Education News Stories Recognition

The Next Generation of Cardiothoracic Surgeons

This June, Matthew Henn, MS, MD, Jacob Miller, MD, and Shuddhadeb Ray, MD, MPH, all graduate from the Thoracic Surgery Fellowship at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis. The Thoracic Surgery Program cultivates future generations of surgical leaders through its commitment to excellent patient care, innovative research and education in surgery.

Henn, Miller and Ray started their general surgery residencies together at the School of Medicine nearly a decade ago. Over the years, these three fellows learned valuable lessons in and out of the operating room, formed lifelong friendships and acquired the skills they will need for their future careers in surgery.

“I’ve known Matt and Shuddie and Jacob for several years, from their time in the laboratory during their general surgery years, and through all their cardiothoracic surgery training,” says Spencer Melby, MD, Thoracic Surgery Fellowship Program Director. “These surgeons are remarkable. The advanced training they have completed is the most arduous that any medical specialty offers. Besides the many long hours of complex and demanding surgery, which requires the highest level of technical ability, these surgeons have been trained in critical care of patients who are the sickest in the hospital. It is typical that these young surgeons would arrive several hours before daylight and return home long after the sun had set, operating sometimes for 12 or more hours in a row, while rounding on their patients and making sure they receive the care they need. These surgeons have risen to the top, and are now ready to move on to the next phase of independent operating and care of cardiac surgery patients. Each of them have been primary authors on papers that change the way surgeons care for patients. Each of them has potential to be a leader in our field. I am excited to see their careers develop, and the mark they each will make—not just on patient care, but in our field of cardiac surgery.”

From left: Matt Henn, Spencer Melby, Shuddhadeb Ray, Jacob Miller.

All three fellows have plans to advance their careers in cardiothoracic surgery after graduating. Henn will return to his home state of Ohio to practice at The Ohio State University; Miller will continue his training with an Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) accredited fellowship in pediatric heart surgery at the medical school; Ray will call St. Louis home as he joins the faculty at the School of Medicine.

“I have had the pleasure of working with all three gentlemen and they really are exceptional,” says Pirooz Eghtesady, MD, PhD, Section Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery. “Indeed, I think at one time or another, we tried to convince all of them to pursue pediatric cardiac surgery. Not only do all three have outstanding technical abilities, they are incredibly hard working and they are wonderful human beings. It is a blessing to have worked with such exceptional young individuals who are truly the future of cardiothoracic surgery; we are in good hands with them leading the charge. I am delighted that we succeeded to at least ensnare Jacob, who will be our first congenital fellow. Our program was officially approved as an ACGME-accredited congenital program this year, one of 11 in the United States, and a first for the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. It is quite exciting and we—the entire team at St. Louis Children’s Hospital—are very much looking forward to Jacob’s start in July. He certainly has already made a name for himself in the pediatric community; most folks don’t know that he was named as the co-Chair of the Communications and Publications Committee of the American Academy of Pediatrics Section of Cardiology and Cardiac Surgery last year, a first for an individual during their training.”

The Department of Surgery congratulates these three fellows on their accomplishments, and looks forward to their future successes in the field of cardiothoracic surgery.

Pirooz Eghtesady, MD, PhD

Matt Henn

Matthew Henn, MS, MD

What comes next for you?

I will be moving back home to Columbus, Ohio, as I have accepted a position as an Assistant Professor of Cardiac Surgery at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center.

I knew I wanted to be at a large, academic institution where I would have the opportunity to teach, conduct research and perform all aspects of cardiac surgery—all of which are highly valued at Washington University. The Ohio State University has afforded me that opportunity and more. The environment there is collegial, supportive and nourishing. I believe my career in surgery will flourish in that environment. Lastly, both my wife and I grew up in Columbus, and I graduated from Ohio State University College of Medicine. This is a great opportunity for my family to head home.

What are your hopes for the future?

It is my hope to ultimately develop into a leader in our field while providing excellent patient care and training the next generation of CT surgeons.

