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Cardiac Surgery Giant

Cardiac Surgery Giant

Vincent Gott built one of the world’s premier programs at Johns Hopkins.

Many surgeons are not known for their humility. Vincent L. Gott was. Chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery from 1965 to 1982, then co-director of the Broccoli Center for Aortic Diseases, Gott performed the first heart transplant operation in The Johns Hopkins Hospital; was a pioneer in the design of artificial heart valves and pacemakers (one of which he had installed in himself at the age of 81); pioneered and perfected innovative procedures for thoracic aneurysm surgery and operations for patients with Marfan syndrome; and was an inspiring leader who built Johns Hopkins’ cardiac surgery division into one of the premier programs in the world.

During his 55 years on the Department of Surgery faculty, Gott trained more than 60 cardiac surgeons — many of whom became heads of cardiac surgery divisions, and national leaders in the field. Gott died on November 20, at his home in Charlottesville, Virginia. He was 93.

When cardiologist Michel Mirowsky of Baltimore’s Sinai Hospital asked Gott to work with him on the clinical application of the first heart defibrillator, which Mirowsky had developed in Sinai’s research lab, Gott — in his typically humble and gracious manner — asked Levi Watkins Jr., then a young heart surgeon who had been the first African American to become Hopkins’ chief resident in cardiac surgery, to take the lead. Watkins performed the first implantation of the defibrillator in 1980 — an achievement that dramatically advanced his career.

In the United States, Gott became expert in employing a landmark procedure developed by British cardiac surgeon Hugh H. Bentall to treat potentially deadly aortic aneurysms caused by Marfan syndrome. Between 1976 and 1999, Gott performed 150 of the 231 Bentall procedures at Johns Hopkins to repair or replace the defective aorta. The mortality rate for those patients was 0.9 percent — proving that such a procedure resulted in excellent long-term survival with low morbidity.
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