Toby Cosgrove, MD, believes in what he calls “innovation trips”. These are visits to other institutions and organizations to see what they’re up to and learn from their best practices. In 1996, Dr. Cosgrove was Cleveland Clinic chairman of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. He made an innovation visit to Stanford University Medical School and came away convinced that it should be possible to perform heart valve surgery through a much smaller incision than the foot-long thoracotomy then required for cardiac surgery. He went into the lab and spent eight months developing a technique for doing minimally invasive valve surgery. In September 1996, he performed two minimally invasive valve surgeries back-to-back – live on a worldwide video hookup to 4,000 surgeons in 40 cities.
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Minimally invasive valve surgery had the advantage of less bleeding, less trauma, fewer infections and more rapid recovery. Over the next year, the technique was adopted around the world. Today at Cleveland Clinic, minimally invasive valve surgery is the preferred method of operation when possible. Dr. Cosgrove, now CEO and president of Cleveland Clinic, was first.