Patient Care

Prasad Joins UR Medicine as Chief of Cardiac Surgery

Jun. 23, 2016

Sunil M. Prasad, M.D., has been appointed chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center. He will lead the cardiac surgery program at Strong Memorial Hospital and will serve as associate professor of Surgery in the School of Medicine and Dentistry, pending approval of the University’s Board of Trustees.

After medical school at the University of Illinois, Prasad trained in cardiothoracic surgery at the Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital. He was later appointed to the medical school’s faculty and served as an attending heart surgeon at Barnes-Jewish Hospital, whose program in adult cardiology and heart surgery is ranked 14th in the nation by U.S News and World Report.

While Prasad performs a range of complex surgical procedures, including heart transplants, he has special expertise in the use of mechanical devices to help patients who are in heart or respiratory failure. He led Barnes-Jewish Hospital’s program in ECMO, or extra corporeal membrane oxygenation, a technique that uses a mechanical device to oxygenate the blood when the heart or lungs are failing. Prasad has helped pioneer the next generation of ECMO, known as “walking ECMO,” which uses portable devices that allow patients to get out of bed and walk with their device, often reducing complications and improving outcomes. He was recently the senior author of a review on the use of walking ECMO in the journal JAMA Surgery.

Prasad also has extensive expertise in the use of left ventricular assist devices, or LVADs, which help to circulate blood through the body when the heart is unable to pump properly. LVADs typically are used to support patients who are in heart failure while they await a heart transplant.

Immediately prior to joining UR Medicine, Prasad served for two years as director of ECMO/LVAD at Mercy Springfield Hospital, in Springfield, Mo.

“Dr. Prasad is an outstanding addition to our team, bringing a wealth of experience in surgical treatment for people with life-threatening heart disease,”said David C. Linehan, M.D., chair of the Department of Surgery and Seymour I. Schwartz Professor in Surgery.

“UR Medicine is known for its leadership in comprehensive heart care, said Prasad. “I want to complement and build upon the team to make the program even better.”

During his medical training, Prasad was attracted to heart surgery because it combined a hobby with professional skills. He enjoys mechanics and repairing cars, and said that “heart surgery is a natural fit for me because it integrates the engineering mind into medicine. The heart is essentially a pump and it makes a lot of sense to me because it is the engine of the body.” He often uses automotive analogies to explain advanced disease or heart trauma to patients and their families, which brings clarity during difficult situations.

Prasad has published more than 40 academic papers on topics including the prevention of complications from LVADs, the use of radiofrequency ablation to treat atrial fibrillation, and ways to improve the preservation of donor hearts used in transplants. He serves on the Council on Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery for the American Heart Association.

Prasad succeeds George L. Hicks, M.D., who has served as chief of Cardiac Surgery since 1991. Hicks has been instrumental in bringing new technologies to advance cardiac surgery and improve patient outcomes. He will focus on education and training through the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry’s Cardiothoracic Surgery Residency Program.

“Dr. Hicks’ leadership has led to continuous advances in care and research, which are essential to our mission,” Linehan said. “His commitment to teaching and mentoring surgeons is unparalleled and a significant benefit to URMC residents.”