Dell Medical School appoints first chief to new cardiovascular and thoracic surgery division

Ireland Blouin, Senior News Reporter

Dr. George Arnaoutakis began his position as the first chief of the Dell Medical School’s new cardiovascular and thoracic surgery division on Jan 9.

Arnaoutakis is a cardiovascular and thoracic surgeon focused on aortic and valvular heart disease. His work focuses on treating patients with aneurysms, aortic dissections and diseased heart valves. Prior to coming to UT, Arnaoutakis served as an associate professor at the University of Florida College of Medicine. Along with leading the new surgery division, he will also take on the role of physician executive of adult cardiovascular and thoracic surgery for Ascension Texas.

The cardiovascular and thoracic surgery division was originally formed three years ago to act as a counterpart to Dell Med’s pediatric congenital heart program that focuses on the pediatric side of cardiovascular health. Arnaoutakis’s appointment marks the start of the division’s work.  

“We did not have a complement in adult cardiothoracic surgery, and so the timing was right for us to, with the success of the pediatric program, build on that … to develop a complimentary adult cardiothoracic surgery,” said Kevin Bozic, chair of surgery and perioperative care at Dell Med.

Arnauotakis was recruited by Dr. Charles Fraser Jr., executive director for the Texas Center for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease. Fraser first met Arnauotakis when he was a resident at Johns Hopkins and was able to follow his career path. 

“He truly is a person who can work with people and listens to people and wants to be fair and build consensus around decisions and things,” Fraser said. “He enjoys a reputation of being a really good clinical doctor and clinical surgeon and that, of course, is the whole deal. He has focused his career on complex aortic disease and is involved in some novel, leading-edge therapies and investigation of therapies.”

The search for this position took the team about three years, Bozic said. Dell Med had a specific list of criteria they felt this leader needed in order to build the division.

“We were looking for a unique type of leader that had the clinical skill and reputation to be respected by his or her peers in the clinical community,” Bozic said. “Someone that could understand and capitalize on this unique opportunity. Someone who could inspire and build and grow a team around him or her, and Dr. Arnauotakis was far and away the most impressive candidate in that regard.”

With the beginning of this division comes a multitude of new opportunities for students to improve their clinical skills and better options for patients, Arnaoutakis said. 

“The unique opportunity is to be part of a team led by Dr. Fraser and a department led by Dr. Bozic to build an academic, cardiovascular and thoracic surgery program at an institution with such academic prowess as the University of Texas,” Arnaoutakis said. “And to develop not just cutting edge technology opportunities for patients with advanced heart disease but also to develop a research portfolio partnering with collaborators throughout the institution.”