Former Heart Surgeon Finds Rewarding Career Outside the OR

Former Heart Surgeon Finds Rewarding Career Outside the OR

The greatest surgeons are not always those who are the most technically proficient, rather the ones who are able to overcome the unexpected in the operating room, and still reach success for the patient.”

This comes from someone who knows a lot about facing the unexpected— Michael Grosso, M.D., F.A.C.S., Vice President, Global Head of Specialty Medicine Development at Daiichi Sankyo, Inc.

Michael considered it an honor to work with pediatric patients.

Medical Breakthrough

Michael’s love for science and medicine started at a young age. He remembers asking Santa Claus for chemistry sets, microscopes and biology books. The admiration and respect he held for his childhood doctor influenced his decision to become a pediatrician.

For his first clinical rotation, Michael was assigned to cardiovascular surgery, where he witnessed a team perform open heart surgery on a newborn. “It was incredible what these doctors and nurses were able to do to repair this broken heart, no bigger than the size of a walnut,” he explained, still in awe all these years later.

Michael immediately decided to change his focus. “Operating on someone’s heart or lungs was an honor and a privilege, a notion I felt with every single patient and every single operation. I was blessed and fortunate to be one of the few individuals who is able to do this as their livelihood.”

Astrophotography is one of Michael's many hobbies.

Life Within the Unexpected

After performing more than 5,000 procedures, including coronary bypass, valve replacements, heart and lung transplants, Michael’s career as a heart surgeon ended abruptly.

In 2004, he suffered a minor stroke in the portion of the brain that controls fine motor skills and depth perception. While he could still walk, talk, and manage daily life, the stroke reduced his coordination and fine motor skills just enough to prevent him from returning to the operating room.

This didn’t stop Michael. He pivoted back to research focusing on heart disease, specifically different ways to get the heart to regenerate after a heart attack. While back in the lab, he was often approached about working in the pharmaceutical industry. Michael ignored the suggestions for a while but eventually agreed to some interviews thinking it would put an end to recruiter outreach. However, during the interviews he was pleasantly surprised.

“I met incredibly talented, dedicated, compassionate individuals all with the passion to develop medicines to help people with unmet medical needs,” he recounted. In 2010, he joined Daiichi Sankyo when presented with the opportunity to work in research and clinical trial design. “Joining Daiichi Sankyo has been one of the more incredible, lucky things that has happened to me during this strange, but wonderful journey I've had.”

One of Michael’s proudest accomplishments at Daiichi Sankyo was being part of a team that executed two trials for a blood thinner involving patients worldwide. Despite the team’s small size, he attributes their success to the remarkable talent, unwavering commitment, and ability to work together seamlessly.

Now, as Global Head of Specialty Medicine Development, Michael is excited about the potential precision medicine holds. “Imagine a future where we are able to design medicines that may potentially treat each patient at their own level of molecular pathophysiology,” he said.

Michael in his Formula One racing phase.

A Healthy Mix of Hobbies

Outside the office, Michael enjoys an eclectic list of interests from astrophotography to wine appreciation. “I’m a bit of an amateur astronomist and I also like to learn about wine at every opportunity. We’re a very sports-oriented family as well. We participate in a lot of sports, well maybe not as much as I used to,” Michael laughed, “but we enjoy watching international soccer and Formula One racing.”

Michael also discussed his ability to share some of his hobbies with colleagues. “We socialize very well together,” Michael reflected. “I think that makes us even stronger and more collaborative when we come back to work.”

When asked how he achieves such a strong work-life balance, he shared a profound yet simple thought. “If you selectively filter and pursue only those activities that truly make you happy, I believe you tap into a hidden reserve of energy you don’t consciously realize you have, providing you the capacity and time needed to do more things.”

Life is full of the unexpected and it’s often those moments that set us on paths we wouldn’t have taken otherwise, moments that have led Michael to a fulfilling life.


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