Board-certified cardiovascular perfusionist Karim Jabr, CCP, LP, CSSBB, has joined Tanner Heart Care and the new open-heart surgery team as the director of perfusion services at Tanner Health System.
A perfusionist’s primary job is to run the heart-lung machine during open-heart surgery, literally serving as the patient’s heart and lungs for the duration of the surgery.
Jabr is a nationally and internationally recognized figure in the field of cardiovascular perfusion.
He has published almost 30 articles in peer-reviewed medical journals, almost 70 national and international presentations and three scholarly book chapters — all related to perfusion science. He chaired and organized several national and international conferences and is heavily involved in three professional societies, which he says are a great way to give back to the profession.
“I am on the board of directors for AmSECT (American Society of Extracorporeal Technology),” said Jabr. “Within that society, I was the chair for the society’s international conference the last couple of years. I also served on the board with SABM (Society for the Advancement of Blood Management) and on the advisory board for ERAS-Cardiac (the Society for Enhanced Recovery After Cardiac Surgery).”
In 2021, Jabr was the recipient of AmSECT’s prestigious Award of Excellence — an international award presented to a perfusionist who has demonstrated excellent work and exemplifies creativity and intellectual originality in the field of extracorporeal technology.
Since 2003, Jabr has been a member of the advisory board for the Georgia Composite Medical Board overseeing the licensing of perfusionists in the state of Georgia.
Jabr also holds a certification as a Six Sigma Black Belt for Healthcare from the Institute of Industrial and Systems Engineers in Norcross, Georgia.
“This was one of the most difficult courses I have ever taken. It is a master’s level statistic course. I passed it and worked on a couple big projects for Atrium,” said Jabr. “When you are a Black Belt, you are always looking for champions. These are the people who are going to be the owner of a project while I become their back support. With the Black Belt, we have the knowledge and skills to build tools to ensure the quality improvement process will continue.”
Understanding processes — especially of the heart and lungs — are what makes Jabr a top perfusionist. His passion for the profession is evident when he speaks about it — and now about Tanner.
How did he decide to become a cardiovascular perfusionist? For Jabr, it involved having a mentor.
“I had an uncle who was a cardiac surgeon, and he talked to me about perfusion,” said Jabr. “When I investigated it, I became intrigued and interested. I finished high school in Kuwait and traveled to Scotland, where my uncle was working at the Glasgow Infirmary. He invited me to come and see an open-heart surgery, and I saw the heart-lung machine and really became fascinated with it.”
Jabr ended up staying in Scotland to study physiological measurement at Stow College in Glasgow. He then took a new position at University of Toronto, St. Michael Hospital in Toronto, Canada, where he earned a diploma in cardiovascular perfusion science from the Michener Institute of Applied Health Sciences and became a European and U.S. board-certified perfusionist.
“I spent eight years in Toronto as a perfusionist and associate researcher at the University of Toronto, then I moved to Las Vegas in the United States. I worked there for one year, then Dr. Omar Lattouf called and asked me to join his open-heart surgery team in Atlanta at what was then Georgia Baptist. Dr. Lattouf and I worked together there for about six years. About 27 years ago, I took a job in Macon, Georgia, with The Medical Center of Central Georgia (now Atrium Health – Macon). We were busy when I started there. We were doing about 1,200 heart surgeries a year at that time.”
What led him to move from Macon to Carrollton? Another call from Dr. Lattouf, the cardiothoracic surgeon leading Tanner’s new open-heart surgery team.
“Dr. Lattouf discussed with me what made him join Tanner Health System and how much he likes it there,” Jabr said. “I was not planning to leave; I was happy in Macon and had a great team to work with. But Dr. Lattouf convinced me to come for a visit at Tanner, and I did.
“I was very impressed with Tanner’s administration, doctors, nurses, facilities and the two new operating rooms built for open-heart surgery. There is a huge potential here. I am sure we will be ‘on the map’ soon in the region — and in the state — as a top cardiac center.”
Over the years of working together and traveling the world together to lecture, Jabr and Dr. Lattouf have become good friends. Jabr speaks fondly of the two men working together to help put together several big educational conferences in Atlanta, Chicago and Geneva in Switzerland.
“We are both very passionate about medical education. It will be a part of our careers no matter where we go. Currently, I’m affiliated with two perfusion schools: Midwestern University in Glendale, Arizona, and the Medical University of South Carolina in Charleston,” said Jabr. “Every year they send me students to train. I don’t remember a year without a student. I think I’ve trained 300-plus perfusionists in my 40-year career. I’m also involved in research, though not as much as I used to be.”
“I think open-heart surgery has a big potential here at Tanner. By having Dr. Lattouf on board, he will make sure this will be a top-notch cardiac surgery center in the region,” said Jabr. “After talking with some of the nurses and other people who work here at Tanner, I can see the passion for their work and what they do. This passion is very important when you are taking care of patients and providing the best possible care for them.
It didn’t take Jabr long to notice something else about Tanner that is often different at other hospital systems.
“I’ve also noticed that nearly everyone has been here for many years. This is a good reflection on Tanner’s outstanding leadership. When you are staying that long at a job, it shows you are happy where you are. That’s very impressive,” said Jabr. “When you put the right team together and everyone is working together cordially and professionally, you can conquer anything. I see the potential here, and in a short time I think the new open-heart team will accomplish much.”
Jabr is moving to Carrollton with his wife, Lina (pictured center right). They have two daughters, Mira (pictured left) and Rawan (pictured far right). Mira, who lives in Miami, has provided the couple with three grandsons. While Rawan, who lives in Macon, is an entrepreneur. The couple leaves behind a beloved son, who passed away four years ago at age 23. Jabr said that is one of the things that made leaving Macon hard, but that “he is in our hearts no matter where we go.” To honor their son, the children’s hospital in Macon named the pre-surgical area after him in recognition of the family’s community service.
Learn more about open-heart surgery and how it is performed at https://www.tanner.org/heart-care/what-we-offer/open-heart-surgery.