On the Beat



Dr. David C. Sabiston Jr., a cardiac surgeon who performed one of the early coronary bypass operations in a human, died of a stroke at his home in Chapel Hill, N.C. He was 84.

In that 1962 procedure, Dr. Sabiston and his team at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore used the leg veins of a patient to graft a conduit between the aorta and blocked coronary arteries. Two years later, Dr. Michael E. DeBakey and Dr. H. Edward Garrett performed what is considered to be the first successful coronary bypass surgery, this time aided by advances and refinements in the heart-lung machine (CARDIOLOGY NEWS, August 2008, p. 23).

In addition to his recognition as a pioneer surgeon and researcher, Dr. Sabiston was acknowledged nationally and internationally for his substantial contribution to surgical education. He edited two of the leading textbooks in surgery—Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice, now in its 16th edition; and Sabiston & Spencer Surgery of the Chest, now in its 7th edition.

After moving in 1964 from Hopkins to Duke University in Durham, N.C., as professor of surgery and chair of the department of surgery, Dr. Sabiston continued that department's philosophy of consolidating patient care, education, and research. Dr. Nancy Andrews, dean of medicine at Duke, recalled in a statement that Dr. Sabiston was a “hero in the eyes of the surgeons” who had taught her in medical school. In addition, against the political backdrop of the civil rights movement in the 1960s, Dr. Sabiston was instrumental in opening the Duke clinics to blacks, and he later advocated for greater representation of minorities on the faculty.

Dr. Sabiston completed his medical degree and a surgical residency at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. In 1953, he began a 2-year stint in the U.S. Army Medical Corps in the cardiovascular research department at Walter Reed Medical Center in Washington, after which he returned to Hopkins as an assistant professor of surgery and an investigator at the Howard Hughes Medical Institute in Chevy Chase, Md. He studied at the University of London and Oxford University on a Fulbright scholarship and again returned to Hopkins, where he became professor of surgery before leaving for Duke.

Cardiologists on the Move

Dr. Gordon Tomaselli, an expert on sudden cardiac death and heart rhythm disturbances, has been named director of the division of cardiology at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine and codirector of the school's Heart and Vascular Institute.

Dr. Tomaselli succeeds Dr. Eduardo Marbán, who had led the division since 2002 and moved to Los Angeles in 2007 as director of Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute (CARDIOLOGY NEWS, June 2007, p. 31). He will also succeed Dr. Marbán as the Michel Mirowski, M.D., Professor of Cardiology.

Most of Dr. Tomaselli's research has focused on arrhythmias, and especially new therapies for prevention of the condition. In addition, as codirector of the Donald W. Reynolds Cardiovascular Clinical Research Center, he has been studying the causes of sudden cardiac death. His future research is expected to explore the use of imaging and genetic screening in the early detection of arrhythmias and the use of stem cells to treat tissue damaged by heart attack or cardiac arrest.

Dr. Tomaselli, who has a degree in biochemistry and chemistry from the State University of New York at Buffalo, earned his medical degree from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York, and completed his training and a residency in San Francisco at the University of California. He was a research fellow at the UCSF Cardiovascular Research Institute before moving to a fellowship program at Hopkins. He joined the faculty 3 years later.

Dr. David C. Sabiston Jr., a pioneer in coronary bypass surgery, was perhaps better known as he is shown here, as a teacher at Duke University. Duke University Medical Center Archives

Dr. Gordon Tomaselli

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