School of Medicine
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(Robert) Jeenchen Chen
Clinical Instructor, Cardiothoracic Surgery
Bio"How to be a good surgeon? I, a medical student, asked the first question among the quiet audience full of residents and attending surgeons, after the talk by Dr. Seymour Schwartz, the editor and the co-writer of the milestone textbook of surgery, who visited my university hospital in Taiwan for the 100th anniversary in 1995. That is me, like a voyager who is brave to explore the uncertainty and face challenges. Years later I sailed out of the comfort zones where most of my peers stay, learning biostatistics, practicing cardiothoracic surgery, visiting Harvard, Emory, Indiana, and Ohio State Universities, seeking the solutions for the unmet needs.
I played rugby No. 2 hooker in our 7-year medical school for 4 years, regardless wet mud or hot sunshine, fearing no rival and working as a team with the best efforts to touch down. On the field, there were glory and tears, winners and losers, but also sportsmanship. I learned to remain humble when winning and keep abreast when losing, and also respect the rivals and learn from them. Rugby taught me how to deal with failures and frustrations. In 1996, I was not selected to do my clinical clerkship in USA--so heartbroken. In 2000, I failed my NRMP in USA and it hit me so hard. In 2004, I was not promoted to an attending surgeon after my residency training in my home university hospital. Later there were numerous rejections of my manuscripts submitted to journals. In my practice of cardiovascular surgery in the years that followed, I experienced my cases of complication and surgical mortality. Each time I faced the problems, stood back up, learned the lesson, and got better. In my journeys, I do not wait for the sunshine but dance in the storm.
In 2004, I joined the team Dr. Jeng Wei, the pioneering surgeon who was trained in Columbia University in New York, and performed the first successful heart transplantation in Taiwan in 1988. We scrubbed in lots of cases together and he mentored me real cardiac surgery and transplant. In 2006, I met Dr. John Puskas in a conference and then he brought me to Emory University in Atlanta where my 1-year clinical fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery initiated my professional career path in USA. Later I practiced in Taiwan and most of my cases were ECMO and TEVAR. In 2016, Dr. I-Wen Wang hired me in Indiana University Methodist Hospital in Indianapolis as a clinical fellow. I stepped into the field of thoracic transplant, mechanical circulatory supports, and thoracic organ procurement. Then my practice re-started in Taiwan with most of my cases being open aortic surgery for type-A aortic dissection, mitral valve replacement, and ECMO. But I still had strong interest in thoracic transplant so I did another clinical fellowship in thoracic transplant in Ohio State University in Columbus in 2020, mentored by Dr. Bryan Whitson. With most of my thoracic procurements were done under supervision, my first independent heart procurement was done in Olathe, Kansas, with SherpaPak as a contract surgeon, for Dr. Dan Meyer in Baylor Dallas in 2021. That case was very successful. Heartfeltly Dr. Joseph Woo hired me as a procurement surgeon for Stanford University near the end of 2021. Motivated and enthusiastic, I am continuing my adventure into thoracic transplant to chart the unknown territories.
Last month I brought my 11-year-old son and my wife to visit the CERN (visit.cern) in Geneva, Switzerland, and also Albert Einstein's apartment and museum in Bern. We were all thrilled by the frontiers of science. I believe the solutions to end-stage organ failure can go beyond transplant into stem cells, organ re-generation from somatic cells, artificial organ engineering, and also artificial intelligence. In addition to innovative clinical research, I am also very zealous of teaching young doctors, to pass the torch to the future to shine even brighter.
Maria Elizabeth Currie, MD, PhD
Clinical Assistant Professor, Cardiothoracic Surgery
BioDr. Currie is a board-certified, fellowship-trained cardiothoracic surgeon. She is also a clinical assistant professor at Stanford University School of Medicine. With subspecialty training in heart failure, Dr. Currie treats all forms of cardiomyopathy, ischemic heart disease, and valvular heart disease. She performs heart transplant, lung transplant, and combined heart-lung transplant procedures as part of a multidisciplinary team. She excels at valve surgery and the implantation of mechanical circulatory support systems.
Dr. Currie welcomes referrals from cardiologists and primary care physicians as early as possible when cardiovascular disease is suspected. Understanding that early intervention can prevent later complications, she invites communication about screening, diagnostics, and treatment strategies.
For each patient, Dr. Currie’s goal is to achieve the best possible outcome using the most advanced minimally invasive cardiac care techniques and technology available. Combined with technical expertise and a focus on excellent clinical outcomes, Dr. Currie delivers empathetic, thoughtful patient care. She ensures that patients are well informed about what they can expect both before and after their surgical procedure.
Dr. Currie is passionate about improving the safety of cardiac surgery. Her research includes translational studies on new ways to visualize anatomic structures that are difficult to see during minimally invasive surgery. One published study investigated the use of augmented reality (AR) guided by transesophageal echocardiography in minimally invasive mitral valve repair. Her work has appeared in The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, The Annals of Thoracic Surgery, The International Journal of Medical Robotics and Computer Assisted Surgery, Transplant Immunology, and other peer reviewed publications.
Dr. Currie’s interest in technological advances is rooted in her commitment to the evolution of technology and technique in the fast-changing, relatively young field of cardiac surgery. Also driving her interest is her PhD background in biomedical engineering. She has made presentations on the use of AR systems, 3D visualization technology, and robotics-assisted surgical procedures at the American Association for Thoracic Surgery Annual Meeting, International Society for Minimally Invasive Surgery Annual Scientific Meeting, and other conferences.
Dr. Currie has won numerous awards for her research achievements and scholarship. She is a Fellow of the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada. She is also a member of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation, the International Society for Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery, Women in Thoracic Surgery, and the Association of Women Surgeons. With its long legacy of leadership in cardiac surgery and research, Dr. Currie feels Stanford Health Care enables her to pursue her research interests and offers her patients access to the latest innovations, along with expertise across specialties including engineering and statistics.