Leadership Spotlight

Kamal Khabbaz, MD

Member, Trustee Advisory Board and BIDMC Chief of Cardiac Surgery

For the past 15 years, BIDMC Chief of Cardiac Surgery Kamal Khabbaz, MD, has overseen a thriving division. Joining BIDMC in 2004 as a staff surgeon, Khabbaz became the team’s acting chief in 2008 and two years later was named division chief. During this time, the division’s surgical volume has almost doubled. In addition, the depth, breadth, and complexity of cardiac surgical procedures performed has expanded dramatically, culminating this spring with the upcoming launch of the new Beth Israel Lahey Health (BILH) Adult Heart Transplant Program, which will serve patients from across the BILH system. Nearly simultaneous to the unveiling of the new heart transplant services, Khabbaz and his team will be moving into the new Klarman Building, an ideal environment in which to maintain BIDMC’s position as a respected leader in cardiac surgery and cardiovascular care.

Get to know Dr. Khabbaz in this issue’s Leadership Spotlight.

What excites you most about the opening of the Klarman Building?  

First and foremost, I think the building reflects and matches the outstanding quality of care that we have always provided to our patients. It projects who we are in terms of aesthetics, functionality, and safety, with beautiful open spaces and sophisticated technologies to accommodate the latest diagnostic and surgical procedures. But what I find especially important is the significant impact the building will have in terms of patient privacy and comfort. This environment is particularly conducive to healing and will be critical for our patients with complex cardiac needs.

What are some of the building’s most meaningful features for you and the cardiac surgery team?

We have an amazing team of surgeons and providers. Our quality metrics are some of the best in the nation. The new building’s outstanding facilities will enable our team to continue to provide outstanding care in a much more spacious and up-to-date environment with state-of-the-art operating suites. In particular, it includes several “hybrid rooms” that will function as both traditional operating rooms and spaces for cardiovascular procedures and diagnostics. This thoughtful and creative design will enable our cardiac surgery team to work closely with colleagues in cardiovascular medicine and vascular surgery. It will reinforce BIDMC’s team-based approach, which has been shown to benefit our patients tremendously.

When did you first begin your term on the Trustee Advisory Board? Can you speak to the importance of having physician leaders on the board?

I am now in the first year of my second three-year term. It has been an honor to work with so many talented leaders, and it has been tremendously valuable for me to witness the values, principles, and decisions that govern the medical center.

At the same time, the opportunity to share with our board members my day-to-day clinical needs, challenges, and opportunities has been incredibly important. As a physician, I can pass along patient experiences and share a sense of what is happening at BIDMC in real-time. I’m also pleased to be able to share the exciting work we’re doing in terms of surgical treatments and advances, as well as our education and research programs.

What makes BIDMC special as a hospital? What makes it a great place to work?

I think what makes BIDMC so special is unparalleled collaboration among different disciplines. There’s no question that BIDMC is unique. We share a noncompetitive approach to growing and expanding different clinical services, particularly when it comes to cardiac care. The BIDMC cardiac surgery team has joined teams from cardiovascular medicine, vascular surgery, and cardiac anesthesia to work together and develop the best treatment option for any given patient or any given clinical scenario. This level of collaboration has often resulted in creative solutions and innovative therapies. It’s an atmosphere that is exceptionally unique, and at the end of the day, very productive.

This is not only best for our patients, but it results in a healthier work environment for providers. I’ve been at BIDMC nearly 20 years and although I have a challenging job, I wake up motivated every day to get to work. I consider myself fortunate.

Why is philanthropy so vital to BIDMC?

I think the magnitude of the needs of an academic medical center can never be met by operational revenue; there is always a gap between what operations can provide and what the institution requires to best serve our patients. That gap can only be funded through philanthropy. At the same time, funding for our research and education programs from the National Institutes of Health and other government agencies has become harder to come by. I think that philanthropy grows ever more crucial to our mission.

Nowhere is this more apparent than in this amazing new Klarman Building. Only through philanthropy have we been able to achieve this milestone, a longstanding dream of BIDMC. And for the Division of Cardiac Surgery to be moving into this tremendous new space just as we are launching our heart transplant program makes our repertoire of specialty services complete. The timing couldn’t be better, and we couldn’t be more grateful for the philanthropic support that has made this possible.