Ralph J. Damiano Jr., MD, is the Evarts A. Graham Professor of Surgery and chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis and vice-chairman of the Department of Surgery. Born in White Plains, N.Y., Damiano graduated from Dartmouth College Summa Cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa, majoring in biology. Damiano received his medical degree from Duke University, where he was elected to Alpha Omega Alpha. He went on to complete both his general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery training at Duke University Medical Center. During this time, Damiano received a National Research Service Award from the NIH for his work on the surgical treatment of arrhythmias.
Damiano’s first faculty appointment was at the Medical College of Virginia from 1989 to 1996. During his tenure, he rose through the ranks to associate professor of surgery and was named director of surgical electrophysiology and the Cardiothoracic Surgical Research Laboratories. Damiano also was medical director of the Medical College of Virginia/Richmond Memorial Hospital Heart Program.
In 1996, Damiano was appointed professor of surgery and chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Milton S. Hershey Medical Center at Penn State University. At Penn State, he was co-director of the Cardiovascular Center and was appointed professor of cellular and molecular physiology. In 2000, Damiano was appointed chief of the Section of Cardiac Surgery in the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Washington University in St. Louis. In 2005, he was named vice chairman for clinical services in the Department of Surgery. In May 2014, Damiano was appointed Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and assumed the Evarts A. Graham Professorship.
Damiano has authored more than 300 scientific publications and given more than 450 invited lectures around the nation and the world. His major contributions have been in the area of myocardial preservation during heart surgery, surgical electrophysiology, and minimally invasive cardiac surgery. He has been associate editor of the Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, and is on nine other editorial boards. He was recently named editor-in-chief of the journal Innovations. He has been a member of the Bioengineering, Technology and Surgical Sciences Study Section at the NIH. Damiano is past president of the Society of Clinical Surgery, the Cardiac Surgical Biology Club, and the International Society for Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery. He has been on the program committees of the AATS, STS and International Society of Minimally Invasive Cardiac Surgery. He has been chairman of the Education Committee of the AATS for four years. Damiano has been active in the teaching of medical students and residents. He was chosen as Clinical Teacher of the Year by the medical school class of 2007. In 2008, he was named physician “Healthcare Hero” by the St. Louis Business Journal.
Damiano has been a pioneer in the area of minimally invasive cardiac surgery. His developmental work on robotically assisted microsurgery for coronary artery bypass grafting (CABG) earned him a Computer World Smithsonian Award in June of 1997. Damiano performed the first robotically assisted CABG procedure in North America in December 1998. He completed the first prospective clinical trial in the world on robotically assisted CABG. Damiano also has been active in the surgical treatment of arrhythmias. His team at Washington University is world-renowned for its clinical and basic research on the surgical treatment of atrial fibrillation. His group has been continuously funded by the NIH for over 30 years in this area and they have developed the gold-standard surgical procedure, the Maze operation, which has been adopted around the world. Recently, his group has developed a less-invasive procedure for atrial fibrillation that is more widely applicable to patients with this arrhythmia. Dr. Damiano also is the PI of the Cardiothoracic Surgical Research Training Grant, one of only two training grants that have been awarded in the US for Cardiothoracic Surgery.