What has been your most memorable moment at Washington University?

I have so many great professional memories from nearly a decade of time at Washington University: learning so many different strategies and techniques from leaders in all fields, participating in national and international presentations, and developing close and lasting relationships with faculty and residents alike.

Perhaps the most memorable moments were both my first General Surgery Chief’s dinner as an intern and my last Chief’s Dinner, when Dr. Damiano introduced me at my general surgery graduation.

However, it will be the personal moments that have really defined my experience here. It is very unique to start and complete a residency, and start and finish a fellowship, 9 years later with the same classmates—and I am incredibly grateful and fortunate to have Shuddie and Jacob as classmates and friends throughout this journey.

Why did you choose to focus on cardiothoracic surgery?

It is an incredibly challenging field that is both technically and intellectually difficult, and yet extremely rewarding. We see patients who are in the worst possible situations of their lives, and we are able to dramatically improve their situation.

What advice would you give future fellows?

There is no substitute for hard work.

Jacob Miller

Jacob Miller, MD

What comes next for you?

I am looking forward to starting my Congenital Fellowship at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

I have known since medical school that I was going to pursue a career in pediatric cardiac surgery. I was lucky enough to find a great mentor in Dr. Eghtesady and be able to stay here from my next year of training. Dr. Eghtesady is incredibly intelligent, professional and respectful, as well as being a great teacher. You can not help but learn from him.

What are your hopes for the future?

I plan to become a practicing pediatric cardiac surgeon.

What has been your most memorable moment at Washington University?

I can’t say there has been one moment, but many.

Certainly, the most memorable part has been the people I have worked with. I have had many great mentors through my years on general surgery and CT. The most impactful has been the relationship with my co-residents and fellows. I have been fortunate enough to work with Matt and Shuddie for many years and I am so lucky to have gone through this with people who are such good friends.

Why did you choose to focus on cardiothoracic surgery?

I really like the technical challenge, but the most important part for me is the teamwork that is necessary to get the best outcome.

What advice would you give future fellows?

Being a CT surgeon is not easy, so naturally, being a CT fellow is very difficult. And even though it may be tough to see at times, you are continually learning, making progress and improving your judgement.

The lessons and advice of Dr. Damiano will stay with you. The things he has taught me jump into my head at different times during an operation, and those lessons all, very much, impact how I operate.

Shuddhadeb Ray

Shuddhadeb Ray, MD, MPH

What comes next for you?

After finishing fellowship, I am excited to start as a new faculty member here at Washington University, joining Dr. Nabil Munfakh, MD, at Christian Hospital.

Over almost a decade in St. Louis, a lot happened professionally and personally to closely link my life to this city. I married by college sweetheart, had two amazing children, moved into our first house, and progressively made it through general surgery residency and cardiothoracic fellowship.

After getting to know the institution over this period of time, I knew it would be the perfect place to start my career. I can’t imagine a better place to care for patients, advance my research interests, and help train residents and fellows, all with excellent mentors for guidance. I also cannot imagine a better place for my family to live and for my children to grow up. The choice to stay in St. Louis and at Wash U was an easy one!

What are your hopes for the future?

I hope to continue to grow as a surgeon, establish a busy practice, advance research in CT surgery and hopefully make a significant contribution to our field.

What has been your most memorable moment at Washington University?

There is no single moment that can capture nearly a decade of life here at Wash U, however there are a few moments that come to mind:

• Meeting my intern classmates, including Jacob Miller and Matt Henn
• Graduating general surgery residency with Matt and Jacob
• Getting the call from Dr. Moon telling me I was accepted into the CT program
• Taking part in: lung transplants, heart transplants, procurements with Dr. Pasque
• Discussing job options with Dr. Damiano

Why did you choose to focus on cardiothoracic surgery?

I love everything about cardiothoracic surgery, from the meticulous technical nature of the operations, to the vast array of complex disease processes to treat, to the amazing people I work with every day constantly advancing the field.

What advice would you give future fellows?

Trust the process. It takes time and hard work, but it works!