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Posted on Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 5:59 a.m.

Renowned U-M pediatric heart surgeon reflects on career milestone of 10,000 surgeries

By Amy Biolchini


University of Michigan pediatric cardiac surgeon Dr. Edward L. Bove recently performed his 10,000th surgery.

Melanie Maxwell I

For University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center surgeon Dr. Edward L. Bove, a handshake is all it takes to touch his heart.

Bove, 65, is no sap.

On the other end of that greeting was a healthy 17-year-old boy whose heart Bove operated on when the man was a two-day-old baby. Bove hadn't seen the boy since he left the hospital as an infant.

The boy came up to Bove at a recent reception and said to the doctor, "I've always wanted to meet you," Bove said.

Like many of his patients, the boy had a heart defect that Bove was able to fix through surgery.

Bove, a pediatric cardiac surgeon at U-M's Cardiovascular Center, recently acknowledged a career milestone of 10,000 surgeries at the hospital in Ann Arbor. The center as a whole performs about 850 surgeries each year.

Though the achievement was quietly completed at the end of March, once administrators discovered the tally they recently threw Bove a big surprise party to celebrate.

The vast majority of Bove’s patients are infants, he said. One some occasions, the patients return as older children when they need a follow-up surgery - as was the case recently.

Bove operated on a 12-year-old boy who he hadn’t seen since the boy was a tiny baby. He had replaced two valves in the boy’s heart - and since the boy had grown significantly, it was time for new, bigger valves to be installed.

When Bove began his career as a surgeon in 1985, success amongst pediatric cardiac surgeons was measured by survival rates.

“Almost all of those babies died,” Bove said. “The benchmark was trying to get them to live.”

As technological advances and research has advanced the field, mortality rates among patients have dropped dramatically, Bove said.

Throughout the first 15 years of his career, Bove said the field “really advanced to younger babies and smaller babies.” Instead of waiting until a child was old enough to handle a heart surgery, techniques advanced enough that Bove and other pediatric cardio surgeons can now operate on babies that only weigh a pound.

The focus of surgeons now is to follow their patients after their operations as infants to near-adulthood to see how the intensive surgery affects them later in life.

Babies often go straight from delivery to intensive care units, where they await surgery.

“There’s no question of the invasive nature of what we do,” Bove said, explaining how blood flow is virtually stopped for an hour during the operation.

Bove said he fell in love with cardiac pediatric surgery early during his time in medical school at Albany Medical College in New York.

A young patient with a heart defect that caused his skin to turn blue was introduced to Bove. As a part of his rounds, Bove examined the boy and listened to his heart sounds and was fascinated.

Later as a doctor, Bove said he encountered the same patient again -- and watched as a surgery changed the boy's skin color from blue to a healthy pink.

"I was hooked," Bove said.

There was no question in his mind about his career choice, Bove said. Growing up in New York City, Bove said he remembers his mother taking him to a large, impressive building downtown where doctors were held in high regard.

Bove said he doesn't view the 10,000 mark with as much pride as he does the 36 pictures that hang outside his office. Each of the pictures is a surgeon Bove has trained at the U-M Health System.

Operating on a person is "really a privilege," Bove said, and hasn't lost its brevity.

"It's not just the child's life, it's not just one patient, but a whole family," Bove said. "The hardest things are when the kids grow up and they have personalities."

The emotional and physical toll of being a surgeon keeps Bove on his toes.

"You can't have a bad day," he said.

Bove said he constantly evaluates his sharpness as a surgeon, and will step away from the operating table when he knows it's time to retire. But that's not coming anytime soon, he said.

"That's the best thing I can say about my career or my life: I wouldn't have changed anything," Bove said.

Amy Biolchini covers Washtenaw County, health and environmental issues for Reach her at (734) 623-2552, or on Twitter.



Mon, Aug 27, 2012 : 12:42 p.m.

For those without health insurance- pediatric surgery can be done in foreign countries (India for example) for about 20 cents on the dollar. So a $100,0000 procedure - where the surgeon pockets 40 grand- will cost you 20 grand (flight and hotel stay included).

Jill Lanham

Tue, Aug 14, 2012 : 6:24 p.m.

Words cannot express the depth of gratitude we feel for Dr. Bove. In 2009, he saved our 9 week premature daughter who was born with a rare congential heart defect. When she was 7 weeks old and barely 4 1/2 lbs, Dr. Bove took her to the OR and repaired her heart for the first time. We were told we would probably be back in a year, 18 months for another surgery. Our daughter made it until she was 2 1/2 before she needed Dr. Bove to replace the conduit in her heart and she is a thriving almost 3 1/2 year old today. Dr. Bove is such an asset to Mott and the knowledge he is imparting on all the future pediatric cardiology surgeons only adds to his legacy. He truly walks on water, but with such humbleness and compassion, I get very emotional just thinking of all the babies he has saved and those that were lost in the beginning of this specialty that allow children like my daughter to live full and normal lives.

Jeff Renner

Tue, Aug 14, 2012 : 12:06 p.m.

