The Pediatric Cardiologist's View
01 March 2017
01 March 2017
07 April 2017 (online)
Since Alfred Blalock's and Helen Taussig's time pediatric cardiologists and their respective cardiac surgeons are considered Siamese twins by many. No doubt, this historical relationship was the origin of true heart teams worth the name (unlike some contemporary ones), and until today pediatric cardiologists and pediatric cardiac surgeons are interdependent. But as always, there is more to the story than meets the eye. First of all, there was Vivien Thomas then, and there are anesthesiologists, intensivists, specialized nurses of many kinds, technicians, assistants, and so on, now, who are rarely mentioned but absolutely essential. Second, unlike pediatric cardiology, pediatric cardiac surgery is not only medicine and science, but it is also fine art too. In science there are peers; arts would not exist without soloists and stars. In science there is theory and practice, in arts, there are masterpieces and performances. Whether this is a law of nature remains a matter of debate, there is conflicting data, and randomized trials are missing.
However, Prof. Mohr always was beyond that. I never asked him whether he considers himself a pediatric cardiac surgeon. Maybe I feared he would understand the word “pediatric” as a limitation while it is meant as a distinction. He performed the first successful neonatal arterial switch operation for transposition of the great arteries in my hometown of Leipzig. To me that qualifies—period. Even more, he is an expert in complex aortic problems and works miracles repairing tricuspid valves in systemic position with long-lasting good results even in complex congenital heart disease. So I regard him, among many other things, as a highly gifted congenital cardiac surgeon. Again, he would argue that this is not the point: the point is to prepare the field for the optimal development and performance of others.
Prof. Mohr always heavily supported the development of the pediatric and congenital department in the Leipzig Heart Center. He literally brought Martin Kostelka to Leipzig by personally going to Prague by car and taking him in. Later he convinced the medical faculty to establish an endowment chair for pediatric cardiac surgery. Prof. Mohr recognized the importance of interventional pediatric cardiology early and specialized pediatric rhythmology and helped to establish both subdisciplines in Leipzig. He put his weight into introducing percutaneous pulmonary valve implantation into a clinical routine at the same time as transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI) was established. Pediatric cardiology and pediatric cardiac surgery were in the focus of some of the international pioneering “latest techniques” meetings with leading experts from all over the world performing live cases of surgery and catheter interventions.
It is public record that Prof. Mohr and his congenial cardiologic counterpart Prof. Schuler have not only been the leaders of their respective departments at the Leipzig Heart Center for more than two decades, but also succeeded in attracting and sustaining a school of intelligent and motivated young doctors and scientists together with whom they alternated in generating the most highly ranked scientific output of all departments of the medical faculty of the Leipzig University. Many of their former trainees, postdocs, and fellows have long since moved on to responsible positions all over Germany and abroad but others followed. The Leipzig Heart Center is one of the best addresses in Europe both for the treatment of patients as well as for training and research of medical doctors and scientists alike.
Under the leadership of Prof. Mohr, the Leipzig Heart Center is now one of the world's leading centers for cardiology and cardiac surgery with a reputation for pioneering cardiac surgery, innovative combinations of surgical and interventional techniques, and groundbreaking research.
As a council member and president of the German Society for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Prof. Mohr always advocated a closer cooperation with the German Society for Pediatric Cardiology. One of the results of this future-oriented work is the realization of the scientific congresses of both societies at the same venue at the same time, allowing for closer medical and scientific exchange and cooperation.
The great visionary and wise statesman now turns an elder statesman.
As the president of the German Society for Pediatric Cardiology, I thank Prof. Mohr for his invaluable medical and scientific contributions in the field of pediatric cardiology and his support of the cooperation of our respective scientific societies.
Personally, I thank him for all his generous support and good advice given to a junior, sometimes impatient, sometimes awkward, but always loyal pediatric cardiologist.