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June 21, 2000

SurgeryKing of Hearts: The True Story of the Maverick Who Pioneered Open Heart Surgery

Author Affiliations

Harriet S.MeyerMD, Contributing EditorDavid H.MorseMS, Journal Review EditorRobertHoganMD, adviser for new media


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JAMA. 2000;283(23):3129-3130. doi:10.1001/jama.283.23.3129-JBK0621-4-1

C. Walton Lillehei, MD, PhD, was a remarkably complex man who exerted a tremendous influence on the field of cardiac surgery. An acknowledged pioneer, his surgical techniques were innovative and controversial. He was also among the first, but certainly not the last, to become adversarily involved with the Internal Revenue Service.

In his timely biography, G. Wayne Miller endeavors to present an informative account of Lillehei's life and times "as both a history and a medical drama." The story of the man known by many as the father of open heart surgery and dubbed by Miller "The King of Hearts" has peaks of unique medical accomplishment matched by valleys that nevertheless failed to deter his intensity and creativity. Lillehei's motto was "work hard, play hard."

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