This really is a wonderful story. I have a question. Did Dr. Bove really not start his career until 1985? He would have been 38 then, which is remarkably late. I wonder if it was actually 1975.


Tue, Aug 14, 2012 : 12:49 p.m.

Not sure if the link is showing up- sorry. You can search the following: Rebuilding Babies' Hearts For pioneering pediatric cardiac surgeon Ed Bove, it's a life rich in joy and triumph, but sorrow and defeat are part of what he lives with, too by David Stringer


Tue, Aug 14, 2012 : 12:46 p.m.

This is another great article with more information

Rudra N Rebbapragada

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 5:53 p.m.

Time and Life Interactions: Thanks for sharing this great story and indeed it is a very remarkable career and service to help children to live their lives to the fullest extent that is possible. I recall the time that went by when my grandmother sadly announced the death of my young cousin after heart surgery. Those days, in India the physicians were able to correctly diagnose the heart condition but were not able to provide a surgical repair that is needed. My uncle, who had served in the British Royal Navy during World War II, took my cousin to England for his cardiac surgery. Times have changed and improvements in technology has improved the outcomes of surgical interventions. Those were the times we had to simply share the grief of loss and now we have a chance to experience the joy of seeing young children to grow and dream about their future.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 4:50 p.m.

He saved my niece's life in 1986. She is a healthy 28 year old today. My sister still talks about him and how kind and wonderful he was. Thanks Dr. Bove (as if that is enough for saving a life...or 10,000 in his case!)

Terra Neukam

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 3:21 p.m.

Congratulations to Dr. Bove! The University of Michigan Cardiovascular Center (CVC) is very proud of Dr. Bove's remarkable accomplishments. To honor him and ensure his legacy continues, the CVC is establishing the Edward L. Bove, M.D., Endowed Professorship in Cardiac Surgery. You can learn more about Dr. Bove and the endowed professorship at the below website. Also, we love to hear from those who have been impacted by Dr. Bove's work and welcome you to share your story on the website:


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 3:15 p.m.

This man is worth of all the accolades he is receiving. So many lives have been affected by his skills. Kudos to him!

Jamie Iseler

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:57 p.m.

Dr. Bove and his team repaired the hole in our son's heart 15 years ago and now he's a healthy 18-year-old young man looking forward to an active life. I'll never forget the moment that Dr. Bove came into the waiting room to let us know the surgery had gone perfectly. Thanks Dr. Bove, and congratulations on a wonderful career.

Rosie Lemons

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:18 p.m.

He operated on my son when my son was 5 years old. He was wonderful. I will be forever grateful.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:17 p.m.

We will forever be grateful to Dr. Bove for saving our son's life at 30 hours of age by performing his open heart surgery against all odds of survival. He performed another open heart surgery on our son at age 3. He is now 10 years old and in perfect health. God bless you Dr. Bove and congratulations of this wonderful milestone!


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:08 p.m.

We thank Dr. Bove for giving us almost 3 years with our precious son when in reality his life expectancy was supposed to be less than a year. This man has saved many precious lives, is "famous" in his field and yet he is one of the most kind, gentle and modest men we have ever met. Congratulations, Dr. Bove! Our family thanks you for all that you did for our son and his heart buddies. God bless you!

Theresa Taylor

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 1:47 p.m.

Dr. Bove did my last surgery in 2003, I've been a patient in Pediatric U-M Cardiology since 1977. He is a wonderful surgeon. The entire department is just terrific!! Dr. Gomez-Fifer and Dr. Rosenthal compliment this renowned hospital. I'm so lucky to have been a patient at the University of Michigan Hosptital. Congratulations, Dr. Bove!


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 1:06 p.m.

I've had the great fortune of meeting Dr. Bove on several occasions and he is truly a Great Human as well as a Surgeon. Congtats and here's to 10,000 more surgeries. Keep up the great work Dr. Bove! We are truly blessed to have him in our community.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 12:43 p.m.

Congratulation to Dr Bove for a long career. I'm sure his skill has helped many many people live longer and healthier lives. That said, I've found thru personal experience that a few doctors at the UM are all to quick to prescribe surgery as a solution.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:34 p.m.

Think what ever you want, but after a UM gastroenterologist suggested I have a portion of my bowel resected without any discussion of possible non invasive treatment or any other therapy, I sought another opinion and changed my diet. Two years later? No problem.

Krista Boyer

Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 10:55 a.m.

Dr. Bove is an amazing surgeon and a kind and gentle soul. When my daughter was born he did his best to save her life, many times over. I'll never forget holding her on Thanksgiving and looking up to see him checking in on her on his own time. I will be forever grateful for the three months that I was allowed to be her mommy here on Earth. Thank you Dr. Bove and may your wisdom and skills continue to be passed down to the surgeons that you train.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 2:32 p.m.

Krista- my heart goes out to you because I know the pain all too well. It's not a club anyone should ever have to be a part of. Our precious children will forever be in our hearts.


Mon, Aug 13, 2012 : 10:20 a.m.

A true leader, and the best. He has touched so many lives, in so many wonderful ways- not just his patients that he's operated on, but also those around him. Congratulations, Dr. Bove!!