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Maziar (Maz) Khorsandi, MD, FRCS C/Th, is a cardiac surgeon who, at a young age, knew he wanted to have a career in the medical field. And he’s made quite the impact — from patients sharing stories of gratitude for his lifesaving work to many credited research publications, Khorsandi embodies UW Medicine values through consistently advancing knowledge and assuming leadership in academic medicine.

Get to know him, and find out what he wants others to know about cardiac surgery. 

When did you first know you wanted to be a doctor?

I was born and raised in a medical family in Iran. My father is an orthopedic surgeon, and my mother trained as an operating room nurse. I quickly realized I was very attracted to medicine as a career. I was very attracted to the fact that you could apply science to daily practice and see almost instantaneous results and — even better — help people out along the way. As a child growing up, I would habitually go to the hospital with my father and round with him and often go to the operating room to watch. I loved the fact that the team of various professional disciplines worked in tandem. Hence, I was left with very little doubt that I wanted to pursue a medical career. 

When did you join UW Medicine?

I joined UW Medicine in August 2020, following the completion of my fellowship. When I was in the final stretch of my training, my mentor, Dr. Carmelo Milano, MD, at Duke University Medical Center, called me and explained that he knew of a position that had opened up at UW Medicine for a cardiac surgeon with a special interest in heart transplantation and mechanical circulatory support.

Once I came up for a visit, it was clear that this was where I wanted to be. I thoroughly enjoy working with my colleagues. We are truly a well-integrated, multidisciplinary team.

Can you tell us about your work at the Heart Institute?

I am employed as a full-time cardiac surgeon. I am also an assistant professor of surgery and an attending cardiac surgeon with subspecialist interest in cardiac transplantation and mechanical circulatory support. However, most of my case volume is general adult cardiac surgery, such as valve replacement and coronary artery bypass surgery.  

In fact, I run the weekly coronary cath conference, which is the heart team’s approach to coronary surgery and percutaneous coronary intervention. A significant portion of my clinical time is spent teaching medical students, residents and fellows in the operating room, the intensive care unit and the outpatient clinics. 

I engage in clinical research, too. I was awarded the O.H. Frazier translational research award and am currently working on a clinical research project on improving the quality of life of patients with left ventricular assist devices by reducing hospital admissions.

I am active academically. I am the managing editor of the Oxford Specialist Handbook in Cardiopulmonary Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support. This handbook is a multinational collaboration and was published last month as a first edition and will continue to evolve with updates in our field.  

I also participate in other clinical research and journal publications. 

Why did you choose to specialize in cardiac surgery?

I was always interested in vascular surgery and acute medicine. During the course of my training, I felt cardiac surgery integrated all of that. In cardiac surgery, we have the opportunity to save lives almost on a daily basis. Very few specialties in medicine are like that. Also, cardiac surgery is a young field, which makes it extremely exciting and ever-evolving. Paradigms in the field of cardiac surgery and cardiology are always changing based on recent evidence, more so than any other specialty in medicine. That can however be viewed by some as a curse because you always have to keep up to date with the developments and be willing to learn new skills and be willing to change your routine.

What do you hope to achieve long-term in your research/practice in cardiothoracic surgery?

I hope to set up a quaternary referral center for low ejection fraction coronary disease at UW Medicine. I feel that at the University of Washington we are in a unique position. We have the perfect setup here with our experts in cardiac surgery and interventional cardiology under one roof and available 24/7 and 365 days/year. We have advanced infrastructure such as hybrid operating rooms. We serve as the regional advanced heart failure center covering the WWAMI (Washington, Wyoming, Alaska, Montana and Idaho) region and provide comprehensive advanced heart failure therapies such as heart transplantation, mechanical circulatory support, extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) for patients that cannot be cured with stents or bypass surgery. 

From a research point of view, I hope to incorporate the CardioMEMS (a remote pulmonary artery pressure monitoring device) in the care of our patients that have ventricular assist devices so that we can monitor their progress while they are in the comfort of their own home. The benefit of this approach is avoiding the need for multiple and protracted admissions to the hospital. This technology could empower the providers to adjust patients’ medications and act before they get critically ill. 

What would you want someone to know about your field of work?

It’s an exciting field that is ever-evolving. We deal with life-threatening scenarios daily and have to make big decisions with patients and their families. It is a complex and multifaceted field that is, for the most part, extremely rewarding. Cardiothoracic surgery is a “team sport” and our patient care is truly multidisciplinary.    

What are you looking forward to this winter?

Skiing, hiking and traveling to Europe.