Meet Michael Magarakis AATS 2021 Denton A. Cooley Fellow

“It was a privilege and an honor to be selected by the American Association of Thoracic Surgery as the Denton A. Cooley Fellow as part of the “Honoring our Mentors” program. It was an incredible experience to join this world-renowned group of surgeons and participate in the most complex cardiac and aortic surgery cases. Although it was fascinating to witness the spectacular team approach, I was equally impressed by the history and legendary stories behind the walls of Texas Heart Institute, which most people consider the birthplace of modern cardiac surgery.” — Dr. Michael Magarakis, 2021 Denton A. Cooley Fellow

The Denton A. Cooley Fellowship began in 2018 and provides an educational experience for North American cardiothoracic surgeons who are in their final year of residency or have recently completed their residency. The fellowship is funded and administered by the AATS Foundation as part of the Honoring Our Mentors Fellowship Program. The program was established by the AATS to honor those cardiothoracic surgeons who have demonstrated long-standing leadership and dedication over the course of their careers. The selected fellow spends up to four weeks studying at Texas Heart Institute (THI) and Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center (BSLMC), learning from our team of world-renowned physicians and researchers.

Q: Why did you apply to the fellowship?

I feel this fellowship is of historical value as it was started to honor Dr. Denton A. Cooley, a true pioneer in cardiac surgery. In addition, this is a great opportunity to learn and participate in very complex cases in an area of your interest. As I enjoy aortic surgery, coming to Texas Heart and joining the aortic surgery team was the main reason why I applied.

Q: How did you feel about being the recipient?

It was a great privilege and an honor to receive the Denton Cooley scholarship award. The faculty and staff at the Texas Heart Institute were all very welcoming, and I felt part of the team from the very beginning.

Q: What was the biggest surprise or insight from your time at THI? What learnings do you plan to incorporate in your own practice?

The history and all the legendary stories I heard. Texas Heart institute literally keeps the history of cardiac surgery on its walls and the future of our specialty inside its operating theaters. New clinical trials for new devices, complex cases that are transferred from all over the country, the artificial heart project, and many other “firsts” are being developed here. I have acquired new skills, especially in valve-sparing root and aortic valve repairs, as well as complex aortic arch reconstructions and hybrid aortic surgery approaches.

Q: What was one of the biggest takeaways from the fellowship?

I take away 2 basic principles: a) simplicity in the conduct of the operation, and b) protecting the heart during cardiac surgery at all costs.

Q: What advice would you share with future Denton A. Cooley fellows?

I would advise them to come and spend a full month here, ideally in an area of specific interest. This way, they will participate as much as possible and understand the approach of the team to a specific pathology.

Photos of Dr. Michael Magarakis and Our Faculty