Physician: Dr. Frank Downey

2018 Health Care Heroes Award Winners


Dr. Frank Downey

Surgical director of Heart Transplantation program

Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center

Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center was the first hospital in the Midwest to complete a heart transplant.

The first transplant in the world took place in South Africa in 1967, just 10 months before the procedure took place at Aurora St. Luke’s. The patient in South Africa lived just weeks following the transplantation. The heart transplant patient at Aurora St. Luke’s lived more than nine years following her heart transplant.

With Dr. Frank Downey’s contributions for the past 25 years, the Advanced Heart Failure Therapies program at Aurora St. Luke’s Medical Center has supported more than 860 end-stage heart failure patients with mechanical pumps and performed more than 925 heart transplants.

Nine years ago, Downey was charged with starting the cardiothoracic surgery program at Aurora Medical Center in Grafton.  That program has continued to grow, recently completing its 1,000th cardiac surgery.

“End-stage heart failure carries a 50 percent one-year mortality rate,” Downey said. “The Advanced Heart Failure Therapies program provides options for patients with end-stage heart failure.”

Downey is also an investigator for numerous clinical research studies at Aurora Health Care. At the Milwaukee School of Engineering, he holds an adjunct professor position in the Engineering and Computer Science department’s perfusion program.

Downey has been chairman of the medical advisory committee at the Wisconsin Donor Network (now Versiti), and is also a member of the organization’s advisory board.

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