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Brigham hires chief for crucial cardiac unit

Appointment ends three-year search

Brigham & Women's Hospital, which had been searching for three years for a new cardiac surgery chief, has hired a Minnesota surgeon whose specialties include heart failure to lead one of its most crucial departments.

Dr. Michael Zinner, the Brigham's chief of surgery, said yesterday he hired Dr. R. Morton "Chip" Bolman III, 58, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Minnesota since 1989, to oversee cardiac surgery at the Brigham. Bolman's specialties include surgery for heart failure, including heart transplants and implanting devices that help the heart beat, widely believed to be a growth area as companies produce longer-lasting devices to help extend patients' lives.

"He offers us some things, by way of his experience, that are part of the future for cardiac surgery," Zinner said. "Heart failure has one of the highest admission rates for all of Medicare. Medicine and drugs are doing a lot to treat that disease. On the near horizon are a whole series of new devices that won't just be a bridge to a heart transplant, but more permanent devices."

Bolman will replace Dr. Lawrence Cohn, the Brigham's longtime cardiac surgery chief, who is giving up his administrative duties as chief but will maintain a full surgery schedule, as well as several research projects. Cohn, 67, said yesterday that he wants to devote more time to these pursuits than he could while overseeing a 300-person department. Like most Harvard Medical School teaching hospitals, the Brigham's bylaws encourage department chiefs to give up administrative duties in their mid-60s.

"Larry's still one of the most famous cardiac surgeons in the country and will continue to practice, and we want him to," Zinner said.

The Brigham had been searching for a leading heart surgeon to oversee cardiac surgery for over three years, but had trouble luring several candidates partly because the hospital couldn't match the salary packages offered by their current employers. Hospital officials held serious talks with Dr. Patrick McCarthy of the Cleveland Clinic, Dr. Robert Robbins of Stanford University, and Dr. Randolph Chitwood at East Carolina University. With McCarthy, the hospital got as far as making a formal offer.

All three candidates cited low fees from insurance companies and the high cost of Boston housing, as well as not wanting to uproot families, Zinner told the Globe in November 2003.

"Boston is still a sticky place to recruit because of the reimbursements and cost of living," Zinner said yesterday. "But we were able to make this deal work."

Zinner would not say how much the hospital is paying Bolman in salary, but said the Brigham is sticking to the Harvard Medical School salary guidelines. They allow the teaching hospitals to pay in the mid-$500,000s for a high-level productive heart surgeon.

Zinner said yesterday that he had asked Bolman to apply when the hospital started the search, but Bolman did not want to uproot his family. He reconsidered in recent months because both his daughters are now in college.

"Harvard is a pretty special place, as is the Brigham, that's what led us to reconsider this," said Bolman, who will start in late spring.

Liz Kowalczyk can be reached at kowalczyk@globe.com.

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