AHA mourns passing of cardiac surgeon killed at hospital

By American Heart Association News

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The cardiac surgeon who was shot to death at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston was remembered by American Heart Association leaders Wednesday as a caring and brilliant man devoted to saving lives.

Michael J. Davidson, M.D., died Tuesday night from wounds sustained during a shooting at the Shapiro Cardiovascular Center at the hospital.

“He was a brilliant surgeon who was beloved by his patients and colleagues,” said American Heart Association President Elliott Antman, M.D., a longtime colleague and friend at Brigham and Women’s. “Countless patients have benefitted from his expertise, and he will be sorely missed.”

Nancy Brown, CEO of the American Heart Association, offered condolences on behalf of the organization.

“We are all so very saddened by the shocking and senseless loss of such a gifted surgeon who devoted his life to saving others,” Brown said. “Our thoughts and prayers are with his family during this terrible time.”

Davidson, 44, was shot(link opens in new window) twice by a gunman who had asked to see him at about 11 a.m., police said. The gunman then apparently killed himself.

“Dr. Davidson was a wonderful and inspiring bright light and an outstanding cardiac surgeon who devoted his career to saving lives and improving the quality of life of every patient he cared for,” said hospital President Betsy Nabel, M.D. “It is truly devastating that his own life was taken in this horrible manner.”

The hospital itself was in mourning Wednesday, with the flag flying at half staff, Employee Assistance Program staff standing by to help, and guest books where employees could leave condolences, memories and other messages. The Chaplaincy was holding a gathering Wednesday afternoon.

Antman and his colleagues worked very closely with Davidson regularly discussing complicated cases with him. “He was always available in the middle of the night, and he always came rushing in to help patients,” Antman said.

Davidson was well known for his focus on patients.

“He was an extremely technically skilled surgeon who was very well liked here because he took the time to talk with us about our patients and took the time to talk to patients and their families both before and after the operation.” Antman said. “Numerous patients have told us about how much they appreciated that extra time he spent with them.”

Davidson also was known as an innovator. He was part of the team that performed the hospital’s first tricuspid “valve-in-valve” procedure (link opens in new window), the  hospital said in a statement. And he was involved in establishing the hybrid operating room at Brigham and Women’s, which is considered one of the most advanced operating rooms in the country.

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The hybrid operating room enables heart teams to simultaneously perform multiple catheter-based and surgical procedures in the same setting. “Previously, you’d have one procedure in the cath lab and one in the OR,” Antman said. “But the hybrid OR makes this extremely efficient.”

Davidson’s colleagues at the Brigham praised his creative methods of treating valvular heart disease and thoracic aortic disease, both of which Davidson approached using cutting-edge medical devices.

“He was an outstanding example of the modern-day clinician-innovator,” Antman said, noting that Davidson embraced a team-based approach to treatment that served patients well. “He tackled some of the most challenging problems with great success.”

In 2012, Davidson gave two technical presentations during Scientific Sessions, the American Heart Association’s flagship scientific meeting. He also served on a panel discussing medical innovations.

AHA Chairman Bernie Dennis served on that panel with him, and he recalled how impressed he was after spending time with Davidson.

“He struck me right away as a smart, passionate and inquisitive young doctor who put patients first and loved what he did,” Dennis said. “He was really down to earth. I was really struck by his enthusiasm and how much he loved his patients. He was a great guy and this is a huge loss.”

Antman also remembered  being impressed by Davidson during that meeting.

“At Scientific Sessions he was able to speak to general cardiology audiences, surgical experts, and the general public, all in the same setting,” he said. “The groundbreaking work he has done has set the stage for others to carry on in in the fine tradition he established.”

Davidson was the director of endovascular cardiac surgery and the surgical director of the advanced valve and structural heart disease program. He also was an assistant professor of surgery at the Harvard Medical School.

Davidson graduated from Yale University School of Medicine and then trained at Duke University and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. In 2006, he joined Brigham and Women’s, which is a major teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School.

An avid runner who marked his 40th birthday by running the Boston Marathon, Davidson is survived by his wife, two young daughters and a young son. He was also remembered as a guitarist and fisherman(link opens in new window). His father, Robert M. Davidson, is a well-known cardiologist at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles.


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