November 19, 2018

Jack Matloff, Cardiac Surgeon, 82

Pioneer heart surgeon Dr. Jack Matloff died Aug. 20 at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center following a lengthy illness. He was 82.

Born in New Haven, Conn., the son of a milkman, Matloff “created cardiac surgery at Cedars-Sinai and belonged to the first generation of those who truly developed cardiac surgery as a mature specialty,” said Dr. Alfredo Trento, director of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Cedars-Sinai Heart Institute.

Matloff worked at Cedars-Sinai from 1969 to 1998 and, in addition to his professional contributions, was “the biggest personality at Cedars-Sinai, jovial, friendly and really involved,” Trento added.

Matloff’s influence extended well beyond Los Angeles and the United States; his professional leadership is reflected in cardiac surgery centers in Japan, China, Germany, Russia, Colombia, El Salvador and, foremost, Israel.

At Shaare Tzedek Medical Center in Jerusalem, he not only helped create the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, named in honor of his parents, he also led a $15 million fundraising drive to assure its establishment.

In addition, Shaare Tzedek is developing the Matloff Family Disaster and Emergency Response Center in the surgeon’s honor.

During an interview some years ago, Matloff was asked how many heart surgeries, including transplants, he had performed in his career. After a brief pause, he answered, “Oh, between 4,000 and 5,000.”

One of those patients was Aaron Eshman, then 54, who received a quadruple bypass in 1982 and recalled the surgeon as a “people person, adored by his patients. … The operation was on May 8, and every year on that date, Dr. Matloff phones me to congratulate me on my rebirth,” Eshman, father of the Journal’s editor-in-chief and publisher, Rob Eshman, said.

The author of more than 500 scientific papers, abstracts and books, Matloff also was a dedicated Jew. He helped establish a Hillel Center at Yale, one of his alma maters, and also donated a Torah. At Cedars-Sinai, he contributed Torah mantles to the chapel and also initiated the first sukkah at the hospital.

He carried his religious outlook over into his daily work, a colleague noted, saying, “Jack never forgot that there is a spiritual side to healing.”

Matloff is survived by Martha Bernier Matloff, his wife of 48 years; son Stephen (Susan Dann); daughter Lori Matloff Goler (Brian Goler); six grandchildren; and brothers David Matloff and Kenneth Matloff.

Donations in honor of Jack Matloff’s life may be sent to the American Committee for Shaarey Zedek Medical Center, 8671 Wilshire Blvd., Suite 712, Beverly Hills. Donations will support the Dr. Jack Matloff Family Emergency and Disaster Response Center.