Dr. Bruce Reitz, chief heart surgeon at Johns Hopkins Hospital and the man who pioneered the heart-lung transplant, said yesterday he will leave Baltimore to direct the heart and chest surgery program at Stanford University.
He will begin work at Stanford in July, specializing in pediatric heart surgery, and in January will succeed his mentor, Dr. Norman Shumway, a world-renowned surgeon who performed the nation's first heart transplant 24 years ago.
Dr. Shumway, 69, will step down as chairman of Stanford's department of cardiac and thoracic surgery but will continue working there for some time, according to a Stanford spokesman.
Dr. Reitz, 47, trained under Dr. Shumway during the 1970s before Hopkins lured him in 1982 to become chief of its division of cardiac surgery.
While at Stanford, he not only learned the heart transplant technique but also got promising results trying heart-lung transplants in monkeys.
He performed the first successful procedure on a human patient in 1981. Two years later, he performed the first heart-lung transplant at Hopkins.
"It's an incredibly difficult decision because I've been very happy in Baltimore and been very happy at Hopkins," said Dr. Reitz, who did his internship at Hopkins. He said he pondered the Stanford offer for two months before giving official notice of his resignation Wednesday.
"It was a close call. I have a lot of emotional ties there and a lot of loyalty to the program where I trained. I also feel that I'll be able to concentrate more on the type of surgery I most like to do, which is pediatric surgery and transplantation."
Dr. Michael Johns, dean of the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, said yesterday the department would conduct a national search for a replacement but also has excellent candidates from within.
"One of the good things about Hopkins is that it has depth," he said, adding: "We're sorry to lose Bruce. He has contributed greatly over the last 10 years he has been here."
Dr. Reitz said the two institutions were "equally prestigious" in cardiac surgery but that Stanford offered some enticing advantages.
First, Stanford draws its transplant donors and patients from a larger area, performing 60 to 70 heart transplants each year compared to Hopkins' 20.
Dr. Reitz said that in the competition for organs and patients, Baltimore suffers somewhat because it is hemmed in by nearby population centers that also have prestigious transplant centers.