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Our History
Clarence Dennis, M.D.

Clarence Dennis, M.D.

The 9th Chairman of the Department of Surgery at SUNY Downstate Medical Center was Dr. Clarence Dennis (1951 to 1972), an outstanding surgical educator and innovator who contributed to the development of the cardio-pulmonary bypass machine. Under his leadership, the first open heart operation in New York City was performed by the Downstate Surgery Faculty at the Kings County Hospital Center on June 30th, 1955. It was the second successful operation ever to be performed in the U.S at that time. Dr. Dennis' s cardio-pulmonary bypass machine is now part of the permanent collection at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, D.C.

Dr. Randall B. Griepp was the next Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery (1976-1985) at SUNY Downstate Medical center before becoming the Chairman of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Mount Sinai Medical Center.

The SUNY Cardiothoracic fellowship program is one of six training programs in New York City was created by Dr. Randal Griepp 30 years ago with “fellowship” training of two residents each year. In 1986, under the direction of Dr. Joseph Cunningham, the program was “regionalized” to include both major cardiac centers in Brooklyn, SUNY Downstate Medical Center and Maimonides Medical Center as well as training in non-cardiac thoracic surgery at Kings County Hospital and the Brooklyn VA Medical center.

We are proud of our Distinguished Alumni of the cardiothoracic surgery residency program who are leaders in their fields and continue to contribute to education, clinical excellence and research over the years.