In Memoriam: James S. Tweddell, MD, 1959-2022

Post Date: July 6, 2022

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James Tweddell, MD

With great sadness we mourn the loss of James “Jim” Scott Tweddell, MD, Executive Co-Director of the Heart Institute and Director of Cardiothoracic Surgery at Cincinnati Children’s, who passed away July 1, 2022, after a battle with cancer. He was 62.

Tweddell was a world-renowned cardiothoracic surgeon and academic with an extensive list of research and clinical contributions vital to advancing the care and outcomes of congenital heart surgery patients.

A Cincinnati native, Tweddell graduated in 1977 from Indian Hill High School and earned his undergraduate degree in 1981 from Miami University in Oxford, OH. He completed medical school at the University of Cincinnati in 1985 and went on to his residency in general surgery at New York Medical Center under the mentorship of Frank Spencer, MD, one of the founding leaders in cardiac surgery.

He then moved to Washington University Medical Center in St. Louis where he was a research fellow in cardiothoracic surgery and a general surgery resident. Tweddell was then persuaded by Jim Cox, MD, to pursue a cardiothoracic surgery focus based on his impressive talent and productivity. He went on to complete a residency in cardiothoracic surgery in addition to a fellowship in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery.

Upon completion of his training, Tweddell joined the Medical College of Wisconsin where he began working at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin. There, he held the S. Bert Litwin Chair for Cardiothoracic Surgery and became director of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery in 2001. Over 20 years, he built the program to international prominence.

In 2015, Tweddell was recruited back to his hometown to serve as an Executive Co-Director of the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children’s. He expanded the Cardiothoracic Surgery Program’s international caliber while providing unparalleled surgical care and innovation for patients and families. His leadership helped the program achieve surgical outcomes that rank among the top in the nation.

Tweddell also established an ACGME-approved fellowship in congenital cardiac surgery and helped build a Joint Heart Program in conjunction with the University of Kentucky and Kentucky Children’s Hospital that has increased access to advanced congenital heart care in the Commonwealth.

Advancing Cardiothoracic Surgery Outcomes

Among congenital heart surgeons, Tweddell is best-known for his pioneering work treating children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS).

Some of the key innovations Tweddell contributed to included decreasing mortality following the Norwood procedure through the use of venous saturation monitoring and afterload reduction. He also helped reduce interstage mortality of single ventricle patients through the development of a home monitoring program.

These experiences ultimately led Tweddell and his team to help establish the National Pediatric Cardiology Improvement Collaborative to expand collaboration and further improve outcomes for HLHS patients at a much larger scale.

“Jim Tweddell will forever be remembered as one of the greats of our field,” says Andrew Redington, MD, fellow Executive Co-Director of the Heart Institute and Chief of Pediatric Cardiology. “He made the world think differently about the care of many congenital heart diseases, but his work to improve the care of children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome was truly transformational. His legacy will live on through his clinical innovation, research, the training of a new generation of surgeons and cardiologists, and through the thousands of lives of the patients he touched during a most extraordinary life. We have lost a giant,”

Throughout his career Tweddell authored more than 220 peer reviewed publications, 20 book chapters, and 100 abstracts. He gave invited lectures at leading medical centers and conferences around the world and was a funded investigator on more than 20 research grants. He also served as a journal reviewer, editorial board member or editor for many leading cardiovascular medicine journals.

Tweddell was a member of many major professional societies and held important leadership positions with the American Heart Association, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery.

Most recently, he served as the 10th President of the Congenital Heart Surgeons’ Society, the most prestigious honor a congenital heart surgeon can receive. (Watch a video message he recorded for CHSS members).

A Friend, A Mentor

Beyond his phenomenally impactful professional career, Tweddell was a warm, generous, caring and funny person who left a significant impression on those who knew him.

“On a personal level Jim was an incredibly generous and loyal friend and mentor,” said colleague Carl Backer, MD, Chief of Pediatric Surgery at Kentucky Children’s Hospital. “Despite his fame and success, he was always grounded and approachable, with an earnest desire to help patients, colleagues, and learners of all stripes. His guidance and support was instrumental in launching early stage aspirants to successful careers and extending the careers of colleagues. His advice was widely sought and well-followed.”

When not engaged in professional activities, Tweddell enjoyed spending time with his family. He is survived by the love of his life, Susie, who he met during his undergraduate studies at Miami University; their three daughters; and two grandchildren, one of whom is named James in his honor. In addition, he had a passion for playing the banjo, and was often asked to join musical groups assembled at several cardiac society meetings.

“Jim was one of the most influential congenital heart surgeons of our generation because of his clinical insight, technical excellence and innovation, his research, and his ability to teach residents but also fellow attending surgeons. He did all of this while remaining affable, approachable, and someone that everyone looked forward to seeing and listening to at conferences. All of us who had the privilege to work with Jim–and most importantly, his patients–will miss him greatly,” says David L.S. Morales, MD, Director, Congenital Heart Surgery and Heart Institute Clark-Helmsworth Chair of Cardiovascular Surgery.

Memorial Information

Cincinnati Children’s will host a Celebration of Life for Jim Tweddell on July 18, 2022. For details on this event, please contact Tiffany Whatley at Tiffany.Whatley@cchmc.org. Space is limited.

To share a quote or photo for this event, please contact Allison Barnes at Allison.Barnes@cchmc.org.

Learn More about Dr. Tweddell’s Research

Tweddell’s work has been published in a wide range of leading medical journals, including The New England Journal of Medicine, Circulation, the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (JACC), the Journal of Heart & Lung Transplantation, and more. Selected highlights include: