20 Most Innovative Pediatric Surgeons Alive Today

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Updated on April 3, 2023
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All parents hope that their children have healthy and happy childhoods free of serious medical issues. However, a significant number of children require specialized medical care every year. Listed here are the 20 most innovative pediatric surgeons alive today. Each one of these surgeons (presented here in alphabetical order according to last name) changed the field of pediatric medicine forever, saving the lives of many children around the world. In building this list, we looked for individuals who've pioneered significant pediatric surgical procedures, or who have contributed to the field in some other widely recognized revolutionary fashion.

1. Scott P. Bartlett, M.D., Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Dr. Scott Paul Bartlett is a pediatric surgeon with The Curtis Center and the director of the Craniofacial Program at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP). He is the professor of plastic surgery at the Perelman School of Medicine at The University of Pennsylvania. He is also the current president of the International Society of Craniofacial Surgery. Dr. Bartlett specializes in facial palsy, mohs reconstruction and craniomaxillofacial surgery. His innovative research has changed the field of pediatric plastic surgery. His current research includes using 3-D imaging measurement techniques to define deformities associated with synostosis and hemifacial microsomia. He is also developing novel forms of single suture synostosis. Dr. Bartlett currently holds patents on novel soft tissue implants and methods of draining and filling soft tissue implants.

2. Stephen Bolsin, M.D., Anesthesiology

While technically an anesthesiologist and not a surgeon, Dr. Stephen Bolsin has contributed substantially to the world of pediatric surgery. He became an anesthesia consultant at the British Royal Infirmary in 1989. From 1991 until 1996, he was the National Audit Coordinator for the Association of Cardiothoracic Anaesthetists of Great Britain and Ireland. In 1996, he served as the director of the Department of Perioperative Medicine at the Geelong Hospital in Victoria.

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Soon after beginning his career as a consultant at the British Royal Infirmary, Dr. Bolsin noticed that there were many babies dying during heart surgery. After six years collecting data and attempting to improve outcomes, the hospital began to see a fall in mortality rates from 30% to less than 5%. After the hospital refused to investigate the pediatric cardiac surgeons, Bolsin contacted the media. These whistleblower actions resulted in an investigation by the government as well as the drafting of the Kennedy Report, the first major document outlining areas of reform of clinical governance in the hospitals of the UK. Following the investigation, Bolsin left the UK and began to work to improve patient safety in Australia.

3. Redmond Burke, M.D., Cardiac Surgery

Dr. Redmond P. Burke is the founder of the Congenital Heart Institute at the Miami Children’s Hospital and the Arnold Palmer Hospital in Florida. Dr. Burke was a pioneer in pediatric cardiac surgery, performing the world’s first endoscopic vascular ring division and the world’s first thoracic duct ligation at Children’s Hospital Boston. He also performed the United States’ first minimally invasive repair of the patent ductus arteriosus. He performed New England’s first three pediatric heart-lung transplants. Burke also developed a series of thoracoscopic surgical instruments for use in minimally invasive pediatric cardiac surgery. At only 36, he became the chief of pediatric cardiovascular surgery at Miami Children’s Hospital, where he continued to be a pioneer in the field. His specialization was the reduction of trauma by developing less invasive treatments for heart defects. Recently, he developed a transcatheter pulmonary valve and performed the first open tricuspid valve replacement on a patient with a transcatheter valve.

4. K. M. Cherian, M.D., Cardiac Surgery

Dr. K. M. Cherian is a cardiac surgeon in India and the United States. He has worked at Christian Medical College Hospital in Vellore, the University of Oregon, and the Yangzhou University in China. He is currently the chairman and CEO of the International Centre for Cardio Thoracic and Vascular Diseases and the Dr. K. M. Cherian Heart Foundation at the Pushpagiri Institute of Medical Sciences and Research Centre in India. From 1990 to 1993, he was the honorary surgeon to India’s president. He has performed over 36,000 surgeries, including India’s first heart transplant after brain death, the first bilateral lung transplant, India’s first pediatric heart transplant and the nation’s first heart and lung double transplant. As a humanitarian gesture, Dr. Cherian operated on 20 Iraqi children with complex heart defects. He is the first and only member from India of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery. He is also a Fellow of the Royal Society of Medicine in London, England.

