In Practice: Eric Kirker, M.D.

As part of an ongoing series, Providence profiles Eric Kirker, M.D., a cardiac surgeon with Providence Heart Clinic-Cardiovascular Surgery.

Clinical focus
Valve-sparing aortic surgery, ventricular assist device surgery, heart transplantation, minimally invasive thoracic procedures

Past lives
Professional opera singer (tenor); medical school and residency, State University of New York at Buffalo; cardiothoracic surgery fellowship, Medical University of South Carolina

How did performing opera prepare you to become a surgeon?
The pressure of standing in front of hundreds or thousands of people became something I looked forward to. Surgery has pressure, and as with any live performance, mistakes aren’t allowed.

How has cardiac surgery advanced in the past few years?
We fix sicker people now, with smaller incisions and more technology. I am part of a team that implants transcatheter aortic valves, and I also perform valve-sparing aortic root replacements. Both are state-of-the-art procedures.

What are some promising new techniques?
Traditional aortic root aneurysm surgeries involve mechanical valves that require blood thinners, or a pig/cow valve, which will wear out. Valve-sparing aortic root replacement allows me to fix an aortic aneurysm without removing the native aortic valve, something that’s impossible with other procedures.

How do you spend your spare time?
I have a 14-month-old, so the diaper changing is fast and furious. But any time with my son is good time, even diaper time.

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