Presidential Address, 2009: ISMICS Means Innovation

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Thank you, Anno Diegeler, for that very kind introduction.It is a sincere honor to have served as the president of our International Society this year. One contemplates a presidential address first by thinking of the people to whom one owes a real debt of gratitude. My father, who was non-English speaking, was the first-born son of desperately poor Hungarian immigrants to Canada. They arrived after the First World War. My father learned English in the schoolyard and worked as an itinerant laborer picking agricultural crops to put himself through school. By sheer force of will, he graduated from university and married the girl of his dreams, my mother. My father taught me an immigrant work ethic. He instilled in me his deep belief that a man could accomplish literally anything through relentless determination and hard work. My mother had an easier upbringing and was an educated English teacher. She taught me the love of reading, the arts, and the importance of life-long learning. And together, they lavished unconditional love on their 4 children and 16 grandchildren.My own two daughters, Caroline (12-year-old) and Jillian (14-year-old), have their father wrapped around their collective little finger. They get whatever they want from Daddy, whenever they want it. And I guess that is the way it should be. Our son, Alex, is now a senior in high school and has in some ways already left the family, preferring the company of his girlfriend; but perhaps this is also as it should be.I owe these 3 wonderful, talented, happy children and a lifetime of wonderful experiences to my wife of 23 years, Jane, whose love and support has enabled me to become what I have become personally and professionally. She has, herself, two Harvard degrees and is prominent in the national and international societies in dentistry, her own profession. As I am here in San Francisco delivering this address, she is in Hilton Head, South Carolina chairing the planning committee meeting for the nation’s second largest annual dental meeting–25,000 dentists!–performing a similar leadership role in her own profession. Although I miss her here today, she is busy doing one of the things that she does so very well. I owe here a tremendous debt of gratitude.I have been blessed in many ways for mentors and colleagues. The first heart operation I ever saw performed was by Gerald Austin, the Chief of Cardiac Surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital. I was a naive first year Harvard medical student, and I held the heart in a cold bag of ice slush and listened to him talking to his chief resident, William Frist, who much later became Senate Majority Leader of the U.S. Senate. As Bill Frist did an on-pump arrested-heart coronary bypass operation, I remember thinking how very cold my fingers were. I also remember thinking, “I could do that.” That was a defining moment in my career. Then years later as a surgical resident at the Massachusetts General Hospital, I enjoyed the mentorship of Hermes Grillo and Doug Mathisen who were gentlemen surgeons in general thoracic surgery. During 1989 to 1990, I did my research laboratory time in lung transplantation with Alec Patterson at the Toronto General Hospital. Alec provided to me a wonderful example of a busy surgeon doing cutting-edge clinical work while simultaneously pushing the boundaries of knowledge in basic and translational research in the laboratory.When I went to Emory University, I had the privilege of training with three of the giants of adult cardiac surgery in America: Robert Guyton, Joseph Craver, and Ellis Jones.

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