5. Frederic Deleyiannis, M.D., Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

Dr. Frederic Deleyiannis is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon for the University of Colorado Anschutz Medical School. He is also an associate professor of plastic surgery for the school. Dr. Deleyiannis is the director of the Cleft Lip and Palate Program and the Director of Craniofacial Microsurgery and Trauma in the Pediatric Plastic Surgery department at the Children’s Hospital of Denver. He also volunteers as a plastic surgeon with Children of the Americas, Inc., providing surgical care to children in need in Guatemala. He specializes in reconstructive surgery for children with cleft lip or traumatic injury. With his unique dual certification in plastic surgery and otolaryngology, he is also able to operate on the nose and ear. He has performed many complex reconstructions and microvascular surgeries on patients who experienced significant cancer-related surgery. He strives to improve the quality of life of every patient while also striving for cost-effectiveness. To date, Dr. Deleyiannis has published over 60 articles focusing on plastic surgery, cleft-craniofacial surgery and surgery of the head and neck.

6. Stephen Dolgin, M.D., General Surgery

Dr. Stephen Elliot Dolgin is a general pediatric surgeon with affiliations at Lenox Hill Hospital, North Shore University Hospital, Long Island Jewish Medical Center and the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children’s Medical Center of New York. He is also a professor of surgery and pediatrics at the Hofstra NS-Long Island Jewish Medical School. He is a leading researcher on pediatric inflammatory bowel disease, ovarian pathology and neonatal surgery. His innovative research helped in maximizing ovarian salvage during the treatment for pediatric idiopathic adnexal torsion as well as new treatments for neonatal ovarian masses.

7. Dr. Francois Fontan, M.D. and Dr. Guillermo Kreutzer, M.D., Cardiac Surgery

Dr. Francois Fontan and Dr. Guillermo Kreutzer are pediatric cardiac surgeons who pioneered a surgical treatment for tricuspid atresia now known as the Fontan Procedure or the Fontan/Kreutzer Procedure. This procedure is most commonly used in infants and toddlers with significant heart defects. Most children referred for this procedure only have one effective heart ventricle due to defects, a condition such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome, or previous heart surgery. With this procedure, Dr. Fontan was the first surgeon in the world to completely bypass the right heart. He was also the first to channel the IVC and SVC blood towards the pulmonary arteries. Kreutzer offered modifications to the procedure allowing for continuity of the pulmonary arteries. This procedure has drastically reduced mortality from the tricuspid atresia. Prior to the development of the Fontan Procedure, only a third of patients lived to 12 months of age and only 10% were still alive at 10 years old. Since the development of the Fontan Procedure, most patients survive well into the third or fourth decade of life.

8. Bill Frist, M.D., General Surgery and Thoracic Surgery

Dr. William Frist was both a heart and lung transplant surgeon and the two-term senator from Tennessee. A graduate of the Harvard Medical School, he began training in cardiovascular physiology while working at a research lab at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He was a senior registrar in cardiothoracic surgery at the Southampton General Hospital in England and the chief resident in cardiac transplant and cardiothoracic surgery at the Stanford University School of Medicine. Dr. Frist developed the heart and lung transplantation program at the Vanderbilt University Medical Center. He also founded the Vanderbilt Transplant Center. In his career, he has performed over 150 heart transplants and lung transplants, with many patients being pediatric patients. A significant number of Dr. Frist’s transplants have been combined heart and lung transplants. He is the United States’ leader in heart and lung transplants and has saved the lives of many children and adults with his innovative surgical techniques.

9. Michael R. Harrison, M.D., Fetal Surgery

Dr. Michael Harrison is a professor of surgery and pediatrics at the University of California, San Francisco Fetal Treatment Center, where he was the founder and now also serves as director emeritus. He previously served as the chief of pediatric surgery at the same hospital. He is a world-renowned expert on fetal surgery. In 1981, Dr. Harrison performed the first open fetal surgery in order to correct an advanced urinary tract obstruction. He developed and pioneered the use of fetendo and fetal image-guided surgery in order to correct birth defects in fetuses using pregnancy. Widely known as the “Father of Fetal Surgery”, Harrison published the comprehensive textbook on prenatal therapy, The Unborn Patient: Prenatal Diagnosis and Treatment. His Fetal Treatment Center has treated over 15,000 birth defects, including the first open fetal surgery for congenital diaphragmatic hernia and the first resection of a fetal sacrococcygeal teratoma. He also developed a uterine stapling device, and radiotelemitters to monitor fetal conditions during surgery.

