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Maimonides marks heart transplant milestone

December 22, 2017 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz (left) shows a medical colleague a new cardiac device in this black and white photo from the 1960s. Photo courtesy of Maimonides Medical Center

Brooklyn hospital was 1st in U.S. to perform procedure in 1967

The daughter of the surgeon who performed the first heart transplant in the U.S. 50 years ago paid a visit to the Brooklyn hospital where the historic operation took place to help today’s doctors celebrate the milestone.

Dr. Niki Kantrowitz, a cardiologist, came to Maimonides Medical Center at 4802 10th Ave. last week to take part in a 50th anniversary celebration of her late father, Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz, and the first U.S. heart transplant.

Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz transplanted a heart into a newborn baby on Dec. 6, 1967.

The operation took place just three days after Dr. Christian Barnard made history by performing the first human heart transplant in South Africa.

Doctors and other medical professionals celebrated the anniversary at the Annual Maimonides Heart & Vascular Symposium. The session included a tribute to Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz. His daughter was presented with a commemorative plaque.

“The groundbreaking work of Dr. Adrian Kantrowitz paved the way for the routine transplants of today,” Dr. Jacob Shani, chairman of Cardiology at Maimonides, said in a statement.

Several heart transplant patients came to the symposium and praised Kantrowitz’s expertise.

“If the cardiac specialists at Maimonides didn’t do this 50 years ago, I wouldn’t be here today,” said Charles LaRosa, a Vietnam veteran. “I’m now able to enjoy my life and spend time with my grandchildren.”

New York State Health Commissioner Dr. Howard Zucker was a guest speaker at the symposium and discussed the significance of the first successful heart transplant. He also praised the work being done by cardiovascular experts at Maimonides Medical Center today.

The symposium’s theme was “Advances in Cardiovascular Medicine: Now and into the Future” and included a review of the challenges and advancements in modern heart transplantation.

Among the Maimonides doctors attending the forum were Dr. Shani, chairman of cardiology; Dr. Patrick Borgen, chairman of surgery; Dr. Greg Ribakove, chief of cardiothoracic surgery; and Dr. Robert Rhee, director of vascular and endovascular surgery.

In addition to performing the first heart transplant, Kantrowitz was also responsible for the invention of many cardiac care devices, including the intra-aortic balloon pump and the left ventricular assist device, innovations that are saving lives to this day.

He died in 2008 at the age of 90.

His widow Jean Kantrowitz donated his research papers to U.S. National Library of Medicine at the National Institutes of Health.

For more information on Kantrowitz, visit the National Institutes of Health website at https://profiles.nlm.nih.gov/GN/.

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