How do I Become a Heart Transplant Surgeon?

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  • Written By: T. Carrier
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 28 November 2019
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A career as a heart transplant surgeon requires many dedicated years of study and practical application. This highly specialized medical field emphasizes deep knowledge in both surgery and cardiology. As such, a prospective heart transplant surgeon must obtain specific skills and education in both disciplines.

Educational requirements to become a heart transplant surgeon may vary globally. In the United States, a sound undergraduate medical foundation would entail a concentration in higher-level science courses. A collegiate degree in biology or a pre-med concentration is commonplace for those individuals targeting medical school.

After college, admission into an accredited medical school is the next step to become a heart transplant surgeon. Some medical schools require an undergraduate degree, while others accept undergraduate students with exceptionally good performance after two or three years. Medical school completion usually takes four years, although accelerated programs may lessen the time.

The prospect then follows the typical path of a medical doctor. The student must graduate, typically must pass an examination, begin an internship at a hospital, and gain a medical license. Following the internship, the doctor enters a residency program.


During residency, the doctor can begin to focus on surgical training. In the United States, five years of general surgical focus are required on average before the medical professional can enter a more specific cardiothoracic or cardiovascular training program. This training may take two or three years. Some transplant surgeons also diversify and may perform procedures relating to various body organs, however. Following completion of the supervised training fellowship, certification to become a heart transplant surgeon must be obtained from a regional board.

Cardiovascular and thoracic medicine addresses diseases relating to the heart, arteries, and related organs. Long hours of research, administrative work, and patient evaluations accompany the discipline. Vital knowledge includes understanding of the following: blood types, nerve connections, organ behavior, and unique patient qualifications. A cardiovascular surgeon might perform bypass operations, heart valve replacements, pacemaker insertions, or heart transplants.

During the supervisory training period, the prospective heart transplant surgeon will assist in and eventually perform a required number of heart transplant procedures. The transplants are performed on patients with the most severe heart ailments, and the procedure usually involves removing a heart from a deceased donor and then implanting it in the sick patient after removing the ailing heart. One surgeon may or may not perform each of these procedures, and that surgeon must be prepared for any possible complication at any step of the process. As such, the intense training an individual must face in order to become a heart transplant surgeon is essential.

Heart transplant surgeons can be rewarded professionally, personally, and financially. Employment in this particular area is perhaps one of the most difficult yet most distinguished medical career options to achieve. Heart transplant surgeons help improve and save patients’ lives every day, and the financial compensation typically runs toward the higher end of medical salaries. The path toward employment is long and challenging, and a high degree of emotional and intellectual sharpness is required. One must weigh these factors when deciding on a career course.


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