Great Institutions in Cardiothoracic Surgery: The University of Minnesota

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With the loyal support of the chair of Surgery, Dr. Owen H. Wangensteen, the University of Minnesota cardiac surgery program led the way at the dawn of cardiac surgery when Dr F. John Lewis performed the first open heart surgery in the world using hypothermia while repairing an atrial septal defect on September 2, 1952. Soon after, Dr C. Walt Lillehei performed the first repair of a ventriculoseptal defect in the world using cross-circulation on March 26, 1954. Collaborating with Dr Richard DeWall in 1955, they developed the DeWall-Lillehei bubble oxygentor which was used at the University of Minnesota and many other centers worldwide for years to come, making open heart surgery safe and tractable. Dr Vincent Gott, a resident working in the laboratory of Lillehei, developed a method to treat complete heart block using ventricular pacing with a Grass physiological stimulator, and this led to a collaboration with Earl Bakken, founder of the Medtronic Corporation, to develop a temporary pacemaker. The program was fertile ground for many notable trainees, including Dr Norman Shumway, the “Father of Heart Transplant”, and Dr Christiaan Barnard who performed the first heart transplant in the world. The collegial and forward thinking nature of the cardiac surgery program continues in the current training program today.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)712-718
Number of pages7
JournalSeminars in thoracic and cardiovascular surgery
Issue number3
StatePublished - Feb 3 2016


  • atrial septal defect
  • cardiopulmonary bypass
  • hypothermia
  • open heart surgery
  • pacemaker
  • ventriculoseptal defect


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