Dr. Michael Ma Named Division Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery

by Lynn Nichols
February 7, 2024

The culmination of Michael Ma, MD’s exceptional education, skills, and experience recently earned him a prestigious appointment - division chief of Pediatric Heart Surgery with the Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health. The announcement reflects Dr. Ma’s deep commitment and appreciation for the culture of the Moore Children’s Heart Center, which unifies the cardiothoracic surgery team around improving the lives of children with groundbreaking, advanced cardiothoracic surgeries.

“My hope with this promotion is that I can help empower my colleagues to do their best work and flourish in their clinical specialties and research, so that together we can amplify what we as an institution can do to move the field of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery forward,” says Dr. Ma.

He credits Frank Hanley, MD, former division chief of Pediatric Heart Surgery and current executive director of the Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center, for growing the Heart Center at Stanford Children’s into a large, renowned center with several subspecialty programs. He calls Dr. Hanley a “titan in the field who has set the Heart Center on a path of great success” now and in the future. In his new role, he plans to build on the legacy of advances by optimizing them to fit the current climate of the field.

“We are entering a new era where 98% of the operating room discoveries in cardiothoracic surgery have been achieved. Our job now is to build on the work of our pioneers, achieve the remaining 2%, and open new worlds through technology and research,” Dr. Ma says.

He obtained his undergraduate degree in chemical engineering from Stanford University, then earned his medical degree from Columbia University. Upon graduation, he completed a research fellowship at UCSF. He also gained expertise in business management and consulting at Bain & Company, a global management consulting firm. Upon completing his residency and fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery and pediatric cardiac surgery at Stanford, he joined the Stanford Medicine Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery faculty in 2017.  

“I appreciate Stanford for its innovative and collaborative culture, one that allows quick translation of new technologies and therapies in a safe way for patients. We are really adept at connecting our day-to-day efforts caring for patients with our research efforts to care for them better in the not-so-distant future” he adds.

Dr. Ma is an outstanding pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon who never shies away from taking on highly complex cases, even those that are turned down by other prestigious children’s heart centers across the nation. He contributes greatly to the reputation of the Betty Irene Moore Children’s Heart Center to safely push the boundaries of care to give every child their best chance at living a full life. The Stanford Children’s team performed more than 3,000 pediatric heart surgeries from 2017 to 2021, compared to a national average of 1,230.

Dr. Ma is inspired by his patients’ successes. A wall in his office displays letters of appreciation and pictures of children who he operated on that are now healthy and thriving. It also pays tribute to the cardiothoracic surgeons who taught him how to perform highly specialized operations. For example, there’s an operation card from his first valve repair with Joseph Woo, MD, chief of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Stanford Medicine, and one for his first unifocalization procedure performed with Dr. Hanley.  

Dr. Ma’s areas of expertise include complex biventricular reconstruction - serving as surgical director of the program, which employs bold, creative surgical methods to reconfigure a child’s complex heart defect to create close to normal circulation. He also serves as the surgical director of the Pediatric Advanced Cardiac Therapies (PACT) Program (combined heart failure/heart transplant program) and as a cardiothoracic surgeon for the Pulmonary Artery Reconstruction Program at Stanford Medicine Children’s Health.

In his Cardiovascular Engineering Research Lab, he continues to advance closely related translational and clinical studies, with an emphasis on using sophisticated engineering principles to optimize contemporary therapies and develop novel surgical techniques. He has received funding from the NIH, AATS, the Maternal and Child Health Research Institute, and the Cardiovascular Research Institute.

“The challenge today in the Heart Center is figuring out how we can continue to push many areas of innovation while maintaining enough resources for our incredibly talented, smart faculty to carry out their passions,” Dr. Ma says.  

The announcement was made internally to colleagues and staff at Stanford Children’s Health, Stanford Health Care, and Stanford University School of Medicine on November 1, 2023 by Drs. Hanley and Woo. Leaders chose Dr. Ma for his talent and his commitment to continue the culture of clinical excellence, push frontiers of research, and build streamlined methods to meet those objectives. Please help us congratulate Dr. Ma on his new leadership role.

Dr. Michael Ma