In Memoriam - Geoffrey O. Hartzler, MD, FACC

Geoffrey O. Hartzler, MD, FACC, a pioneer of interventional cardiology and prominent Fellow of the American College of Cardiology (FACC), died Saturday, March 10, 2012 in his home state of Missouri following a battle with cancer. He was 65 years old.

Hartzler began practice in 1974 at the Mayo Clinic and joined the Mid America Heart Institute in 1980 where he began the angioplasty program and then initiated training courses that drew a world-wide audience of interventionalists. Hartzler retired in 1995 from practice but spent years as a consulting cardiologist. Following consulting at St. Luke’s Hospital in Kansas City, Mo., Hartzler took on the role of director of the hospital’s Mid America Heart Institute. Hartzler was active in business during his retirement and served as board chair and co-founder of IntraLuminal Therapeutics.

Hartzler is best known in the cardiovascular community as the first physician to use percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) to treat heart attack. The procedure underwent harsh criticism, but was ultimately hailed as the preferred standard of care across the globe and a Class I indication. Hartzler’s accomplishments and list of firsts go on to include promulgating the use of PTCA to treat multiple-vessel disease.  His experience and leadership in this arena continues to revolutionize interventional cardiology. As a renaissance thinker/innovator he created the first market-reaching, effective implantable defibrillator and developed the first steerable guidewire catheter which led the way to designing “Hartzler” balloon catheters to be used in angioplasty.

Hartzler’s commitment to teaching, education and research was evident in his success in developing the first interventional cardiology teaching course in the United States and subsequently unveiling the often emulated Advanced Angioplasty Fellowship training program. Such training programs, as well as live case demonstrations, have impacted all interventional cardiologists.

His contributions are remembered through the the Transcatheter Cardiovascular Therapeutics (TCT) Geoffrey O. Hartzler Master Clinical Operator award given out annually.

“He was a giant of interventional cardiology and a pioneer of chronic total occlusion interventions as well as new device development. He has been an inspiration to all interventional cardiologists,” said George D. Dangas, MD, PhD, FACC. “In his honor, the annual Geoffrey O. Hartzler Award has been established by the Cardiovascular Research Foundation for Clinical Excellence in Interventional Cardiology and awarded each year at TCT with ACC.”

ACC President David R. Holmes, Jr., MD, FACC worked with Hartzler at the Mayo Clinic during their final year of medical school as student clerks in the electrocardiography  laboratory and both went on to join the staff  working in cardiac pacing, electrophysiology and then interventional cardiology .

“His advances in the field of interventional cardiology have been so vast that we tend not to remember his brilliance as an electrophysiologist,” Holmes said. “He was incredibly gifted in both – but what I remember most is his passion and creativity in both work and life.”

Hartzler is survived by his wife, Dorothy, of 27 years, their four daughters and two grandsons.

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