New Chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Announced

December 12, 2001
News Office: Janet Basu (415) 502-6397

Dr. Tom R. Karl, a specialist in surgical treatments for highly complex heart problems in newborns and children, has joined the UCSF School of Medicine and UCSF Children's Hospital as chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery. Karl will take the title of professor of surgery and pediatrics, subject to approval by the UCSF Academic Senate. He arrived at UCSF on Nov. 12.

"We are delighted to welcome Dr. Karl. He leads the surgical team of Northern California's largest and most respected program for diagnosis, treatment and repair of children's heart defects," said Mark Laret, CEO of UCSF Medical Center.

Dr. Nancy Ascher, chair of the UCSF Department of Surgery, said, "Dr. Karl has established an international reputation as a superb surgeon and an innovative investigator. With his leadership, we are recruiting additional faculty to maintain our high standard of surgical treatment for congenital heart disease."

Karl spent six years as director and 10 years on the faculty of the cardiac surgical unit of Royal Children's Hospital, affiliated with the University of Melbourne, Australia. One of the largest and most prestigious pediatric cardiac surgical programs in the world, this hospital is a main referral center for children with serious heart defects from all of Australia, and its heart program's results in patient survival are among the best in the world. Karl returned to the United States in 1999 to join the cardiac surgery faculty at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, and comes to UCSF from there.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Karl received his medical and surgical training at SUNY Stonybrook, Yale and in the United Kingdom. Before joining the faculty in Melbourne, he came to know San Francisco and UCSF well during five years as a leading pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at Kaiser Permanente Medical Center here.

In addition to his extensive clinical experience, Karl has been active in research and has published more than 90 peer-reviewed articles. He delivers invited lectures on cardiothoracic surgery around the world, and assists in the delivery of care in third world countries.

"Dr. Karl is a worthy addition to UCSF's tradition of outstanding clinician scientists," said Dr. Haile Debas, dean of the UCSF School of Medicine. "In addition to his contributions in the operating room and in advancing knowledge about treatment of congenital heart disease, he will lead our pediatric cardiothoracic surgical training program, which trains some of the world's most promising children's heart surgeons."

Children's heart problems most often arise from congenital malformations of the heart and major blood vessels that occur during embryonic and fetal development. While malformations occur in patterns, each tiny heart with a defect is somewhat different from others -- they require great experience and far different treatments from the acquired cardiovascular disease that strikes most adults.

"At UCSF, we have a 30-year history of discoveries about the nature of congenital heart defects and advances in treatment and care," said Dr. Larry J. Shapiro, professor and chair of the UCSF Department of Pediatrics. "Parents bring children from Northern California and around the world to our pediatric cardiologists, pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons and teams of related doctors, nurses and other staff who specialize in children's heart care."

Karl arrives just as the UCSF Children's Hospital is inaugurating the Pediatric Heart Center, a program to make these services more easily accessible for patients, parents and referring physicians.

"There is a great team in place at UCSF for children with heart defects," Karl said. "I look forward to maintaining the high standard that has been set here."