Emeritus Evarts A. Graham Professor of Surgery James Cox, MD, FACS, named recipient of the Jacobson Innovation Award

Emeritus Evarts A. Graham Professor of Surgery and former Division Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery James Cox, MD, FACS, has been named the recipient of the 26th Jacobson Innovation Award of the American College of Surgeons.

Cox is universally recognized as an exceptional cardiothoracic surgeon, researcher, professor and mentor, and is known as the “father of cardiac arrhythmia surgery.” This international award honors his life-long pioneering and innovative work.

Throughout his career, Cox developed surgical procedures for multiple cardiac arrhythmias, including the Wolff-Parkinson-White syndrome, atrioventricular nodal reentry tachycardia, automatic atrial tachycardias, atrial flutter, atrial fibrillation and ventricular tachycardia.

Cox is best known for developing the Cox-Maze procedure, the first cure for atrial fibrillation. This procedure involves placing multiple lesions in the right and left atria in a maze-like pattern to interrupt the multiple electrical circuits that cause atrial fibrillation. Cox and his associates developed the procedure during his time at Washington University School of Medicine, and he was the first surgeon ever to perform it, which took place at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in 1987. After introduction of the initial procedure, a series of improvements were made. This development led to the less invasive Cox-Maze IV procedure, which is now the gold standard for the surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation, and the only operation to receive an FDA indication for the treatment of atrial fibrillation.

“During his long career, Dr. Cox has developed and refined many procedures and created and patented many surgical devices related to the treatment of cardiac arrhythmia, garnering him the title as ‘father of cardiac arrhythmias,’” said Valerie Rusch, MD, FACS, past-President of the American College of Surgeons, during the virtual event held in his honor on February 5, 2021. “He also has been a pioneer in intervention for atrial fibrillation making him a legend in the field of cardiac surgery.”

His time at Washington University began in 1983 when he became Professor and Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery. From 1990 to 1997 Cox was Evarts A. Graham Professor of Surgery at Washington University, and in 2005 he gained emeritus status.

He is now retired from an active surgical practice but continues to be extremely productive in the clinical research arena at Northwestern Medicine, where he is currently working in cardiac research.

Cox’s research work is extensive — he has published more than 400 peer-reviewed scientific articles, more than 250 scientific abstracts, and holds some 35 patents on medical devices. Cox continues to deliver an average of 50 lectures annually, both nationally and internationally, on the treatment of cardiac arrhythmias.

Cox’s contributions and developments forever changed the field of cardiac surgery and have saved countless lives, making him an exemplary recipient for the prestigious Jacobson Innovation Award. Nominees considered for this award must be the original and true innovator of a pioneering technique or procedure.

“Dr. Cox’s seminal contribution has been the procedure that bears his name. Along the way he made significant contributions in heart valve surgery and to academic medicine, and inspired many of us in practice and in research,” said Patrick McCarthy, MD, FACS, in his award nomination letter for Cox. “Coming from humble origins, his story is a classic American success story of achievement.”