Joseph Woo, leading heart surgeon, to head Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery

Joseph Woo

Joseph Woo

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 will start Jan. 1.

"Joe is an exceptional researcher, clinician and educator, who will lead our distinguished Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery to new levels of excellence," said Lloyd Minor, MD, dean of the School of Medicine. "Stanford Medicine is fortunate to have been able to recruit someone with his talents and vision."

Philip Oyer, MD, the Roy B. Cohn-Theodore A. Falasco Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, has been acting as interim department chair since the former chair, Robert Robbins, MD, left Stanford a year ago to head up the Texas Medical Center in Houston.

Amir Dan Rubin, president and CEO of Stanford Hospital & Clinics, said, "We are so thrilled to welcome Dr. Woo to Stanford, as he has been an innovator in advancing the leading edge of cardiac care while delivering highly coordinated, patient-centered care. Dr. Woo not only has built world-class programs, but has been a role model for treating patients with caring, compassion and consideration — what we at Stanford call C-I-CARE."

Woo, 46, is currently a professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania, where he has been on the faculty since 2002 and directs the Minimally Invasive and Robotic Cardiac Surgery Program and the Cardiac Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program.

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.

"Some of the most famous people in cardiac surgery have led the program at Stanford over the years," Woo said, citing the late Norman Shumway, MD, who performed the first successful heart transplant in the United States at Stanford in 1968. "It's truly a privilege to become a part of this amazingly prestigious, high-powered academic institution."

Advancements in the years following that 1968 operation helped cement Stanford's pre-eminence in the field of cardiothoracic surgery. Researchers at the university developed new antirejection drugs, as well as techniques for predicting organ rejection and caring for patients after transplants.

Woo said he hopes to continue that tradition of excellence and innovation, furthering basic research in the lab and bringing basic science discoveries into use in clinical trials. He has run several clinical trials involving the translational use of stem cells for treatment of heart disease, and said he hopes to see Stanford's participation in clinical trials at the national level increase. He plans to lead exploration of the newest techniques and devices for heart care, such as innovative approaches to valve repair; smaller, more efficient mechanical heart pumps; and operations performed without stopping the heart.

"We had an immensely talented group of applicants, but Joe rose to the top due to his forward-looking approach to emerging technologies, techniques and scientific approaches to cardiovascular care," said Robert Jackler, MD, professor and chair of otolaryngology, who headed the search committee to fill the position. "He is a master surgeon who has built a robust and innovative style of clinical practice, is a well-funded researcher and has been a leading innovator in implantable assist devices to overcome heart failure.
"Cardiothoracic surgery has long been one of the crown jewels at Stanford Medicine. We are confident that it will be in the best of hands to further its pre-eminence in coming years."

Woo, who was born in Missouri and raised in New Jersey, earned a bachelor's degree from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and a medical degree from the University of Pennsylvania, where he conducted his postgraduate surgical training. Woo also completed a postdoctoral research fellowship in novel molecular strategies for attenuating myocardial ischemic injury, for which he won the American Heart Association Vivien Thomas Young Investigator Award.

Woo joined the Penn faculty in 2002 as the director of the Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery Program. He has advanced the field of complex valve repair and serves as principal investigator for several clinical device trials and translational scientific clinical trials, such as delivering stem cells during coronary artery bypass grafting and mechanical heart pump implantation.

"Apart from the name confusion, I'm very excited Joe is coming," joked Joseph Wu, MD, PhD, whose name is pronounced the same as Woo's.

"I think he epitomizes the rare breed of cardiothoracic surgeon who's a triple threat," said Wu, professor of cardiovascular medicine and of radiology, and director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute. "He excels at academic medicine. Clinically, he's world-renowned in mitral valve repair and the use of mechanical devices. From a research perspective, he's one of the few CT surgeons I know who has continuous NIH funding. As an educator, he is passionate in training the next generation of thought leaders in CT surgery.

"I'm looking forward to working closely with him to take the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute and cardiothoracic surgery to the highest level — to be internationally recognized as the best program in the world."

Nationally, Woo chairs several committees and is a member of the editorial board of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery and a guest editor for Circulation

Woo is married and has two teenage children.

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