January 01, 2014

Francis D. Pagani, MD, PhD: Heart surgeon, clinician, winter sports enthusiast

Francis D. Pagani, MD, PhD
What do you do at UMHS?

I am a heart surgeon in the Department of Cardiac Surgery.

What do you enjoy most about your work?

The environment is very stimulating. We are a complex community with diverse people, missions and talents. The level of clinical challenges we encounter in the care of our patients always provides continuing opportunities for professional growth.

When you’re not working, what do you do?

Spending time with my family is my top priority. I also enjoy a number of winter sports, like skiing and mountaineering, photography and reading, particularly about historical events and people.

What moment in the lab/classroom/clinic stands out as the most memorable?

Not one particular moment, but working in the field of heart transplant, we have the privilege of greatly influencing the health and lives of many people. It is always great to receive emotional appreciation from one of our patients for the work that our team does.

Who had the greatest influence on your career path?

My former mentor and thesis advisor, Dr. Richard Gillis. I have never met a scientist who loved science for the sake of science as much as he did and never met someone so dedicated to helping his students. It was a real privilege to have had the opportunity to study under him. His office was filled with stacks and stacks of journal articles and he would never hesitate pulling one out and reviewing the work with us.

What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?

Ken Dryden, who was a professional hockey player for the Montreal Canadians, gives great advice in his autobiography, The Game. He left the NHL at the peak of his career to pursue other interests, but gives a lot of insights into knowing when to personally acknowledge our potential limitations as we pass through different phases of our careers. I think it is very relevant for a surgeon.

What was the last book you read?

Sleepwalkers by Christopher Clark, a book about events leading up to World War I. It is very insightful about human nature in general and has implications for our leaders today. It is amazing how those events have shaped much of what the world is today.

What was the best meal you’ve ever had?

I have had too many good meals to count; that’s why I have to exercise so much. I never say no to an authentic Italian meal.