lung segment from a living, related donor (the girl's mother). The next year, heart and lung transplant was performed on a one-month-old baby, the youngest heart-lung transplant patient ever.


Stanford clinicians first use the "domino" heart transplant procedure


Falk Center dedication
The Falk Center dedicated its new headquarters in March of 1984, with a ceremony led by Dr. Norman Shumway, who performed the first heart transplant in the United States in 1968. Named after Dr. Ralph Falk--a physician who practiced in Boise, Idaho, for most of his career and founded Baxter Laboratories--and his widow, Marian C. Falk, the center comprises 52,000 square feet and is located just off Quarry Road on the Stanford campus, adjacent to Stanford University Hospital and Lucille Salter Packard Children’s Hospital. A large central atrium, with abundant ferns cascading down its walls and skylights overhead, makes the building bright, welcoming and airy. Staff and physicians occupy a mezzanine-style second floor around the atrium with research laboratories and other rooms occupying the lower floors. The Falk Center is one of the pre-eminent facilities in the world for cardiothoracic surgery and cardiovascular medicine.

Dr. Philip Oyer performs implantation of the world’s first successful use of a ventricular assist device as a bridge to transplantation
The Novacor, a left ventricular assist device (LVAD), was ready for patients in 1984. In August of that year, Philip Oyer implanted the device in a patient as part of the first success at using a mechanical device as a "bridge" to support a human in end-stage heart failure until a heart transplant was possible. The patient depended on the implanted pump for two weeks before transplant. He then survived in good health for more than 20 years, passing away in late 2004. Since that first surgery, more than 4,000 end-stage heart failure patients worldwide have received LVADs.


Dr. Bruce Reitz and his surgical team perform the world’s first successful combined adult human heart-lung transplant
In 1981, the first successful transplantation of the lung was performed at Stanford by Dr. Bruce Reitz and his colleagues as a heart-lung transplant. This was made possible by the use of the immunosuppressive drug, cyclosporine, and previous laboratory research performed at Stanford. Very often when people have heart problems the lungs are affected as well. Transplanting the heart and lungs together has become a very successful form of surgery for those patients who require it. The Stanford team is the longest continually active team performing lung transplantation, and new advances continue to be made in our research laboratories.


Dr. Norman Shumway and his surgical team perform the first successful adult human heart transplant in the United States
In early 1968, newspaper headlines around the world reported the news of a surgical team, led by Shumway, at Stanford that had successfully transplanted an adult human heart into another human.

Shumway, the Frances and Charles Field Professor of Cardiovascular Surgery, emeritus, is often regarded as the father of heart transplantation. The surgery that made the headlines on January 6, 1968, was the first successful procedure of its kind in the United States and only the fourth such attempt in the world. In the 1970s many medical centers abandoned transplantation because of high mortality and morbidity, but Dr. Shumway and his team persevered. 


Shumway designs and executes the operation to replace the aortic valve with the patient's own pulmonary valve in animals (known today as the Ross procedure)
In the early 1960s, the search continued for the ideal aortic valve replacement. Based on earlier experimental work of Ellison in 1955 and Fisher in 1959, pulmonic regurgitation was shown to be well tolerated by the human and canine heart. This finding led Lower, Stofer, and Shumway to challenge the notion whether an autologous pulmonary valve could survive as a graft within the aorta. These researchers carried out the first pulmonary valve autotransplantation in canine models in 1960. The canines were divided into three groups; Group 1, the pulmonary valve was removed and transplanted into the descending aorta and a homologous aorta was used in place of the excised native pulmonic valve. Group 2, the pulmonary valve was resected and replaced by a fresh homologous valve. Group 3, the native pulmonic valve was resected and returned to its normal position as an autologous graft.

There were high operative mortality rates as the techniques were being developed, but 12 dogs from Group 1 survived the operative procedures and five long-term survivors were studied for up to one year. This study demonstrated a free autologous pulmonic valve graft would survive in the aortic position. Shumway continued this research and in 1966 along with Pillsbury, performed the first excision of aortic valve leaflets and the suturing of the native pulmonic valve into the aortic annulus in eight dogs. Once the pulmonic valve was excised, the right ventricle was anastomosed directly with the pulmonary artery. Two of the dogs survived for twelve and fourteen months and Pillsbury and Shumway noted, although the dogs tolerated free pulmonic insufficiency well, replacement of the pulmonic valve in the human being with a homograft would protect right ventricular function long-term.


Shumway performs the first human open-heart surgery at the Palo Alto-Stanford Hospital to correct atrial septal defect

Shumway and Lower report the first successful orthotopic cardiac transplantation in a canine 
The use of moderate hypothermia, cardiopulmonary bypass, and an atrial “cuff” anastomotic technique permitted Shumway and Lower at Stanford University to surmount the formidable barriers of orthotopic heart transplantation using the canine model in 1960.


Dr. Norman E. Shumway begins studying cardiac transplantation, building on his research in total body hypothermia
In 1949, as a resident at University of Minnesota, Shumway's doctoral research was on the effects of hypothermia on the heart. Specifically, Shumway studied the ventricular fibrillation threshold showing that as the temperature fell, less current was needed to cause the heart to fibrillate. In 1957, Shumway spent most of his time shuttling between his research at Stanford-Lane laboratories and his clinical cases at the Children’s Hospital, both in San Francisco. Stanford-Lane eventually moved to Palo Alto.

At this time, the key cardiac surgical question of the day was how to protect the heart during heart surgery. Drs. Shumway and Richard R. Lower, Shumway's first resident, tackled this problem in the laboratory, exploring an idea Shumway derived from his hypothermia experience. It was called "topical hypothermia"—a technique that builds on total body hypothermia by further reducing the temperature of only the heart via precisely routed ice-cold saline.

Drs. Norman Shumway, left, and Donald C. Harrison meet the press after they perform the first adult human transplant in the United States in January 1968.

Dr. Bruce Reitz and his surgical team perform the world’s first successful combined adult human heart-lung transplant in 1981

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