Did You Know? The Ali Massumi Cardiac Arrhythmia Symposium: Remembering Dr. Massumi

As the date for the 2022 Ali Massumi Cardiac Arrhythmia Symposium approaches, we reflect on the remarkable man for whom this symposium was named. The Department of Electrophysiology Clinical Research & Innovations at THI is internationally recognized for its cutting-edge cardiac arrhythmia research and management, an accomplishment that could not have materialized without the dedication of one extraordinary man: Dr. Ali Massumi. Throughout his career of nearly 35 years, Dr. Massumi pioneered the development of clinical electrophysiology (EP) therapy, particularly during the 1980s when the field was gaining momentum. In Dr. Cooley’s words, “Ali Massumi was the ‘birth mother’ of electrophysiology at THI-St. Luke’s Episcopal Hospital.”


Born in Iran, Dr. Massumi earned his medical degree from the Tehran University School of Medicine and began his training in internal medicine at the Millard Fillmore Hospital in Buffalo, New York. In 1977, he began a fellowship at THI-St. Luke’s, where he became chief fellow. Soon thereafter, he was invited to join the prestigious Hall-Garcia Cardiology Associates, where he remained a partner for the entire course of his medical career. He told the following story about first coming to Houston: “It was the winter of 1977, and I think it was the worst winter in Buffalo [New York] history. By the time we got down to Houston, after driving for three days, it was 78 degrees here. I got out of the car, took off my heavy coat, rolled up my sleeves and said to myself, ‘This must be heaven.’”

In his role at THI-St. Luke’s, Dr. Massumi contributed to the development of new devices and interventions. He also initiated an EP training program at THI for cardiologists to become EP specialists in the diagnosis and treatment of cardiac arrhythmias and conduction disturbances and in the prevention of sudden cardiac death. Dr. Massumi and his team trained many cardiac electrophysiologists for the world while also building a remarkable team of clinical electrophysiologists for THI. He and his team made vital contributions to the EP field as it evolved from the primary treatment of arrhythmias with medications and surgical techniques to the current EP world of more effective and less invasive catheter-based interventions for ablation, pacemaking, and defibrillation.

In the EP laboratory at THI-St. Luke’s, Dr. Massumi was the master conductor and operator. Whenever one of his younger colleagues was unable to ablate an arrhythmia, Dr. Massumi would often say, “Let the old man try,” or “Let’s see if ‘Golden Fingers’ can still do it.” Almost invariably, he did successfully ablate what others could not, teaching his team, students, and medical visitors in the process. If he could not ablate an arrhythmia, it probably could not be done. Even in the most demanding clinical situations, he was always calm and polite, with bright optimism, a smile on his face, and encouraging words. Dr. Massumi loved helping others learn—in the EP lab, at the bedside, and at the local, national, and international conferences that he often directed. He won the annual THI Outstanding Teacher Award so many times that a moratorium was placed on his winning so that others could have a chance.

Dr. Massumi died on March 13, 2015, after a battle with lymphoma, just 3 weeks after attending THI’s Cardiac Arrhythmia Symposium. At his memorial service, there was a standing-room-only crowd of present and former students, grateful patients, colleagues, and supporters, all of whom were there to show their respect, admiration, and affection. Fittingly, in his honor, the Cardiac Arrhythmia Symposium was renamed “The Ali Massumi Cardiac Arrhythmia Symposium.”

By Nicole Stancel

Photos: (Top) Dr. Ali Massumi at the 2014 Cardiac Society Pinning Ceremony, where he was honored with the Lifetime Achievement Award as Master Clinician, Teacher, and Cherished Colleague. (Middle) Dr. Ali Massumi, MD and Dr. Massumi in the Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory in 2009. (Bottom) Dr. Cooley speaking about Dr. Massumi at his memorial service in March 2015.