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The Triangle Business Journal named UNC Surgery’s Mahesh Sharma, MD, Chief of Congenital Cardiac Surgery and Co-Director of the NC Children’s Heart Center, as one of its 2020 Health Care Heroes. He was presented with the award at a ceremony on Feb. 13.

Dr. Sharma was honored for his profound effect on the congenital cardiac surgery program. He has touched the lives of multiple patients and families from across North Carolina. Through his tireless commitment, he breathed new life into the pediatric heart transplantation program at UNC Children’s Hospital and his surgery record stands as a testament to his skill and expertise.

In the past 12 months, Dr. Sharma has completed several highly complex procedures. He achieved surgeries that have never been performed at UNC Children’s Hospital, in the region, or in the state. He performed the first ABO-incompatible pediatric heart transplantation in UNC Children’s Hospital history: he successfully transplanted an infant heart from a donor with A+ blood type to Jett Leahy, a child with severe heart failure with O+ blood. Jett’s story was an amazing journey of survival that began with little hope during pregnancy and ends with a little boy getting the chance to not only survive but thrive. A story that would not have been possible without the amazing team at UNC and especially Dr. Sharma.

He performed the state’s first pediatric heart transplantation for Gitelman’s syndrome, a rare genetic disorder that affects kidney function, impairing the kidney’s ability to reabsorb salt.  In concert with UNC’s ENT team, he also performed the state’s first pediatric spiral slide tracheoplasty for long-segment tracheal stenosis with bronchus suis. The condition is an anatomical problem where the child’s cartilage wraps around the airway and constricts oxygen making it difficult to breathe.

In addition to his surgery skills, Dr. Sharma is an incredible caregiver. He believes that what he does, day in and day out is a calling more than a job. A true calling of being a pediatric heart surgeon requires a deep-rooted desire. A desire he holds close to his heart to make a difference and change children’s lives, to help children have a better future. His patients and their parents praise him for his dedication, reassuring demeanor, and his commitment to them and their families.

On a recent adult patient, he performed a unique operation called the Ross Procedure in which the patient’s diseased aortic valve is replaced with the patient’s own pulmonary valve. Another adult congenital heart surgery allowed him to employ state-of-the-art technology. He used a 3D-printed heart and computer fly-through technology, allowing him to visually walk through the heart vessels on screen and work through aspects of a patient’s heart condition before surgery.

Dr. Sharma is an expert in his field. With each surgery, Dr. Sharma performs, whether adult or pediatric, he uses his extensive knowledge to help patients suffering from complex congenital heart conditions. His record speaks for itself—he has achieved a 100% post-transplant survival rate in pediatric patients to date.

Sharma was one of nine winners, including UNC Surgery’s Dr. Andrea Hayes-Jordan, from the UNC Medical Center, UNC School of Medicine and UNC REX.

About Dr. Mahesh Sharma

He completed his Bachelor of Arts in Biology with Honors from The University of Austin, Texas, in 1994 and attended the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston, Texas, graduating in 1998. He completed his general surgery residency training at Tufts in 2004. He then pursued a cardiothoracic fellowship and pediatric cardiac surgery fellowship at the University of Pittsburgh. In 2007 he was chosen for a coveted pediatric cardiac fellowship position at the Great Ormand Street Hospital for Children in London, UK. He joined the faculty of UT Southwestern in 2010, and then subsequently moved to the University of Pittsburgh in 2014 where he served as the Director of Pediatric Mechanical Circulatory Support & Artificial Hearth Technology. He moved to the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill in 2018 to serve as Co-Director of the North Carolina Children’s Heart Center and Director of Pediatric Heart Transplantation and Mechanical Circulatory Support.