10. Münci Kalayoğlu, M.D., Transplant Surgery

Dr. Münci Kalayoğlu is the head of the organ transplantation and general surgery department at Istanbul’s Memorial Hospital. Previously, he worked at the Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh and founded the Liver Transplantation Program at the University of Wisconsin. A leading pediatric surgeon, Dr. Kalayoğlu has performed more than 1,500 liver transplants, including Wisconsin’s first liver transplant, the state’s first reduced-size liver transplant, the first cluster transplant, the first adult-to-adult living donor liver transplant, the first pediatric liver transplant and the transplant on the state’s smallest liver transplant recipient. He also performed Wisconsin’s only separation of conjoined twins. He also pioneered the use of the Belzer UW organ preservation solution in clinical liver transplantations.

11. Jessica Kandel, M.D., General and Vascular Surgery

Dr. Jessica Kandel is the surgeon-in-chief for The University of Chicago Medicine Corner Children’s Hospital, as well as the hospital’s professor of surgery and the vice-chair of pediatric surgical services. Dr. Kandel has also worked for the Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston Children’s Hospital and Columbia University. She founded the Vascular Anomalies Group at the University of Columbia in order to treat pediatric hemangiomas, lymphatic tumors and vascular malformations. She was the first to describe tumor suppression by blocking the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor molecule. This tumor suppression drug was marketed as Avastin and is used to treat colorectal cancer in adults as well as several types of adult and pediatric tumors. She has also recently developed a novel mouse model of lymphatic malformations.

12. Tomoaki Kato, M.D., Transplant Surgery

Dr. Tomoaki Kato is the surgical director of adult and pediatric liver and intestinal transplantations at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital and the Columbia University Medical Center. He is also the professor of surgery at the Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons. Previously, Dr. Kato was the director of pediatric liver and gastrointestinal transplant at the University of Miami School of Medicine. Dr. Kato is a pioneer in multiple-organ transplantation, as well as a world-renowned surgeon for pediatric and adult liver transplants. He performed the first human partial bladder transplantation by transplanting two kidneys with ureters connected to a patch of a donor bladder. He also performed a six-organ transplant in order to excise an abdominal tumor. He developed the Auxillary Partial Orthotopic Liver Transplantation procedure, known as APOLT in order to resuscitate failing livers by attaching partial donor livers. He has written over 180 articles in peer-reviewed journals.

13. Burton J. Kushner, M.D., Pediatric Opthalmology

Dr. Burton Kushner is a pediatric ophthalmologist specializing in the treatment of strabismus. He is the director of pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus service at the University of Wisconsin-Madison Medical School. He is also the founding editor-in-chief for the Journal of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. He pioneered research and surgery for strabismus and demonstrated marked improvement in the visual fields of those recovering from strabismus surgery using his techniques. He also pioneered corticosteroid treatment in order to treat periocular capillary hemangioma as well as contributed research on the elucidation of torsional in patients with diplopia.

14. John G. Meara, M.D., D.M.D., Craniofacial Surgery and Global Health

Dr. John Meara is the associate professor of surgery and the associate professor of global health and social medicine at the Harvard Medical School. He is also the plastic surgeon-in-chief at Children’s Hospital Boston. He is the director of the Paul Farmer Global Surgery Fellowship program in order to train doctors and community leaders and make surgical care, education and research on craniofacial anomalies accessible around the globe. He performs craniofacial surgeries at the Advanced Fetal Care Center of Children’s Hospital Boston in order to treat cleft lip and palate as early as possible, increasing the likelihood of positive outcomes and reducing the risk of feeding and speech complications. He pioneered research in the economic impact of surgical interventions in third world and low-income countries. He also developed programs to research the quality, safety and effectiveness of cleft lip and palate surgery in low-income nations. His primary practice goal is to reduce the burden of significant surgical diseases around the world so that appropriate care is affordable and accessible to children in any country.

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15. Henry Metz, M.D., Pediatric Opthalmology

Dr. Henry Metz is a pediatric ophthalmologist and serves on the medical advisory board for the Better Vision for Children Foundation. Previously, he was the chair of the ophthalmology department at the University of Rochester Eye Institute, the editor-in-chief of the Journal of Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus and the president and lecturer at the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. He pioneered research into the use of botulinum toxin in the treatment of strabismus and unilateral acute sixth-nerve palsy. Botulinum toxin therapy drastically changed how optical disorders were treated, sharply decreasing the number of complications and poor outcomes in cases of strabismus and other congenital eye defects. He also heavily contributed to research on the saccadic velocity measurements in internuclear ophthalmoplegia.

