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Renowned Cardiothoracic Surgeon Becomes Emeritus Professor

A pioneer in cardiothoracic surgery has returned to his roots at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine.

The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital recently installed Nicholas T. Kouchoukos, MD, as the first-ever John M. Shoenberg Emeritus Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery. The emeritus chair honors Dr. Kouchoukos’ legacy across BJC HealthCare, Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine, including more than 40 years with BJC and Washington University School of Medicine since his surgical residency in 1961.

The emeritus chair is a homecoming for Dr. Kouchoukos. He was the first chairholder of the John M. Shoenberg Endowed Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery. He served in that role from 1984 through the merger of Barnes-Jewish Hospital, until 1996, when he established his practice at Missouri Baptist Medical Center. The emeritus chair celebrates his return to Barnes-Jewish Hospital as a leader in cardiothoracic surgery and acknowledges the worldwide impact he has had on cardiac medicine.

“Installing an emeritus chair is a first for the Foundation and we could not be recognizing a more respected colleague or a finer physician,” says Bob Cannon, president of Barnes-Jewish Hospital and group president of BJC HealthCare. “The Foundation, the hospital, and Washington University School of Medicine come together to honor, celebrate and acknowledge Dr. Kouchoukos’ accomplishments with this emeritus chair.”

A Pioneer in Cardiothoracic Surgery

Dr. Kouchoukos graduated from Washington University School of Medicine and completed his general surgery residency at Barnes Hospital. He went on to complete his cardiothoracic surgical residency at the University of Alabama in Birmingham. 

In 1984, he became the surgeon-in-chief at Jewish Hospital, and vice-chairman of the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, until he entered private practice with an established group of cardiovascular and thoracic surgeons at Missouri Baptist Medical Center in 1996.

During his distinguished career, he wrote Cardiac Surgery, considered to be “the” textbook on adult and pediatric cardiothoracic surgery that is studied in medical schools around the world. He also has published more than 450 articles and has performed 13,000 open heart surgeries and thoracic aortic procedures.

Throughout his career, he has pioneered surgical techniques to improve aortic and valve surgeries. He remains involved in the practice of cardiothoracic surgery with special emphasis on the treatment of thoracic aortic disease and valve replacement and repair.

Training the Next Generation

Dr. Kouchoukos is a strong advocate for training the next generation of cardiothoracic surgeons. His dedication to the field inspired him and his wife, Judith, to make a lead gift to The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital to establish The Nicholas T. Kouchoukos Endowed Research Fellowship.

Washington University School of Medicine is widely regarded as the top cardiothoracic surgery training program in the country, and the Kouchoukos’ gift will create essential funds to educate more physicians in the face of a growing shortage of cardiothoracic surgeons.

“This gift highlights Dr. Kouchoukos’ commitment to refining the practice of medicine and teaching surgical skill and will support the medical center’s ability to attract and retain young, bright minds who are critical to the pipeline of new medical discoveries,” says Ralph Damiano Jr., MD, the Evarts Graham Professor of Surgery, and chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. “The Kouchoukos’ gift serves as an important catalyst to secure additional resources dedicated to educating the next generation of leaders in cardiothoracic surgery.”

The Impact of Philanthropy on Generations

The John M. Shoenberg Emeritus Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery stems from a long tradition of community leadership and philanthropy by the Shoenberg family and the Shoenberg Foundation. The Shoenbergs were instrumental in the success of the former Jewish Hospital and continue their generous support of health care in our community through The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

John M. Shoenberg, president of the Jewish Hospital of St. Louis from 1958 to 1963 and longtime board member, was only 59 when he died of a heart attack, which motivated his family to establish this endowed chair in cardiothoracic surgery.

“With this installation we are also celebrating and acknowledging the Shoenberg family whose generosity has made so much possible on this campus and beyond,” Cannon says. “The impact of their philanthropy over multiple generations has rippled worldwide—because it has quite literally fueled the discoveries and opportunities revealed by the work of Dr. Kouchoukos and many others. The Shoenberg family’s generosity, along with the collaboration and partnership between Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University, has resulted in innovative care that sets Barnes-Jewish and Washington University School of Medicine apart.”

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