MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — After spending decades honing his craft across the world, Dr. M. Sertac Çiçek has joined WVU Medicine Children’s as the hospital’s new professor and chief of pediatric cardiovascular surgery.
Çiçek, a native of Turkey, came to WVU Medicine Children’s from the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota. After visiting for the first time in March, Çiçek stated that two specific things brought him to the Mountain State: the people and the challenge.
“I work with many people, and they are committed and dedicated to their job,” Çiçek said. “You see the light in their eyes … This is a good time to be a part of the team and be a part of its history.”
Çiçek also said that he was attracted to the area due to the unique challenges that working with WVU Medicine Children’s – home of the only pediatric cardiothoracic surgery program for the entire state – would present.
“As challenging as it’ll be, it’ll be a very joyful experience,” Çiçek said. “I always think that it is very dangerous to sit on a peak. When you reach a peak, you have to find yourself a new peak. To be honest, I see this as a new peak for myself… I believe this will be an exemplary program for children and families in not only West Virginia but neighboring states.”
After graduating summa cum laude from Ankara University and the Gülhane Faculty of Medicine in Ankara, Turkey, in 1985, Çiçek completed a five-year residency in Ankara before working fellowships in cardiac surgery and transplantation at the Texas Heart Institute and Mayo Clinic and in pediatric cardiac surgery at Children’s Hospital Los Angeles.
After spending some time working in the states, Çiçek returned to Turkey, where he helped establish several cardiac surgery programs — both for pediatrics and adults — across his home country. During this time, he was also the physician-in-chief at the Siyami Ersek Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Training Hospital, one of the largest heart centers in Europe.
He then served as the director of the Heart and Vascular Care Center at the Anadolu Johns Hopkins Medical Center in Istanbul for more than a decade before returning to the Mayo Clinic, where he was prior to his arrival in Morgantown.
Çiçek recalled hearing a speech from a now-retired heart surgeon during a meeting, in which the doctor stated that congenital heart surgery — which corrects defects in a child patient’s heart — is the most difficult specialty in medicine.
Çiçek, who is a recognized leader in congenital heart surgery, tends to agree.
“Although there are no objective measures to affirm that, I personally believe that is the case,” Çiçek said. “This is a very high stakes specialty. Our work is under intense scrutiny. It comes with a lot of responsibility, and it’s very stressful given the emotional impact of operating on children. However, nothing is more gratifying than helping a child survive and have a healthy life.”
However, Çiçek said that in order to be a good congenital heart surgeon, or work in any form of pediatric or heart surgery, one must have a good team, which he says he has found at WVU Medicine Children’s.
“My responsibility is to keep the team intact in what is a very stressful environment… If you have a good team and the members trust in each other, you’ll achieve anything,” Çiçek said.
WVU Medicine Children’s currently has two pediatric cardiac surgeons, Çiçek and Robert Gustafson, M.D. Çiçek says he hopes to recruit a third once the new children’s hospital is complete.
Çiçek said that he’s looking forward to the time he spends here in Morgantown, and he’s excited to continue this next step in his medical and professional journey.
“I did not think my wife and I would enjoy Morgantown and West Virginia this much,” Çiçek said. “However, we love this state and Morgantown, and most importantly, we love the people. This is a very unique state, and these are very unique, special people. We enjoy being here.”