Paradise Valley surgeon battling brain cancer releases autobiography

SLED Book

Dr. Edward B. Diethrich (submitted photo)

“I think it’s fair to say that I have truly lived a serendipitous life,” says Dr. Edward B. Diethrich, Paradise Valley resident, philanthropist, medical visionary, cutting edge innovator and researcher in the treatment and prevention of cardiovascular disease.

“The Serendipitous Life of Edward. Diethrich,” SLED, reflects on the events and experiences over a more than 50-year career that made Dr. Diethrich the trailblazer he is today.

The pioneer in endovascular surgery is the founder of the Arizona Heart Institute, The Arizona Heart Hospital and the Arizona Heart Foundation, a non-profit organization dedicated to continuing research, prevention and education of cardiovascular disease. The book is inspiring for any reader no matter their profession.

“The book is named SLED because I was given a little red sled as a child.  After a terrific collision in the snow, I told my uncle I was made for work and not play,” said Dr. Diethrich. It is that passion of perseverance that has earned Dr. Diethrich the reputation as one of the top doctors in his profession today.

Dr. Diethrich acknowledges he has done a lot of things in his career he has been criticized for and has faced many challenges because of it.

“When I reflect on my career, I think what a wonderful series of opportunities. I never gave up on anything regardless of the consequences,” he said.

Dr. Diethrich’s adventurous and controversial life took him to the cover of Life Magazine. He was one of the very first physicians to use advertising and promotion at a time when such practices were frowned upon. His trailblazing and forward thinking led to a myriad of medical innovations and advancements that are now standard practice in the diagnosis and treatment of heart and blood vessel disease.

The maverick innovator and his team boast a long list of firsts, including the:

  • First live worldwide telecast of open heart surgery
  • Inventor of the sternal saw, a major techno
  • First heart/lung transplantation in Arizona in 1985
  • Logical innovation and one of the most important tools used still today in open heart surgery
  • Establishment of the nation’s first outpatient cardiac catheterization laboratory; now a worldwide standard of care
  • Creation of an international journal with the highest readership in the world on the subject of endovascular therapy

In the book, Dr. Diethrich attributes his inspiration to his mother, who was a surgical nurse and exposed him to hospitals and operating rooms as a young boy. As a teenager, he found himself working as a scrub nurse, side by side with surgeons assisting in his very first vasectomy at the age of 16.

“Those were the days,” Dr. Diethrich said. He was a model student, musician, and athlete.

At one point during his residency, Dr. Diethrich questioned whether he was cut out for his profession because of the “brutal harassing” he felt from one of the top surgeons in the world he trained under, Dr. Michael Debakey.

“I never spoke back or disrespected him. The harassment continued for many months, but it was all a test to see if I could stand the pressure,” Dr. Diethrich said. But by his junior year of residency, Ted Diethrich was Dr. DeBakey’s junior associate.

In 2012, Dr. Diethrich was diagnosed with a brain tumor, thus ending his career as a cardiovascular surgeon. But like the maverick man he is, the tumor was removed and Dr. Diethrich is cancer free. Dr. Diethrich is vocal about the harmful effects of constant radiation doctors are exposed to in interventional procedure rooms. He recently participated in a documentary, The Organization for Occupational Radiation Safety in Interventional Fluoroscopy’s, Invisible Impact: The Risk of Ionizing Radiation on Cath Lab Staff. The documentary uses his story to exemplify the effects of constant radiation exposure on doctors. It can be viewed on www.drteddiethrich.com

After encouragement from many of his colleagues, Dr. Diethrich has spent the last two years of his life writing his book. But every day he still devotes his life to medicine and research. While the cardiovascular pioneer is unable to continue his career as the surgeon he once was, Dr. Ted Diethrich has left an unforgettable mark on the medical world. On April 7, Dr. Dietrich will be awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by Arizona Business Magazine.

The Serendipitous Life of Edward Diethrich can be ordered online at drteddiethrich.com

Editor’s Note: Ms. Maggio-Harelson is a public relations professional at Frison PR.

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