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Downstate Times

The Newsletter for SUNY Downstate
University Hospital of Brooklyn

Meet Dr. Vinay Tak

photo of Vinay Tak

It's not every day that Vinay Tak, MD, Downstate's chief of cardiothoracic surgery, sees his name in the Daily News. Still, the story on how he saved the life of a critically ill Brooklyn College professor is not really that unusual. As the many letters, personal artwork, and other mementos he has received from grateful patients makes clear, Dr. Tak has saved a great many lives.

Dr. Tak performs the entire spectrum of cardiac surgical operations, including arterial grafts and valve repairs, as well as general thoracic operations. He is also highly skilled at minimally invasive and video-assisted surgeries. But what he is especially known for is his willingness to take on the most difficult, high-risk cases, even when no one else will.

"More than 50 to 60 percent of the cases we get are very serious," he explains. "Many times, I see patients who are extremely debilitated, yet they are afraid to have an operation after talking to surgeons at other hospitals who don't want high-risk cases. I tell these patients, 'Yes, there is a risk, but I can help you.'"

After receiving his medical education and training in cardiothoracic and general surgery in Calcutta, Dr. Tak trained in England. Subsequently, he moved to Oregon to work with Dr. Albert Starr, the noted cardiovascular surgeon who invented the Starr heart valve.

Dr. Tak joined Downstate in 2007. Since being named interim division chief four years ago, he has elevated cardiothoracic surgery to a new level of excellence. Whether in the operating room or at the patient's bedside, he leads by example.

"If I see something that should not be there, even if it is only a paper on the floor, I will remove it—and make certain that my staff sees me doing it."

Dr. Tak describes Downstate as "a diamond in the rough"—often under-recognized and under-appreciated. "Many people don't realize until they come here that our cardiac services are as good as or better than anywhere else," he says.

This fact is not lost on the hospital staff, several of whom have referred family members to his care. Not long ago, Jasmine Lambert, RN, persuaded her brother-in-law, Arnold Palmer, to make the hazardous AirVac trip from Nassau in the Bahamas, because she had faith that Dr. Tak—and only Dr. Tak—could save him. Mr. Palmer underwent emergency surgery for an acute aortic dissection that could have ruptured at any time, but in the end he went home with his health and life restored.