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Dr. Albert Starr takes on new role at OHSU

Albert Starr, M.D., best known for co-inventing and implanting the world’s first successful artificial heart valve, is taking on a new role at OHSU as special adviser to OHSU Dean of Medicine Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A., and OHSU President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A. In his new position, Dr. Starr will leverage his extraordinary experience to enhance and build OHSU’s public and private partnerships in research, education, clinical care and outreach to improve the health of all Oregonians.

“Dr. Starr’s work has touched many families throughout Oregon,” said Dr. Robertson. “His work has been extraordinary. All of us at OHSU are proud and excited that he has chosen to spend this part of his career advancing our missions, and working for innovation and improvement of Oregonians’ cardiovascular health.”

Dr. Starr most recently was Director of Bioscience Research and Development at Providence Health System and medical Director Emeritus of the Providence Heart and Vascular Institute. His new role with OHSU begins July 25.

Through his many years of providing expert clinical care and his development of the groundbreaking Starr-Edwards heart value, Dr. Starr has saved and prolonged the lives of hundreds of thousands of people in Oregon and across the world. Dr. Starr is one of Oregon’s best-known surgeons – his work has had a beneficial impact on families in every corner of the state.

Dr. Starr joined OHSU in 1957, and from then until 1964, he led OHSU’s heart surgery program. In 1960, he and engineer M. Lowell Edwards invented the Starr-Edwards heart valve. Since then, he and thousands of surgeons across the world have placed his and subsequent heart valves into patients with valve disease. Dr. Starr led a joint cardiac surgery program for OHSU and Providence from 1964 until 1989, when he began to practice solely at Providence.

Dr. Starr was named a winner of the Albert Lasker Award for Clinical Medical Research – often called the U.S. equivalent of the Nobel Prize – in 2007 in recognition of the enormous impact his work has had on prolonging and enhancing lives of millions of people with heart disease.

“I have a personal desire to get back to the medical school to be involved in academic affairs,” said Dr. Starr, who had held an appointment as professor of surgery at OHSU for more than five decades. “St. Vincent provided me with a tremendous platform for my clinical activities for which I will be always grateful. But now I want to change my professional focus – from patient care to knowledge development. I feel like I can do more to contribute to cardiovascular innovation in the university setting.”

In his new role, Dr. Starr will serve as Distinguished Professor of Cardiovascular Medicine in the School of Medicine. He will work in an advisory role with Dr. Robertson and Dr. Richardson, as well as with Sanjiv Kaul, M.D., Distinguished Professor and Chief of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine at OHSU, to promote cardiovascular innovation and growth in Oregon.

“Dr. Starr’s innovative thinking about treatment of structural heart disease has been an inspiration to many clinicians and scientists. We look forward to the knowledge and experience that he brings to his new role in the School of Medicine as an educator and adviser,” said Dr. Richardson.

Dr. Starr’s close relationship with Edwards Lifesciences will enhance the work OHSU already is doing with percutaneous valves – a hybrid procedure for treating structural heart disease in which cardiologists and surgeons work as a team to implant heart valves or other devices using only limited access to the inside of the patient, replacing the need for open-heart surgery.

In addition, Dr. Starr’s contacts in the surgical and technical world can help OHSU grow its ventricular assist device program for end-stage heart disease. OHSU has one of the highest volumes west of the Mississippi for placing these small devices – like mini-hearts – into patients with heart failure so they can survive what is often a long wait for a heart transplant.

“There is so much that we all can learn from Dr. Starr,” said Dr. Kaul. “It will be wonderful to have him here as an adviser, teacher and colleague and help us to continue to build the cardiovascular program into one of the best in the country.”

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