Dr. Starr's Profile

Cardiovascular Innovator and Educator

2012 Albert Starr in walkwayAlbert Starr, M.D., is a pioneering cardiovascular surgeon who co-invented and successfully implanted the world’s first artificial heart valve. The groundbreaking Starr-Edwards heart valve has saved and prolonged the lives of hundreds of thousands of people around the world. Starr resides in Portland, Oregon, and is a distinguished professor emeritus of cardiovascular medicine the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute at Oregon Health &Science University.

Starr was born on June 1, 1926, in New York, New York. He received his B.A. degree from Columbia College (now Columbia University) in 1946 and his medical degree from Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in 1949. In 1950 he completed an internship at Johns Hopkins Hospital under Dr. Alfred Blalock, a pioneer in the treatment of shock and “blue baby” syndrome. That same year, he began his residency in general and thoracic surgery at Columbia Bellevue and Presbyterian Hospitals, but was drafted for surgical service during the Korean War, including service at the 8076 Mobil Army Surgical Hospital (MASH). He resumed his training at Columbia Presbyterian in 1953, completing his residency in 1957.

Starr served as assistant surgeon at Columbia University until 1957, when he was recruited to establish the first open-heart surgery program at the University of Oregon Medical School (now Oregon Health & Science University).

Dr. Albert Starr with one of his first patients in 1960Starr performed Oregon’s first pediatric open-heart surgery on a 7-year-old girl at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in 1958. Later that year, he met retired fluids engineer M. Lowell Edwards, who was seeking help to develop an artificial heart. Starr convinced Edwards to begin by creating an artificial mitral valve. Starr has said of this meeting, "He was in his 60s and I was in my 30s, but there was no generation gap between us." (http://www.ctsnet.org/home/astarr)

In 1960 Starr performed the world’s first successful artificial mitral valve implant at OHSU in a 52-year-old man with end-stage mitral valve disease. The patient lived in good health for more than a decade until he died in a ladder fall. That same year, M. Lowell Edwards incorporated Edwards Laboratories to manufacture and market the Starr-Edwards valve.

In 1963 Starr performed the world’s first successful triple valve replacement surgery at OHSU. Starr continued to lead OHSU’s heart surgery program until 1964, when he was tapped to lead a joint cardiac surgery program for both OHSU and Providence Health System in Portland, Oregon.

Starr performed Oregon’s first heart transplant at OHSU in 1985 on a 44-year-old man from Battleground, Wash. In 1986, he was appointed director of the Providence Health System Heart and Vascular Institute; he was named director of bioscience research and development at Providence in 2004.

1966 Dr. Albert Starr receiving the ACC Humanitarian AwardStarr returned full time to OHSU in 2011 as special adviser to School of Medicine Dean Mark Richardson, M.D., M.B.A., and President Joe Robertson, M.D., M.B.A., and as distinguished professor of cardiovascular medicine.

In 2012 Nike co-founder and chairman Phil Knight and his wife, Penny, pledged $125 million to establish an institute for cardiovascular research and care at OHSU. Starr is the OHSU Knight Cardiovascular Institute's chairman and Dr. Sanjiv Kaul serves as its chief executive. The institute aims to bring clinicians and researchers together to translate laboratory discoveries into new and better treatments for the world’s No. 1 killer.

Select awards

1966: Susan and Theodore Summings Humanitarian Award, American College of Cardiology
1988: Distinguished Scientist Award, American College of Cardiology
2001: d’Honneur au grade de Chevalier Award, Paris, France.
2009: Phoenix Award for Innovation
2011: Oregon Historical Society History Maker Medal

Learn more about the Knight Cardiovascular Institute