The gallery of photographs takes up five adjoining hallways on Blalock 6. Most people who pass by—many of them heart patients or their loved ones or the people who tend to them—sweep past at varying speeds. They rarely, if ever, pause to appraise the people in those frames.
Today, at the end of his 55-year career—42 as one of Hopkins’ premier cardiac surgical authorities—81-year-old Vincent Gott has time to pause. As he patrols the black-and-white portraits from the early days onward, Gott rattles off highlights from the cardiac surgical residency program’s 93 graduates, 50 of them trained by Gott himself. Many date back to Hopkins’ first days as a cardiac powerhouse after Alfred Blalock’s arrival in 1941. A remarkable 70 stayed in academic surgery across the U.S. At least 20 became chiefs of cardiothoracic surgery divisions. Ten became chairs of general surgical departments.
To people who know the heart surgery universe, the names read like a Who’s Who: Sloan. Longmire. Cooley. Baker. Greenfield. Bender. Watkins. Cameron (Duke, that is). Finney.
At one point, Gott is asked to explain why he talks about these people with such authority, such easy familiarity. He delivers the answer in the sort of unadorned bottom line that hints at his origins as a young boy from Wichita, whose artistic skill as an illustrator quixotically propelled him deep into the heart’s inner chambers. “I knew virtually all of them,” he says.
For highlights of Vince Gott’s guided tour through Hopkins’ role in American heart surgery’s modern history, go to hopkinsmedicine.org/reelstories