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Matters of the Heart: Ali Azizzadeh, MD

As we approach Valentine’s day, we asked Smidt Heart Institute experts to weigh in on the biggest cardiology game-changers to date, as well as the next cardiology breakthroughs. And because nonexperts tend to associate the heart with this anatomically inaccurate emoji and all things pitter-patter—they told us their favorite love stories as well.

Smidt Heart Institute, Vascular Surgery, Ali Azizzadeh, MD, Cedars-Sinai, Al Cuizon

Al Cuizon

Ali Azizzadeh, MD
Director of Vascular Surgery
Smidt Heart Institute

Expertise

Ali Azizzadeh, MD, sums up his job succinctly: "I'm a plumber for the body." While he does unclog and otherwise repair the pipe-like network of vessels that circulate blood from head to toe, he’s widely recognized for his expertise in repairing trauma to the aorta (the body's largest artery) and for pioneering minimally invasive techniques to treat vascular disease.

Game-changer

In 2018, he became the first surgeon to use a minimally invasive device to repair potentially life-threatening aortic aneurysms. "These patients had limited treatment options before. Now we can fix even complex problems from the inside," Azizzadeh says. "It's an honor to make that kind of difference. This is a complete paradigm shift from two decades ago when we used to fix blood vessels by hand, which meant open surgery and the associated risks."

Next breakthrough

Azizzadeh is the principal investigator for a clinical trial to evaluate the safety and effectiveness of a minimally invasive method to treat aneurysms and tears in the aortic arch—a section of the heart’s main artery that transports blood to the head, neck and arms.

Favorite love story

At the tender age of 10, Azizzadeh saw Love Story, starring Ali MacGraw and Ryan O'Neal. "This was my first introduction to an adult romantic relationship," he says. Azizzadeh also recalls "feeling profoundly sad" when MacGraw's character dies of cancer. "I became a doctor because I love science and people, but maybe this movie influenced me on a subconscious level."