16. Marilyn T. Miller, M.D., Pediatric Opthalmology

Dr. Marilyn Miller is a pediatric ophthalmologist who specializes in the treatment of strabismus and congenital eye disease. She is the leading female researcher and practitioner in the field, serving as the first president of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus and the first female board member of the American Academy of Ophthalmology. She is a professor of ophthalmology at the University of Illinois Eye and Ear Infirmary, where she also served as the director of pediatric ophthalmology and adult strabismus service from 1984 through 2002. She also served as the editor-in-chief for the Journal of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus and president of the American Ophthalmological Society. She was the first to describe associations between Duane syndrome and dyslexia, thalidomide toxicity and first trimester anomalies. She also pioneered research on Mobius syndrome, fetal alcohol syndrome and Parry-Romberg syndrome. In the 1990s, her work on eye motility problems in children with thalidomide toxicity also contributed to research into the cause of autism spectrum disorders. She has treated patients all over the world, focusing on Nigeria.

17. John Pratt-Johnson, M.D., Pediatric Opthalmology

Dr. John Pratt-Johnson is a pediatric ophthalmologist specializing in blindness prevention. He is a professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia in the ophthalmology department. He also served as the president of the American Association for Pediatric Ophthalmology and Strabismus. He was the co-writer for the highly used textbook for managing strabismus, amblyopia and other optical disorders, Management of Strabismus and Amblyopia: A Practical Guide. He was on the board of directors for Seva where he helped to build medical facilities and train ophthalmologists in Nepal to treat and prevent blindness. He frequently served in third world and impoverished nations, providing surgical expertise and education on blindness prevention.

18. Mohammed Rela, M.D., Transplant Surgery

Dr. Mohammed Rela is one of the world’s top liver transplantation surgeons and specializes in pediatric liver transplantation. He is the head of the liver, pancreatic diseases and transplantation department at the Global Hospitals and Health City Group in Chennai. He is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons. He also worked at the King’s College Hospital where he was actively involved in liver transplantation. He pioneered the split liver transplantation technique. He has performed more than 1,200 liver transplantations, including one on a five-day-old female. He performed the first living related liver transplant, which was performed on an 18 month old girl with a prognosis of only 48 hours to live prior to the operation. Dr. Rela successfully performed a liver transplant on a four-year-old with terminal stage liver cancer. Dr. Rela also pioneered the swap liver transplantation for adults. He also performed six liver transplants and a bone marrow transplant on one patient. He is known in India and around the world for successfully performing highly complex surgeries to save the lives of very young children.

19. Anthony Sandler, M.D., Pediatric Surgery

Dr. Anthony Sandler is the chief of pediatric surgery at Children’s National Medical Center. He is also a lead investigator for the Children’s Research Institute and the Center for Cancer and Immunology Research. At George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, he is the professor of surgery and pediatrics. He is currently leading research on tumor immunology in order to investigate immunotherapeutic strategies to treat tumors. This work is being supported by the National Institutes of Health. Dr. Sandler developed TLR agonists for use with tumor vaccine therapies in order to target the activation of host immunity. He is known around the world for his innovative techniques in the area of surgical repair of gastrointestinal tract congenital anomalies.

20. Mark Urata, D.D.S., M.D., Plastic and Craniofacial Surgery

Dr. Mark Urata is the head of the plastic surgery division at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He is also the co-director of the Cleft Team at Los Angeles’ Shriner’s Hospital. Dr. Urata has previously served as the director of craniofacial surgery and medial director of plastic surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles. He is double board-certified in plastic surgery and oral and maxillofacial surgery. Dr. Urata holds medical and dental degrees, making him able to operate on otherwise extremely difficult craniofacial cases. He is a specialist in complex craniofacial anomalies such as craniosynostosis, Treacher-Collins syndrome and Apert syndrome. He is also a specialist in the reconstruction of jaw deformities. Dr. Urata is the lead researcher for the International Craniofacial Children’s Fund in order to provide complex surgeries to children with severe craniofacial abnormalities in low-income nations. He also works with the Teledentistry/Telecraniofacial Program in order to work with underserved populations using state-of-the-art technology. He strives to make sure that all children with severe and complex craniofacial abnormalities receive the treatment needed for survival and increased quality of life, especially in for children who could not otherwise afford treatment.

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