Remembering Norman Shumway

Following are quotes from colleagues and friends of Norman Shumway, MD, PhD, who was known as the father of heart transplantation. Shumway, professor emeritus of cardiovascular surgery at the Stanford School of Medicine, performed the first U.S. heart transplant in 1968, and in 1981 performed the world’s first successful heart-lung transplant.

John Sheretz Norman Shumway chats with Michael Miraglia on his 80th birthday

At a 2003 reunion for Stanford heart transplant recipients, Norman Shumway (left) chats with Michael Miraglia, who received a new heart in 2002. The festivities that year also marked another milestone: Shumway’s 80th birthday.

Following are quotes from colleagues and friends of Norman Shumway, MD, PhD, who was known as the father of heart transplantation. Shumway, professor emeritus of cardiovascular surgery at the Stanford School of Medicine, performed the first U.S. heart transplant in 1968, and in 1981 performed the world’s first successful heart-lung transplant.

Robert C. Robbins, MD, professor and chair, Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery: “Dr. Shumway was one of the most charismatic and unique individuals that I have had the privilege of knowing. His pioneering spirit touched the lives of his patients, their families, his colleagues, trainees, friends and family. He enjoyed life and it was a great fun to simply be around him on a daily basis. His dedication to thoracic transplantation is one of the most remarkable examples of translational research that has led to the improvement of the health of generations of patients. His humility was impressive, given all that he accomplished and he will be sadly missed by so many people especially the cardiothoracic surgeons who were fortunate enough to be trained by the Boss.”

Marguerite Brown, RN, administrative director for the transplant center at Stanford and a colleague for 30 years: “He really deflected the credit to everyone else. He made everybody he encountered feel that they mattered and were very special. No matter what your station in life, he made you feel like your contribution was critical — his trainees, his colleagues, his staff.”

Edward Stinson, MD, professor emeritus of cardiothoracic surgery at Stanford: “I would say he’s one of the most inspirational individuals I’ve ever met — not only intellectually but in terms of his spiritual approach to the whole field. That’s of extraordinary importance to young people who came into contact with him. He was a spiritual father to all of the residents and especially to those who stayed on — the faculty like myself.”

William R. Brody, MD, PhD, president of Johns Hopkins University and a Shumway trainee: “He persevered, and I give him credit for it because a lot of people would have stopped. He was a brilliant man. He was a contrarian. He didn’t like the limelight. And probably the most remarkable thing was the amount of responsibility he gave young people, and the results proved him right .... The things I’ve learned from him I’ve carried forward in life: like don’t read what’s in the journals because you only learn what’s not possible; the ideas of giving people responsibility and holding them accountable, and the idea of making complicated processes simple.”

Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the Stanford University School of Medicine: “He developed one of the world’s most distinguished departments of cardiothoracic surgery at Stanford, trained leaders who now guide this field throughout the world and created a record of accomplishment that few will ever rival. His impact will be long-lived and his name long-remembered. We will miss Norm Shumway and the dignity and excellence that he brought to medicine and surgery — and to Stanford.”

Martha Marsh, president and CEO of Stanford Hospital & Clinics: “The far-reaching effect of Dr. Shumway’s enormous contribution to cardiac care is felt every day at Stanford Hospital & Clinics, and throughout the world. Whenever a patient is given a new chance at life through heart transplantation, we owe a debt of gratitude to Dr. Shumway for his vision, skill and compassion. The many surgeons whom Dr. Shumway trained throughout his long career will continue his work. At Stanford Hospital & Clinics we are proud to be the guardian of this distinguished legacy.”

Bruce Reitz, MD, the Norman E. Shumway Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Stanford and former chair of the department: “It was his ability to let other people shine and not take the spotlight. I think that is why so many are sad — because it’s the end of an era.”

Pat Gamberg, RN, transplant coordinator at Stanford and longtime colleague: “When I first started working in 1972, he would make a point of coming by my desk, just to make me feel welcome. He did that over the course of months. It really made me feel like I was a valuable member of the team …. He would always introduce someone as a valuable member of the team.”

Mary Burge, clinical social worker on the heart transplant team and a colleague for 25 years: “One thing I’m sure everybody will say is how incredibly generous he was with his knowledge and how encouraging he was of other surgeons, other people on the transplant team and how he was willing to teach people whatever he knew. I remember being extremely moved at the retirement party dinner for him when the people in the audience were asked, ‘If you are a surgeon trained by Dr. Shumway to stand and come forward.’ It felt to me as if 100 people — maybe half the room — stood up and moved to the front. I remember feeling so privileged to have been a part of this program that he started.”

Joan Miller, RN, transplant nurse coordinator at Stanford: “He made it look effortless. He will never take credit for what he’s done. He’s incredibly loyal and attached to the surgeons he worked with early on.”


Stanford Medicine integrates research, medical education and health care at its three institutions - Stanford University School of Medicine, Stanford Health Care (formerly Stanford Hospital & Clinics), and Lucile Packard Children's Hospital Stanford. For more information, please visit the Office of Communication & Public Affairs site at http://mednews.stanford.edu.

Leading in Precision Health

Stanford Medicine is leading the biomedical revolution in precision health, defining and developing the next generation of care that is proactive, predictive and precise. 

A Legacy of Innovation

Stanford Medicine's unrivaled atmosphere of breakthrough thinking and interdisciplinary collaboration has fueled a long history of achievements.