A Visionary Team Leader
07 April 2017 (online)
End of March 2017 Friedrich W. Mohr (Fred) ([Fig. 1]) is going to retire from his active cardiac surgical career after 30 very successful years of practice. It is with great respect that his former trainees and friends have put together the following pages as a personal testimonial of his outstanding career.
Fred did his training in cardiac surgery at the University of Bonn, Germany, and a research fellowship to the Cedars Sinai Hospital in Los Angeles, the United States. After his training he became staff surgeon at the University of Bonn under the leadership of Paul Kirchhoff. From 1990 until 1994 he worked as a senior consultant at the University of Göttingen in Cardiovascular Surgery. In October 1994 he and his team moved to the newly opened Heart Center in Leipzig where he developed an internationally renowned program, which stands for high-quality clinical practice and outstanding research. During all his work Fred was able to combine a high level of surgical skills with the advancement of scientific developments and the implementation of new techniques into cardiac surgical practice.
The reader will find out much more about him and his abilities on the following pages. Many friends and partners have contributed to this unique supplement to honor Fred and to outline his many contributions to our profession throughout the years. The list includes friends and peers from different fields, cardiac surgery and cardiology, representing clinical and research collaborations as well as his engagement with professional societies.
Who is Fred and what is so unique in his work?
▪ At first, Fred is a great surgeon. He is talented and gifted, combined with a large experience that he accumulated over the years during thousands of operations. His intuition to find new or alternative solutions in challenging situations has always been remarkable. He always strived for perfection and demanded the same from his trainees. Be it in aortic surgery or coronary artery bypass grafting; he always applied the latest technique in a never-ending search for improvement. If something went wrong—and in a long career some things do go wrong—he always revisited the case, putting his own decisions at question and developed a culture of discussion and learning. What can inspire surgeons more than the critical appraisal and solution of difficult surgical situations? Fred is a calm and focused surgeon—you could never hear him speaking out loud or uncontrolled in the operating room—who always helped others in achieving optimal outcomes.
▪ Fred is a great team leader. This holds true for a small operative team, the large staff of his department, and for the different teams that he formed performing multicenter research activities such as the SYNTAX trial, arguably one of the groundbreaking trials that shaped our current understanding of coronary revascularization therapy. Fred has served in many functions including presidencies in national or international cardiac surgical societies, and therefore his impact goes far beyond his local activities. He understood early that the collaboration between cardiac surgery and cardiology is essential and has worked hard on building bridges between specialties. Being a team leader first requires building a team. The right team members have to be chosen, which requires—besides some luck—foresight and good personal assessment as well as the ability to pass a school of thought onto team members. Fred is the perfect role model in this sense as he managed to integrate colleagues with different backgrounds to build a great team. Notably, he helped his team members to generate their own standing in the community by providing them with stage presence. He applied the classic team definition: “Together everyone achieves more” very successfully. Despite a healthy competition, most alumni of this team are still closely connected in a friendship reaching beyond professional interests. This, by all means, is a rare finding.
▪ Fred has had many visions, most of which helped shape contemporary cardiac surgical practice. His visions were important when implementing new procedures and introducing new techniques or technologies, such as minimally invasive approaches for valve repair or bypass grafting. Long before others, he had realized the great potential of transcatheter therapies for the treatment of structural valve disease. Fred is undoubtedly one of the most visionary and hence most influential cardiac surgeons of the past decades. His ability to see what is coming can be considered the “backbone” of his professional success.
▪ Hands across the ocean. This original Hans-Borst-motto was taken up by Fred very early in his career, and ever since he has fostered the transatlantic exchange between surgeons from the United States and Germany. Fred was convinced that progress is only possible with tight collaboration across the ocean and willingly accepted fellows from abroad. At the same time, he supported his own team members to spend time in some of the best units in the United States. This spirit was particularly visible when he transformed the Leipzig “Latest Technology” meeting into the “Dallas-Leipzig Meeting,” a very fruitful transatlantic scientific meeting he organized together with his close friend Michael Mack.
▪ Besides all clinical work, Fred has always been a great advisor to many of us, both in professional as well as in private situations. Based on a unique trustworthy relationship, Fred has discussed and supported career plans, shared his cardiac surgical philosophies, and closely followed personal developments.
In this context and over the years, this school of thought caught international attention and led the Editors of Circulation to coin the term of the “Leipzig School of Surgery.” The cornerstones of the Leipzig School of Cardiac Surgery include an exceptional cardiac surgical practice, implementation of new techniques, paired with a vision, foresight, and friendship of a great team.
Thank you Fred!
- 1 Pioneer in Cardiac Surgery. Friedrich-Wilhelm Mohr. European perspectives in cardiology. Circulation 2011; 123: f73-f78