Reitz honored for 12 years as chair of Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery

Bruce Reitz

Bruce Reitz, MD, who devoted the last 12 years to sustaining and enhancing the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery's international reputation of excellence, stepped down last month as the department's chair. On Tuesday evening, dozens of his colleagues at the School of Medicine honored him at a reception in the Red Lounge of the Stanford Faculty Club.

"Dr. Reitz is one of the foremost cardiac surgeons in the world and, during his term as chair, he played a major role in keeping Stanford at the forefront of education, research and patient care in cardiac surgery," Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the School of Medicine, said in an interview. "In addition to the respect with which he is held for his remarkable clinical skills, Dr. Reitz is much admired as an individual of great integrity who leads by quiet example."

Pizzo added that as the Norman E. Shumway Professor in Cardiothoracic Surgery, Reitz has not only provided departmental leadership but has also had a productive clinical and research career.

In 1981, Reitz and his team performed the first successful heart-lung transplant, which also was the first time a lung had ever been transplanted. Since then, more than 200 patients have received a heart-lung transplant at Stanford and more than 210 patients have received either a single lung or double lung transplant at Stanford.

Robert Robbins, MD, who succeeded Reitz as chair on Feb. 1, noted that 14 years after doing the first lung transplant, Reitz conducted another pioneering operation: he performed the first Heartport procedure, using a device that allows minimally invasive coronary bypass and valve operations. "He helped to change the world of cardiac surgery," Robbins said in an interview.

Reitz became department chair in 1992, succeeding his mentor Norman Shumway, MD, PhD, who in 1968 performed the nation's first heart transplant at Stanford. Reitz continued to build the department, bringing a number of the nation's foremost surgeons to Stanford, including Robbins. "I will always be grateful to him for recruiting me," Robbins said.

Reitz also played a major role in the resident education program at Stanford, which he reorganized and maintained as one of the top two or three programs in the country, Robbins said. In addition to all of his clinical and education work, Reitz has continued to do significant research, focusing on the mechanism of rejection for heart and lung transplants and ways to prevent it.

"Dr. Reitz is going to be a tough act to follow," said Robbins. "He has not only continued and enhanced our department's reputation for excellence, but he did it with grace, intelligence and class."

Robbins added, "I feel fortunate to inherit the leadership mantle of such a fine department and to be able to build upon Dr. Reitz's legacy."