‘I’ve had a lot of firsts’: History-making pediatric surgeon brings expertise to Hoosier state 


A pioneering pediatric heart surgeon, Dr. Constantine Mavroudis of Carmel regards his life as a testament to hard work and dedication to helping others.

“I lived the American dream, coming from Greece, learning as I matured and then becoming a congenital heart surgeon and all the things associated therewith,” said Mavroudis, 77.

Internationally renowned for the “Baby Calvin” case, Mavroudis performed the first successful infant heart transplant in Kentucky in 1986 and went on to establish the nation’s second pediatric heart transplant program — and the first east of the Mississippi — at the University of Louisville School of Medicine.

“I’ve had a lot of firsts in my career,” Mavroudis said. 

Although “Baby Calvin” only lived nine years after the surgery, Mavroudis said many patients from his early days in Kentucky are still alive, and advancements have been made in anti-rejection medications and congenital heart surgeries.

Dr. Constantine Mavroudis with a young patient in 1989. Mavroudis had performed surgery on the girl in 1984. (Photo courtesy of Dr. Constantine Mavroudis)

Mavroudis said he was inspired to become a doctor after suffering from appendicitis as a child.

“I went to the hospital (for the procedure) and I said, ‘This is kind of cool. I’m going to do this. I’m going to help people,’” he said. “And that was the guiding light of my entire career.” 

Mavroudis was hired by the University of Louisville School of Medicine after a two-year cardiothoracic surgery residency at the University of California San Francisco, where he received extensive training in infant and pediatric heart transplantation – a new field at the time.

“My research, starting when I was a medical student, was based on models of congenital heart disease,” he said. “I would create a model of an animal that was similar to what we would find in the human population and I would do things that would perturb the situation and find ways to make it better. I think that was a major part of how the research has helped us make new operations and make the other operations better, and that’s what I think (I) was most proud of.”

In 1989, Mavroudis was recruited by Children’s Memorial Hospital in Chicago and joined the faculty of Feinberg School of Medicine at Northwestern University, also in Chicago. He served both institutions until 2008. 

“We instituted new operations that helped patients with single ventricles and continued the cardiac transplant program,” Mavroudis said.

He went on to serve as chief of cardiothoracic surgery with the Cleveland Clinic for three years and in 2012 helped establish a pediatric heart surgery program at Florida Hospital for Children in Orlando, in partnership with Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

“I’m not so sure that I’ve ever had time to say, ‘OK, this is great.’ I just kept working, kept doing what I felt was important for the field and to educate the next generation,” Mavroudis said. 

Mavroudis was the editor for four editions of the Pediatric Cardiac Surgery textbook used worldwide.

He was contemplating retirement when he was recruited to Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital in Indianapolis in 2020.

“They were undergoing a change in direction and I thought that being able to help them reestablish the (pediatric heart surgery) program was a good thing to do,” Mavroudis said.

“In many ways, Dr. Mavroudis has saved us,” said Leonard Steinberg, medical director for pediatric cardiology for Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. “We were in need of a new surgeon and he made himself available. If it hadn’t been for him, I don’t know what we would have done, but he came in and took over the surgical program and just brought us outstanding results.”

Currently serving in a mentorship role at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital, Mavroudis continues to provide the team with his wisdom and experience.

“He’s been great to work with. I think he’s had such a commitment and dedication to developing the depth of knowledge in this field,” said Amy Heincker, a cardiovascular nurse practitioner at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital. “I think we are just grateful to his commitment to our patients here at PMCH but also to all patients born with congenital heart defects.”

When his time at Peyton Manning Children’s Hospital is complete in the coming year, Mavroudis and his wife plan to move to Florida.

“Although I am retiring from active surgery, I’m not so sure I see retirement in the cards,” Mavroudis said. “I describe (my life) as a joyous, joyous journey. The idea is to help people with whatever talents that you have and whatever abilities you have.”

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Sharing his journey

Dr. Constantine Mavroudis shares his life story in “Finding My Way” a self-published book distributed by Dorrance Publishing. 

In addition to his professional life, he talks about growing up as a Greek immigrant in New Jersey, meeting his wife, raising a son and daughter and running 100 triathlons.