May 7, 2004

John Byrne joins VUMC as cardiac surgery chair

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John G. Byrne, M.D.

John Byrne joins VUMC as cardiac surgery chair

John G. Byrne, M.D., associate chief and residency program director in the division of Cardiac Surgery at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and associate professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School, has been named the new chairman of the department of Cardiac Surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He joins the faculty Aug. 1.

Byrne said that his vision requires making the cardiac surgery unit at Vanderbilt the most service-oriented cardiac unit in Nashville. This, together with offering services that are not currently available or are underutilized in the area, are the requirements for growth.

“I presented a plan for Vanderbilt based on my experience at Brigham and Women’s and my observations of other major centers,” Byrne said.

“In order to become more visible locally in adult cardiac surgery, we will need to continue to refine our product, sharpen our sword, to ensure that our customers, who are our patients, families and referring physicians, are satisfied with the service we are providing,” he said. “We are in a service industry. We have to create an integrated service line that focuses on service as well as products that are not currently offered.”

Byrne’s plan includes bringing minimally invasive valve surgery and heart failure procedures as well as procedures that will require a more integrated relationship between cardiology and cardiac surgery.

To increase national visibility, Byrne plans for the creation of an academic enterprise on patient outcomes research, with the goal of peer-review publications in major journals. This will require establishing a Web-based, point-of-service patient registry, which would also serve as an electronic medical record.

“Creating a cohesive team who together will meet these goals will be mandatory. It’s important that the team understands the vision,” he said. “We will need to be self-critical, with open debate about what we are doing well and what we are not doing so well. We will also need to become more aware of the cost of doing cardiac surgery and providing care and to develop ways to become more cost effective.

“This is a big job, it will be a lot of work, but it’s doable with team work. We realize that the incumbents in town are very good. They have good doctors and good surgeons. What that means is that we are just going to have to get up a bit earlier, work harder, communicate with our customers better, and come up with innovative products.”

R. Daniel Beauchamp, M.D., J.C. Foshee Distinguished Professor and Chair of the section of Surgical Sciences, is very pleased that Byrne has agreed to come to Vanderbilt.

“During the recruitment process, Dr. Byrne was the individual who expressed both a vision for the future of Cardiac Surgery here at Vanderbilt, but also for the future of the entire field of cardiac surgery and therapeutic cardiac interventions,” he said. “In addition, he presented to us a detailed plan of how he could achieve his goals of growing Cardiac Surgery and enhancing its roles in the institutional academic and educational missions.”

Byrne, a graduate of the University of California, Davis, received his medical degree in 1987 from Boston University. His postdoctoral training was completed at the University of Illinois affiliated hospitals and Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. He is the author of more than 100 scientific articles on cardiac surgery and related areas.

“My role is to articulate the vision, the way that I think we ought to go, and rally the team to execute it,” Byrne said. “No one person can do this. It’s like being a player-coach in sports. Modern cardiac surgery is more like football than golf. The team executes the plan and receives the glory.

“By putting the patient first, the team will never lose. Thankfully, I learned that a long, long time ago.”