By Heather BERNSTEIN
He is an internationally renowned cardiac surgeon ... a pioneer in his field, having
perfected many life-saving - now standard - surgical procedures.
He is also a husband, father and a grandfather.
His name is Gerard Marcel Guiraudon, M.D., and Western New York is lucky to have him.
Dr. Guiraudon came to Buffalo in July 1996, having been named chairman of
Cardiothoracic Surgery for the Millard Fillmore Health System (MFHS).
Dr. Guiraudon (right) accepts the 1996 Distinguished Scientist Award during the North American Society of Pacing and Electrophysiology (NASPE) luncheon in Seattle, Washington. John Fisher, president of NASPE, presented the award to Dr. Guiraudon.
He also is serving as associate chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery for the SUNYAB School
of Medicine and Biomedical Sciences. Dr. Guiraudon has brought with him a love and passion
for his work. One might say he puts his heart into it.
I dont feel I can accept being mediocre, he said. I have high
standards for myself and I want to keep them there. Even when I was a young man I had a
very special drive. My colleagues have told me that I taught them not to give up on
patients too early; to keep thinking and trying new things ... maybe come up with a
solution. The difficulty for me is to give up.
Dr. Guiraudon is 65-years-young. The list of his accomplishments is a chronicle of most
of the significant achievements in heart surgery of the past 30 years.
Among them ... performing the first human heart transplant in Europe in 1968 and
pioneering the research and implementation of surgical procedures to correct heart
arrhythmia, a condition long thought unmanageable by surgery.
Dr. Guiraudon has pioneered numerous cardiac surgical techniques and has since taught these procedures to hundreds of other cardiac surgeons throughout the world.
For many, these accomplishments are reasons to consider retirement. To Dr.
Guiraudons way of thinking, its just the opposite.
I dont think Im ready to retire. Im still in sound intellectual
shape and physically, Im not doing badly. One thing I hate to hear about are people
who stop doing something because they have made a contribution, he said. The
intellectual process is that every time you solve a problem and move forward, the more you
realize its never-ending. The more you know about something, the more you desire to
know. The more you discover, the more that is left to discover. Its a state of
Dr. Guiraudon (far right) is photographed
during a 1972 cross country race in
He views the move to MFHS and the United States as both a personal and professional
challenge that he could not refuse.
Every time you move to a new place, especially to a new country, you find
contrasts and dramatic challenges, he explained. It gives you a great shake-up
in your mind and you look at things differently.
Dr. Guiraudon considers this type of opportunity a confidence-builder and one that has
made him an all-around better person. He also credits the support of the MFHS
administrative team for making his transition into Buffalo a smooth one.
Proof positive of this relationship is the surgery he conducted on a 14-year-old boy
from Louisiana in December 1996.
Dr. Guiraudon is one of only four cardiac surgeons in the United States (and the only
one in Western New York) who performs this procedure that corrects Wolff-Parkinson-White
Syndrome, a rare heart arrhythmia characterized by the sudden onset of a heartbeat of up
to 300 beats per minute, which can be severely disabling and even fatal.
The boy and his family flew to Buffalo specifically to have Dr. Guiraudon do the
surgery. This unique surgery, and its successful results, captured the attention of the
A native of France, Dr. Guiraudon was born in Paris in 1931. After graduating from high
school he entered an intensive 15-year program of medical education and training through
the Hospital of Paris.
At six-years-old, Gerard Guiraudon is
He received his Doctor of Medicine diploma from the French government in 1965 after
completing his doctoral thesis on lung transplantation.
He then commenced his academic career at the Faculty of Medicine in Paris, where he was a faculty member before accepting a position at the University of Western Ontario in London, Ontario, Canada. From there, Dr. Guiraudon made the move to Buffalo and MFHS.
His wife of 40 years, Colette, is still living in London, Ontario, continuing her
career as a pathologist.
He acknowledges the challenges of maintaining a long-distance relationship, but
supports the reasons behind it.
She (Colette) is a skilled pathologist, and she could not accept to have her
talents go unused. She will move to Buffalo as soon as she finds a suitable position
here, he explained.
We have known each other 45 years. Weve had our careers together as well as
medical school, residencies and internships. So its clear that medicine and careers
are really part of our lives.
The Guiraudons have three children. Their youngest daughter, Virginie, is a Ph.D.
student of political science at Harvard, currently on a one-year sabbatical in France.
The other two children, Valerie and Nicolas, reside full-time in Paris. Valerie is a
university teacher and Nicolas is a lawyer. Valerie is also the mother of seven-year-old
Although his career keeps him busy, Dr. Guiraudon does make time for several other
pursuits. He has an exercise regimen that involves biking and running, and he is a
downhill skier and an avid reader.
I love to read, he said. Its relaxing for me and I usually am
reading more than one book at a time. Different kinds of books have different
However, his lifes work is at the core of his daily existence. He said he
doesnt have time for much else, so he considers cardiac surgery his hobby as well as
Dr. Guiraudon says his lifes work is at the core of his daily existence.
Theres the saying that most people do their hobby better than their job, so
at least if its (cardiac surgery) my hobby, Im fine.
Dr. Guiraudon added that the promise of what the future holds for cardiac surgery is
one thing that keeps him going.
Essentially, Im living in the future, he said. Ive not
much interest in what Ive done before.
And the biggest reward of his professional career?
I am most proud of my involvement in surgery for cardiac arrhythmias (heart
beating too quickly), he said. At the beginning the field was unexplored, but
thanks to the efforts of cardiologists, scientists, electrophysiologists and pathologists
we were able to design surgical rationales and apply new surgical techniques to patients.
Intervention for cardiac arrhythmia is now a highly-efficient and active field.
Positive and productive involvement in a field is a very rewarding experience.
Its what I wanted to do with my life. You have to love what you do.
Heather Bernstein is with the Millard Fillmore Health
Photos courtesy of Dr. Gerard Guiraudon, Millard Fillmore Health System and PhotoPros.
Back to cover stories