Did You Know? There Have Been 40 Recipients of the Ray C. Fish Award for Scientific Achievement in Cardiovascular Disease

“The contributions of the late Ray C. Fish can never be repaid, for it was through the Ray C. Fish Foundation that the Texas Heart Institute received the initial gift that was needed to take the Institute from concept to reality.”

In the Denton A. Cooley Building, these words are displayed in a framed document that hangs next to portraits of the highly regarded recipients of the Ray C. Fish Award for Scientific Achievement in Cardiovascular Disease. As THI’s highest professional accolade, the award recognizes those whose innovations have made significant contributions to cardiovascular medicine and surgery.

The first Ray C. Fish Award was presented in 1972 at THI’s 10th anniversary dedication dinner. The recipient, Dr. Norman E. Shumway, was awarded for his pioneering contributions to heart transplantation. In 1968, Shumway performed the first adult heart transplantation in the US, after his years of research demonstrated the feasibility of performing heart transplantation in an animal model. In addition, he has been widely recognized for his innovative developments that have made heart transplantation a standard clinical procedure.

Since Shumway, 39 other highly deserving recipients have been so honored by the Institute. In 1985, Dr. Cooley was given the Ray C. Fish Award for his outstanding contributions to cardiovascular surgery, particularly with respect to surgery for congenital heart disease, aneurysms of the aorta, and implantation of an artificial heart. Over the years, several others associated with THI have received the award, including Drs. Robert J. Hall, Arthur S. Keats, Charles E. Mullins, O. H. Frazier, James T. Willerson, Charles D. Fraser, George J. Reul, David A. Ott, Joseph S. Coselli, and Emerson C. Perin, adding to the prestigious list of recipients.

In 2020, Dr. Christine E. Seidman was the first woman to receive the Ray C. Fish Award, in recognition of her discoveries in cardiovascular genetics. Seidman was the first to uncover a genetic origin of congenital cardiac malformations, and she identified the molecular mechanisms underlying the development of hypertrophic cardiomyopathy and other heart diseases. Her more recent research has focused on testing small molecules designed to inhibit the development of cardiomyopathies in patients.

Recipients of the Ray C. Fish Award are given a framed certificate and a Texas Heart Institute Medal. The winners also sign the framed list of awardees that accompanies the display of portraits. Most recently, the award has been given during the Texas Update Meeting with an accompanying lecture by the award recipient. In addition, the award recipients’ contributions are featured in an editorial published in the Texas Heart Institute Journal. A complete Roll of Recipients of the Ray C. Fish Award, along with the field of the awardees’ distinguished contributions can be found at https://www.texasheart.org/ray-fish-award/.

by Nicole Stancel, Sr. Scientific Medical Editor/Writer, Scientific Publications

Photos: (Top) A portrait of each Ray C. Fish Award winner is hung in a designated hallway in the Denton A. Cooley Building. (Bottom) Sir Terence English, who received the Ray C. Fish Award in 2014 for his contributions to cardiovascular surgery, is photographed holding his Texas Heart Institute Medal with Drs. Cooley and Willerson, who are holding his portrait and framed award.