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In Memoriam: James S. Tweddell (1959 to 2022)

Friday, September 16, 2022

Dr. James S. Tweddell was a thoughtful and technically outstanding congenital heart surgeon and an internationally renowned leader, innovator, teacher, and friend. He passed away at the young age of sixty-two on July 1, 2022 in his hometown of Cincinnati, Ohio. Dr. Tweddell was most known for having some of the world’s best outcomes with the Norwood procedure for hypoplastic left heart syndrome and spent the majority of his career perfecting his approach with the team at the Herma Heart Institute at Children’s Wisconsin. There he served as chief and held the S. Bert Litwin Chair for Cardiothoracic Surgery from 2001 to 2015. He then returned to his hometown to serve as an executive codirector of the Heart Institute of Cincinnati Children’s Hospital.

Dr. Tweddell was a phenomenal neonatal heart surgeon and was equally known for his commitment and dedication to transferring his knowledge and teaching his approach to others. He contributed critical innovations to the care of children undergoing arch reconstruction, the approach to the RV to PA conduit, the use of the supported Ross procedure, and many other advances in the surgical and medical treatment of children and adults with congenital heart disease. He changed our field, and we have all risen to a new level because of him.

Dr. Tweddell was widely recognized for his intellectual ability, prolific writing, and contributions to thought at our national and international society meetings. He served as president of the Congenital Heart Surgeon’s Society and held leadership positions in the American Heart Association, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, and the American Association for Thoracic Surgery. He had outstanding clinical judgement and contributed significantly to the management of patients both inside and outside of the operating room. Dr. Tweddell emphasized the use of objective physiologic data in informing rational decision-making and embraced the use of phenoxybenzamine and NIRS in assessing and optimizing hemodynamics following the Norwood procedure and other neonatal cases.

As a devoted and determined team builder, Dr. Tweddell led by example and engendered an intensely devoted following from the whole “team”: surgeons, anesthesiologists, critical care specialists, cardiologists, nurses, physician’s assistants, and perfusionists. He worked extremely hard and cultivated his gifts, committing to never making the same mistake twice. He had an amazing ability to humble himself, and to identify the essential challenges of a situation and then fix them.

Jim was a wonderful mentor and friend and will be dearly missed. His teachings and advice survive him and will be passed on from generation to generation. A patient with an outstanding operation done carefully and deliberately without residual lesions will do well. Problems that arise and are addressed in a timely manner will be solved. He was always “about the kids!”

Jim, thank you for everything you have contributed, thank you for your wisdom, and thank you for your kindness. You are loved and are greatly missed. You have inspired us to perform at our very best and to always strive for greatness. You have also inspired us to work together and share our knowledge. We were so fortunate to have had you to lead us. Thank you.


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