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Peter Starek, MD, Visiting Lecturer

Peter Starek, MDTo honor Peter Starek, MD, a valuable member of the faculty of the UNC Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery from 1971 until his retirement in 2002, the division created the Peter J.K. Starek, MD, Visiting Lectureship.

Paul T. Frantz, MD, a heart surgeon in Roanoke, Va., was the first Starek Visiting Professor; he spoke at grand rounds on May 13, 2105. Dr. Frantz completed his cardiothoracic surgery residency at UNC in 1978 and trained with Dr. Starek.

Dr. Starek, who died September 6, 2015, was an international leader and researcher in the field of valve replacement and repair, and was a tireless educator of residents and medical students at UNC. During his residency in cardiovascular and thoracic surgery at New York Hospital Cornell Medical Center, he trained with C. Walton Lillehei, MD, who pioneered open-heart surgery. Dr. Starek also did a fellowship in cardiac revascularization surgery at St. Luke’s Hospital in Milwaukee, WI, with Dudley Johnson, MD, a pioneer of coronary artery bypass surgery.

During his cardiothoracic residency, Dr. Starek worked with Dr. Robert Kaster, an engineer who designed successful prosthetic heart valves. At UNC, that association helped Dr. Starek become the first U.S. university surgeon to investigate a new heart valve, the Medtronic-Hall valve. Dr. Starek’s work with the valve gave him international recognition and he chaired an international heart valve meeting in 1984. He also edited a book, Heart Valve Replacement and Reconstruction: Clinical Issues and Trends.

Dr. Starek realized that patients’ surgical outcomes depended on post-operative care as well as surgical skills. Working with nurses and hospital administration, he was a leader in improving UNC Hospitals’ intensive care units. He helped start the Orange Cardiovascular Foundation in Chapel Hill, a cardiac rehab program for post-operative patients.