Tuesday, March 13, 2012


Geoff was a Goshen College classmate and friend.  You can read an obituary here that notes some of his personal achievements, and I have copied another below that highlights Geoff's professional achievements.  Although we all knew that Geoff was very smart and destined to become a great physician, many of us knew him as a dry-witted wag and highly talented bass player.  For many years, he played with The Dukes, a local Goshen band and then with the Backdoor Men at Goshen College.  He often jammed with other fellows, including a group that set up in the Union Building at GC, started playing and instigated what was likely the first rock and roll dance at the college.  Fittingly, Mike Hostetler dubbed the group The Corrupters.  I invite those of you who knew Geoff to add a Geoff-story in the comments section.

PTCA pioneer passes away: Dr Geoffrey Hartzler dead at age 65 March 13, 2012

{PCTA = Percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty}

By Michael O'Riordan

Kansas City, MO - Dr Geoffrey Hartzler, one of the pioneers of interventional cardiology, passed away on March 10, 2012 following a battle with cancer. He was 65 years old.

An interventional cardiologist who began practice in 1974 and who performed the first coronary angioplasty at the Mayo Clinic in 1979, Hartzler was doing successful percutaneous transluminal coronary angioplasty (PTCA) just two years after Dr Andreas Gruentzig performed the first procedure on a patient in Switzerland. Hartzler joined the Mid America Heart Institute in Kansas City, MO in 1980, where he started the angioplasty program, one of the busiest programs in the country, and worked there until he retired in 1995 at 49 years of age due to chronic back pain.

To heartwire, Dr Gregg Stone (Columbia University, New York), who completed an advanced coronary angioplasty fellowship with Hartzler in Kansas City, MO, a fellowship he established in 1986 to train two interventional cardiologists per year, said that his contributions to medicine cannot be overstated.

"Whereas Andreas Gruentzig was responsible for bringing angioplasty to the world, Geoff Hartzler was the single person most responsible for extending its application to the millions of patients who currently benefit each year from interventional cardiology," Stone commented to heartwire. "Whereas Andreas believed PTCA should be restricted to proximal focal lesions, Geoff was the pioneer who brought interventional cardiology (balloons only, no less) to patients with acute MI, multivessel and left main disease, chronic total occlusions, and much more."

Hartzler was fearless, added Stone, possessing "technical gifts that to this date have not been equaled," but his career was guided by his compassion for the patient. Along with colleagues at Mid America Heart Institute, Hartzler established a database of interventional cases, and this helped bring evidence-based medicine to the field, said Stone. Live case demonstrations led by Hartzler also helped a generation of doctors become interventional cardiologists.

Speaking with heartwire, Dr Barry Rutherford, the director of interventional research at St Luke's Mid America Heart Institute, called Hartzler's passing a tremendous loss for the cardiology community. He agreed with Stone, saying Hartzler's greatest contribution to interventional cardiology might have been in the acute-MI setting.

"Prior to Geoff, we were all just using streptokinase and waiting for the artery to open," said Rutherford. "Geoff came upon the idea that we could just simply deliver the balloon across the occluded vessel and it would open up. That was so dramatic to see. The patient comes in with an evolving infarct, in a lot of pain, with blood pressure down, and then you open the artery up and suddenly the pain went away and hemodynamics stabilized. He took a lot of criticism over many, many years for that procedure, and we had to defend it at the ACC and AHA, and it probably took 10 years for it to be recognized as the standard of treatment. I think now that he's probably responsible for saving millions of lives around the world."

Dr David Holmes (Mayo Clinic, Rochester, MN) and Hartzler both arrived at the Mayo Clinic together as student clerks in their senior year of medical school. They were assigned to the ECG laboratory together and eventually joined the staff together, working in electrophysiology and also in interventional cardiology.

"He was a brilliant electrophysiologist," Holmes told heartwire. "We think in terms of him being that interventional cardiologist of note, but he was incredibly gifted as an electrophysiologist, doing the first, as far as I know, ablation for ventricular tachycardia."

In addition, Holmes said that Hartzler pioneered advanced pacing and mapping of cardiac arrhythmias and performed work and research that was seminal in the growth of the field. He was always interested in new approaches to treatment, and this interest presaged his groundbreaking work in interventional cardiology.

"In all of these things, his work, his approach, and his life could be summarized by passion, by creativity, by sharing, by educating, and by taking care of patients," said Holmes.

In addition to starting the fellowship program, Hartzler began teaching sessions at Mid America, small sessions that initially had 20 to 30 physicians. These sessions were eventually expanded to include 300 to 400 physicians each year, and in these sessions an entire generation of interventional cardiologists learned their craft.

Despite retirement, Hartzler stayed active in business, serving as a consultant or as a director on a number of companies, including serving as the board chair of IntraLuminal Therapeutics, a company he cofounded, from 1997 to 2004.

In a 2005 theheart.org feature story on some of the occupational hazards of working in the cath lab, Hartzler detailed some of his back problems, including ruptured vertebrae that led to five lumbar laminectomies and a cervical fusion, related to treating so many patients. At the time, he was nearly a decade removed from the cath lab but said he had no regrets about leaving.

"I retired pretty much at the top of my game," Hartzler told heartwire at the time. "I wanted to stop when I was still appreciated for doing good work. People may have a hard time understanding that when I started, interventional cardiology was just coming into being, and I was honored to be part of developing it."

Hartzler is survived by his wife, Dottie, and their four daughters.



fred hostetler said...

Thank you for this post on brother Geoff. It enlightens me in detail about his genius that I missed after college. Our love of music kept us in tune though we barely saw each other. He asked for a few more years of life and God granted this boon. It is a humbling experience just to think about the lives he saved and the happiness he spread through his work. Awesome Geoff...your the Drum Major, let us remember the fearless steps and the way you lifted the baton.

Dr S said...

Fred - thanks for sharing. I, and perhaps others, had forgotten about Geoff the Drum Major at GHS, so thanks for bringing back that memory.

hoosierdaddy said...

Some memories of Geoff during 60's - he was very buff, he was very near-sighted, and I think he played flute in addition to the bass.

Mike Hostetler said...

I just want to say how much Geoff liked all you guys in college.He would talk to me about those times and ask and ask what I knew of you all. As high schoolers, Geoff and I wanted to go to IU. We even visted the campus but our parents wanted us at GC. Geoff knew he got a good education there, but was never fond of the administrative atmosphere. I feel extremely lucky to have had him as a friend since he taught me to lift weights when we were 15. I probably would have gotten killed in high school football without that. All the best, Mike

Dr S said...

Mike - no wonder Geoff was buff! It seems as though Geoff was also a master bushwacker, eh?

Bobby said...

Thanks for the obit. Didn't know Geoff well, I do remember him. Seems like Mike called him Geoff Fartzler??? Anyhow, it does remind me of our own mortality.