Dr. James Quintessenza Becomes Endowed Chair at Johns Hopkins All Children's
By Sherrona Steward
The path to achieving excellence is often lengthy and challenging for those who dare to dream. It is a journey not taken by the faint of heart, but rather by those who refuse to give up or settle for anything less than their best. Despite the setbacks and uncertainties that come along the way, only a select few can look back on their journey and be celebrated for the courageous steps they took to achieve greatness.
Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, recognized James Quintessenza, M.D., on Oct. 31, 2023, for his remarkable success and advancements in pediatric cardiovascular surgery with induction into the inaugural William V. Pitts Endowed Chair in the Heart Institute at Johns Hopkins All Children’s — the highest honor Johns Hopkins Medicine and Johns Hopkins All Children’s could bestow upon a faculty member.
Theodore L. DeWeese, M.D., interim dean of the Medical Faculty and chief executive officer of Johns Hopkins Medicine, presented the honor. Those who hold an endowed chair conduct some of our most significant research, attract the brightest and most dedicated students, and bring prestige to the Johns Hopkins name.
In 2019, the estate of William V. Pitts in partnership with Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation established the William V. Pitts Endowed Chair in the Heart Institute. The aim is to pay tribute to the legacy of William V. Pitts and use philanthropy as a means to revolutionize the future of pediatric medicine.
Jenine Rabin, executive vice president of Johns Hopkins All Children’s Foundation, Community Relations and Health Equity Integration took part in the ceremony to share the history behind the gift and what it means to Johns Hopkins All Children’s. She has had the privilege of working with Quintessenza for over 10 years and admires his extensive knowledge and expertise in pediatric cardiovascular surgery and his contributions to the Heart Institute at Johns Hopkins All Children’s.
“It was a natural decision to align this generous act of philanthropy with an endowed chair, as both serve as lasting legacies,” Rabin says.
Quintessenza, also known as “Dr. Q,” currently serves as co-director of the Heart Institute and chief of Cardiovascular Surgery at Johns Hopkins All Children’s, while also serving as professor for the Department of Surgery at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine. For him, the endowment was not only a reflection of his career but a testament to his commitment to achieving excellence and creating healthier outcomes in pediatric cardiovascular surgery.
“The opportunity to be part of Johns Hopkins, to be recognized and supported in this way, is truly special,” Quintessenza says.
Quintessenza grew up in a small community in South Florida. He has strong family roots and a belief in perseverance. His father was Italian and his mother was Argentinian, and they immigrated to America with a strong work ethic and a desire to improve their lives and that of their family.
With powerful familial influences and encouragement, Quintessenza was the first among his immediate family to attend college. After receiving his medical degree from the University of Florida College of Medicine through the Junior Honors Medical Program, Quintessenza completed a five-year general surgery residency and also served as general surgery chief resident. He would go on to spend an additional two years completing his residency in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery at the University of California, San Diego, where he received the Chairman's Prize in the Department of Surgery.
Quintessenza has extensive experience in pediatric cardiac surgery. He completed an extended fellowship at All Children’s under the guidance of George Daicoff, M.D. Additionally, he received training in pediatric cardiac surgery at world-renowned international centers such as Boston Children's Hospital, Hospital Marie-Lanelonge (Paris), UCLA Medical Center, USC Medical Center, and Loma Linda Medical Center.
Quintessenza is certified by the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, with a specialization in congenital heart surgery. He is also a fellow of the American College of Surgeons and holds memberships in The American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS), The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), Southern Thoracic Surgical Association (STSA) and Congenital Heart Surgeons' Society (CHSS).
Quintessenza is passionate about teaching and has served as a mentor to numerous congenital heart surgeons at the beginning of their careers. He has a diverse range of research interests, one of which is the creation of cutting-edge surgical techniques. For instance, he designed a unique pulmonary valve that is now being used in multiple medical institutions.
With a career spanning over 30 years, Quintessenza originally joined Johns Hopkins All Children’s in 1988, where he developed and refined complex neonatal heart surgery and led the congenital heart program for many years. He was also one of the cardiothoracic surgeons who performed the hospital's first pediatric heart transplant in 1995. He would also serve as medical director of the Heart Institute from 2012-2015.
In 2020, Quintessenza returned to Johns Hopkins All Children’s after serving three years as chief and professor of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Kentucky Children’s Hospital and the University of Kentucky in Lexington, and as professor of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center and the University of Cincinnati.
Without skipping a beat, Quintessenza continued to achieve excellence at Johns Hopkins All Children’s by continuing to seek new solutions in pediatric cardiovascular surgery. In the 2022 Johns Hopkins Medicine Clinical Awards, Quintessenza, Ashish Shah, M.D., and the Heart Institute Flight Plan received the Innovations in Clinical Care Award for Johns Hopkins All Children's — an award presented to the physician, nurse, and/or team who demonstrates a visionary approach to problem-solving and performance improvement.
From a little boy with a big dream growing up in South Florida to a renowned pediatric cardiovascular surgeon, Quintessenza continues to be an inspiration to many.
“Over time, you become one of those mentors that young learners are now in awe of and you hope they stand on your shoulders and make progress beyond what you could have ever achieved,” Quintessenza says. “It’s a wonderful passage of the baton.”
The Heart Institute at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital
Our experts provide comprehensive, compassionate care to children of all ages with congenital heart conditions in the Heart Institute at Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida. We serve families throughout the greater Tampa Bay area and beyond.