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McGinn Family Tradition: Inspiring the Next Generation of Coronary Bypass Surgeons

The old adage that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree is certainly true in the McGinn family.

As the chief of cardiac surgery at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute, Joseph T. McGinn Jr., M.D., credits his father for inspiring his compassion and inventiveness in seeking new ways to help people.

“He was such a caring, capable, dedicated physician. I wanted to be just like him,” Dr. McGinn says of his father, a Brooklyn nephrologist who cultivated curiosity and resourcefulness in his son. “Anything in the house that broke, we didn't call someone to fix it. He fixed it, and he always had me by his side. We were always tinkering and fixing and working on things. It definitely started at a young age.”

When Dr. McGinn was raising his own five children, he followed that model. So it should be no surprise that his eldest son, Joseph T. McGinn III, M.D., also became a cardiac surgeon with a penchant for innovation. The younger Dr. McGinn is very proud to join his father in working at Baptist Health Heart & Vascular Care.

Together, father and son are working to expand access to minimally invasive coronary bypass surgery, using a procedure that has come to be known internationally as the McGinn Technique. The approach allows cardiac bypass surgery to be performed without splitting a person’s chest, spreading the ribs and stopping the heart.

Patients from across the world have sought out Dr. McGinn for the surgery, including hospital CEOs and physicians whose expertise allows them to weigh various options. Among the attractions: less pain, less blood loss, and a recovery that takes days instead of months.

“I'm standing on the shoulders of a giant here,” the younger Dr. McGinn says, adding that he hopes to advance the technique even further. “I'll first try to accomplish what he has done, and, you know, we'll see what comes next.”

A Son’s Journey

Joseph T. McGinn III, M.D., cardiac surgeon with Baptist Health Heart & Vascular Care











The first time he observed his father perform surgery when he was a kid, the younger Dr. McGinn, who goes by J.T., confesses he felt a little faint. But that passed quickly, especially when he saw the impact of his father’s skill.

“What got me into surgery in general was watching him, as a child, in the O.R.,” he recalls. And then, as a surgical intern in New York, he got to work with his father. “That's when I first felt like this is the right place for me.”

The more he saw, the more fascinated he became. “I actually started videotaping his procedures and served as a proctor, educating other surgeons on the minimally invasive technique as he was pioneering it,” he says. “I got to watch him not only save patients’ lives, but also innovate in the field.”

Both father and son say they work well together in the operating room today. “We're both so well-trained and we have the same backgrounds, so we are able to anticipate each other's moves,” the elder Dr. McGinn says. “Surprisingly there's a lot less talking and maneuvering than you’d expect. We mesh very well together. It’s like we create a symphony.”

A Father’s Hope

Joseph T. McGinn Jr., M.D., chief of cardiac surgery at Baptist Health Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute

Dr. McGinn knew his son had to find his own path, although he is grateful it led to them working together. “In the back of my mind, I always wished and hoped that he would go into cardiac surgery. I tried my hardest not to show it, although I'm sure it showed,” he says. Now, he couldn’t be more proud. “For me to see him being happy doing what I do is really quite an amazing thing.”

He doesn’t expect his son to follow in his footsteps, however. Instead, he fully expects him to blaze his own trail and surpass his success.

“We brainstorm all the time,” the elder Dr. McGinn says. “He'll come up with ideas about how to do something a little better, a little differently, and I'll say, ‘Wow, I didn't think of that. Thanks for bringing that to my attention,’ and vice versa. He's performing all of the minimally invasive techniques and improving them as we do them.”

His son’s analytical nature, willingness to take on challenges and deep desire to make improvements will serve patients well, Dr. McGinn says. “I'm confident he's going to continue to push that envelope as far as innovation is concerned, because that's what drives us. That's what makes us tick. We want to do something better.”

The younger Dr. McGinn feels very comfortable working side-by-side with his father.

“It has brought us back to where we were when I was younger. We used to build tree houses together and did all these technical things around the house, working with our hands, coming up with new ideas to fix things,” he says. “It's really nice. We used to always talk on the golf range about how to improve our terrible swings, watching video of ourselves. And now we're watching video of ourselves operating and asking, ‘What can we do better there?’”

Understanding Coronary Bypass Surgery

Nearly 400,000 coronary bypass surgeries are performed each year, making it the most commonly performed major surgical procedure in the United States, according to the National Institutes of Health. The procedure is used to treat the narrowing of the arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart. Cardiologists may recommend bypass surgery if any — or all four — of the coronary arteries are so clogged the patient runs a high risk of a heart attack.

The traditional approach was developed in the 1970s and requires a huge incision to access the heart. Patients usually endure considerable postoperative pain and a recovery that takes three months or more.

After witnessing how difficult this can be on elderly patients in particular, Dr. McGinn devised a new “beating heart” approach in 2005 that accesses the arteries through small incisions between the ribs. He has performed it more than 3,000 times, and has taught the technique to physicians around the world. Since arriving at Miami Cardiac & Vascular Institute in 2020, he has continued to make the procedure faster, safer and less painful for patients.

Both father and son envision a future in which the minimally invasive approach becomes the standard of care. But for now, because most surgeons are not trained in this technique and it requires a steep learning curve, it is routinely performed in only a handful of U.S. hospitals. Dr. McGinn considers that a detriment to patients, who may not realize they have the option of a less traumatic procedure. His frequent refrain: “Why have your chest cracked open and your heart stopped when you don’t have to?”

Currently, the minimally invasive bypass procedure is performed at Baptist Health Baptist Hospital, but the plan is for the younger Dr. McGinn to expand the program in Palm Beach County to Boca Raton Regional Hospital and Bethesda Hospital East, both part of Baptist Health.

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