2023 Top Doctor: Modesto Colón Rodriguez, M.D.

Editorial StaffMarch 1, 2023
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Photography by Steve Craft
Photography by Steve Craft

Cardiovascular Surgery

Med School/Year Graduated: Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, 2006

Years in Practice: 7

Besides the complexity of the organ itself, what are the specific challenges of operating on the heart? Is it always “a race against the clock”?

In most [procedures], it’s necessary to use the cardiopulmonary bypass machine to stop the heart. It requires a well-synchronized team to ensure great outcomes. And, yes, appropriate utilization of time is an integral part of that success.  

As a heart surgeon, do you also operate on arteries and veins? Where does cardiovascular surgery end and vascular surgery begin?

Cardiac surgeons focus on the heart and the thoracic aorta, which is the main artery that connects the heart to the rest of the body. Vascular surgeons focus on peripheral arteries and mainly the abdominal part of the aorta. 

Can you talk a bit about transcatheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) and its importance in your work?

TAVR has revolutionized cardiac surgery. It gives us the opportunity to address one of the most common diseases in cardiac surgery without opening the chest… by replacing the aortic artery through a catheter in the groin. Additional techniques have evolved from it to address other valves as well. It’s become a routine procedure in my practice. 

What are the most common procedures you perform? The most challenging and rare?

Coronary bypass and valve surgery are the most common. The most challenging are those that require revisions from previous surgeries, especially if it requires multiple valves, aortic work or cardiac transplantation. 

How have cardiovascular technology and techniques evolved in the last decade? 

Less invasive approaches and the use of mechanical hearts have improved significantly. The future is in the expansion of these approaches, the improvement of mechanical pumps, the use of genetic manipulation to prevent and treat diseases and finally, xenotransplantation, using animal parts to replace human parts. 

How do you unwind after a particularly grueling day in the OR?  

I love coming home to my wife and my three young girls. Spending quality time and being present for them are important to me. Sometimes I can squeeze in a workout, but it all depends on how much caffeine is left in my tank.   

“If I wasn’t a doctor, I’d be…”

I come from a family of lawyers. I guess that would be the next career option, but it seems like such a distant reality at this point. If I had to pick something now, it would probably have to do with water sports on a beach in Puerto Rico.


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