discoveries magazine

Matters of the Heart: Joanna Chikwe, 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.

Joanna Chikwe MD, Founding Chair, Department of Cardiac Surgery Chair, Smidt Heart Institute, Cedars-Sinai

Al Cuizon

Joanna Chikwe, MD
Founding Chair, Department of Cardiac Surgery
Irina and George Schaeffer Distinguished Chair in Cardiac Surgery in honor of Alfredo Trento, MD


Joanna Chikwe, MD, who joined the Smidt Heart Institute in 2019 from the Mount Sinai Health System in New York, is an international leader in cardiovascular surgery with clinical and research expertise in advanced heart valve repair, coronary revascularization and minimally invasive heart procedures.


The Mitral Valve Program is one of a handful in the U.S. with a near 100% repair rate for degenerative mitral disease. Experts here have performed more than 1,000 successful robotic mitral repairs. 2020 also marks a decade of the Heart Transplant Program’s leadership as the nation’s No. 1 program.

Next breakthrough

"Robots, artificial intelligence and personalized medicine are already here—helping us make heart surgery a safe, sure way to a long and healthy life for many people with heart disease."

Favorite love story

"I knew from childhood that I wanted to be a heart surgeon, but I fell in love with heart surgery in 1994—the first time I watched a heart operation," Chikwe says. "It seemed magical then and it still does today."