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  • Dr. Paul J. Corso Jr.: 1944-2019

    Paul J. Corso Jr., MD, the longtime director and chairman of cardiac surgery at MedStar Washington Hospital Center, died Monday at his home. He was 74.

    Dr. Corso was recognized for his distinguished career with the Lifetime Achievement Award at Cardiovascular Research Technologies (CRT) 2019 in March.

    CRT Course Chairman Ron Waksman, MD, FSCAI, read a brief biography of Dr. Corso during the award presentation.

    According to the biography, Dr. Corso was born in Winchester, Virginia, in 1944, and grew up in Charles Town, West Virginia. He played in a rock band, The Twisters, while he was in high school. In a foreshadowing of his career, he watched his own appendectomy as a teenager through mirrors set up by his surgeon.

    Dr. Corso attended George Washington University, where he received his undergraduate degree in 1965 and his medical degree in 1969. He began his surgical residency at GWU Medical Center in 1969. He also joined the District of Columbia National Guard. At GWU Medical Center, he became chief surgical resident in 1974 and then chief thoracic and cardiovascular surgical resident. He became an instructor of surgery at GWU and remained a professor of surgery at the university throughout his career.

    After finishing his residency, Dr. Corso became chief of cardiovascular surgery at the Washington Veterans Administration Hospital in 1976 and was a consultant to the U.S. Air Force for thoracic surgery.

    He then moved across the street, literally, to Washington Hospital Center in 1978 and became a cardiac surgeon for Washington Regional Cardiac Surgery. He became director of cardiac surgery in 1994 and chairman of cardiac surgery in 2011.

    “Throughout the whole time, he put patients first and grew the staff at our hospital,” Waksman said.

    According to an obituary in The Washington Post, Dr. Corso was on a team of Washington Hospital Center surgeons who removed an unexploded bullet from the neck of a police officer who was wounded during the assassination attempt on President Ronald Reagan in 1981.

    Christian Shults, MD, a cardiac surgeon, was one of Dr. Corso’s last recruits to MedStar Washington Hospital Center (MWHC).

    “I did have a chance to talk to him yesterday, and he wanted me to express to you, to Ron, to all CRT, his gratitude for this wonderful award. He really appreciates it,” Shults told the audience at CRT after he and Janice Wolf, Dr. Corso’s longtime administrative manager, accepted the Lifetime Achievement Award on Dr. Corso’s behalf. “And on top of that, he wanted me to express to all the MedStar family that he still feels like the luckiest man on Earth to have been a part of this family for so long, to have had a hand in pushing forward the field in innovation. He’s been a wonderful mentor. He’s a fantastic person, and he is beloved by everyone who knows him.”

    A video tribute to Dr. Corso that was played during the ceremony opened with a statement he made for the hospital that sums up his view of MWHC and his own service as a cardiac surgeon.

    “When you say No. 1 hospital, the kind of services you’re going to get, no matter what your problem is, is going to be top-notch: hearts and diabetes, OB-GYN, cancer, orthopedics and neurosurgery,” he said. “And the only way you stay on the cutting edge is to continue to push the envelope to improve patient care, look for new ways to do things, new things to conquer, and innovate off those results. Where we stand today started with several people all committed to the same thing: All of our patients get top-quality care.”

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