Cox receives heart award

James L. Cox, M.D — famed for his development of a surgical procedure widely accepted as the first cure for the most common form of irregular heartbeat — has been named the 2004 recipient of the Texas Heart Institute’s Ray C. Fish Award for Scientific Achievement.

For the past 33 years, the prestigious annual award has been bestowed upon a cardiologist or cardiac surgeon. Cox is only the 10th surgeon to receive the award.

Cox recently rejoined the School of Medicine as a research professor of surgery. From 1983-1997, he served the University as the Evarts A. Graham Professor of Surgery, chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and vice chairman of the Department of Surgery.

In 1985, Cox’s team first proposed the Maze procedure, often called the Cox-Maze procedure, to cure atrial fibrillation. The operation was first performed in 1987 at Barnes Hospital.

In the Maze procedure, surgeons make small, strategically placed incisions in the heart’s two upper chambers, the atria.

The slits generate scar tissue that serves as barriers, trapping abnormal electric signals in a “maze” of barricades. Only one path remains intact, guiding impulses to their correct destination.

In addition to his role at the University, Cox is the chairman and chief executive officer of The World Heart Foundation and serves on the board of directors for three medical device corporations.

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