#119: Same Surgeon, Different Light: Dr. Joseph Dearani

December 27, 2021

In this episode of Season 2, Dr. Tom Varghese interviews Dr. Joseph Dearani, from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, MN. Described as a leader extraordinaire, Dr. Dearani reflects on his STS presidency and shares the most challenging aspects of leading the organization during the first 10 months of the COVID-19 pandemic. He says adapting, rebounding, and refocusing were key. Dr. Dearani details captivating personal stories such as how his father’s family—who were silk weavers—emigrated from Syria; how his father, as a young boy, shined shoes on a street corner in Patterson, New Jersey, and then used his earnings to buy bread for dinner on the way home; and what it was like growing up with eight younger sisters. His father, who went on the become a family physician, inspired Dr. Dearani to pursue a career in medicine. The decision to specialize in cardiothoracic surgery, though, was a little less straightforward. In fact, surgery wasn’t even one of his initial interests. Instead, he considered emergency medicine and primary care. It was when Dr. Dearani rotated onto cardiac surgery toward the end of medical school that he decided he wanted to be heart surgeon. In addition to medicine, Dr. Dearani has a love for music. Listeners will hear how a nun visiting on Thanksgiving convinced him to take saxophone lessons. He continued playing throughout college and eventually the saxophone became a “religious part of my everyday life,” he says. “Same Surgeon, Different Light” is a program from The Society of Thoracic Surgeons designed to demystify cardiothoracic surgery, revealing the men and women behind their surgical masks.

Learn more about STS diversity and inclusion efforts at sts.org/diversity.

Patients can learn more about cardiothoracic diseases and their treatments at ctsurgerypatients.org.