Michael Jessen, M.D.

  • Frank M. Ryburn, Jr., Distinguished Chair in Cardiothoracic Surgery and Transplantation
  • Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery
  • Heart Rhythm Treatment/Electrophysiology
  • Surgical Treatment of Thoracic Aortic Disease


The son of a veterinarian, Michael Jessen, M.D., was born, raised, and educated in Canada, graduating from the University of Manitoba Medical School in 1981.

During his general surgery residency, Dr. Jessen performed many procedures in a full range of surgical specialties, including vascular surgery, neurosurgery, plastic surgery, and cardiothoracic surgery.

Dr. Jessen left Canada in 1986 for fellowship training at Duke University Medical Center, where his research focused on myocardial metabolism and the biochemistry of myocardial protection.

While there, he joined the Residency Program in Thoracic Surgery, training under the direction of Dr. David C. Sabiston, Jr., an early innovator in cardiac surgery. This training program became the model for UT Southwestern's programs that train physicians for the future and for leadership in surgery.

Dr. Jessen joined the faculty of UT Southwestern in 1990, after completing his thoracic surgery residency.

He serves today as Professor and Chair of the Department of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery and holds the Frank M. Ryburn, Jr., Distinguished Chair in Cardiothoracic Surgery and Transplantation. He combines his continued interest in research and cardiothoracic surgery with teaching, faculty recruitment, and the management of a growing clinical team that has performed more than 400 heart transplants.

Dr. Jessen directs an active basic research laboratory that has received funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, and the Texas Advanced Technology Program. His research examines myocardial metabolism, which examines the ways the heart burns fuel during heart surgery as well as ways to preserve the heart longer. His lab also investigates the effects of cardiopulmonary bypass and a novel technique for long-term cardiac preservation for transplantation. This work has yielded a broad array of publications in the literature.

Dr. Jessen has been included in D Magazine's Best Doctors list several times and has been named a Super Doctor by Texas Monthly. In 1994 he received the Lyndon Baines Johnson Research Award of the Texas Affiliate of the American Heart Association. 

He is the Director of the Residency Program in Thoracic Surgery at UT Southwestern and teaches in the Biomedical Engineering Program at UT Southwestern Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences. He has an active clinical practice that focuses on cardiac surgery, surgical electrophysiology, aortic surgery, and cardiac transplantation.

Dr. Jessen's professional affiliations include the American Association for Thoracic Surgery; American Heart Association; Council on Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery; Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada; Society of Thoracic Surgeons; and the Thoracic Surgery Directors Association.

Personal Note

Away from UT Southwestern, Dr. Jessen likes to spend time with his family. Both his young sons are involved in a variety of activities, including a youth hockey team, which Dr. Jessen coached for two years. Sometimes they enjoy just relaxing at home with a movie.

Meet Dr. Jessen

Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeon

Michael Jessen, M.D., Chair of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center, believes excellent teamwork really counts.

"The clear emphasis at UT Southwestern is on making quality the top priority: making patient safety, the patient experience, and patient outcomes the best they can be, and that's really something special."

Whether a team is collaborating to figure out the best possible treatment for someone who is very ill, or working side-by-side in surgery to give someone a new heart, or “shaking the trees” all over campus to recruit Heart Walk participants, Dr. Jessen likes to be on teams with great skills, knowledge, enthusiasm, and commitment. And as a leader, he likes to build them.

A native of Canada, Dr. Jessen followed an early interest in surgery, and during his training found himself working with and learning from many of the pioneers of heart surgery. He arrived at UT Southwestern in 1990, just two years after W. Steves Ring, M.D., performed the Medical Center’s first heart transplant. On Thanksgiving Day, 2010, the 400th heart transplant was performed. Dr. Jessen was named to succeed Dr. Ring as department chair the same year.

“Naturally, we’re proud that our team has performed over 400 heart transplants,” Dr. Jessen says, ”but what really makes us happy is that our program consistently ranks among the top 10 in the United States. Our one- and three-year survival rates – key measures in program success – exceed the national average.”

Dr. Jessen believes that multidisciplinary collaboration is very important for cardiothoracic surgery patients. Not only do they benefit from the combined experience of each team member, they also have access to the most effective new treatments and can even participate in important clinical trials. Involvement in the evaluation of new drugs and devices also keeps UT Southwestern’s cardiothoracic surgery program at the forefront of the field.

“This institution has a real commitment to patient care and is devoting its resources to making the whole patient experience the best it can be,” says Dr. Jessen. “And, we are building a brand new hospital so that patients have both top medical expertise and a state-of-the-art medical facility for treatment when they most need it.”

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Education & Training
  • Residency - Duke University Hospital (1988-1990), Thoracic Surgery
  • Fellowship - Duke University Hospital (1986-1988), Research
  • Residency - University of Manitoba (1982-1986), General Surgery
  • Internship - University of Manitoba (1981-1982), Surgery
  • Medical School - University of Manitoba (1977-1981)
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • Thoracic Surgery Directors Association
  • Society of Thoracic Surgeons
  • Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada
  • American Heart Association, Council on Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery
  • American Association for Thoracic Surgery
Honors & Awards
  • D Magazine Best Doctor 2020-2022
  • Lyndon Baines Johnson Research Award 1994, American Heart Association, Texas Affiliate
  • Harold Micay Surgical Resident Award 1985, University of Manitoba
  • Davis and Geck Surgical Resident Award 1984, University of Manitoba
  • Maxwell Rady Scholarship 1977, University of Manitoba
  • Isbister Scholarship 1976, University of Manitoba
Books & Publications
  • Biocompatibility of materials for cardiopulmonary bypass and effects of the inflammatory response to extracorporeal circulation
  • Metabolic mechanisms of myocardial protection and the effects of substrate modifications on organ protective strategies
  • Dynamic organ preservation with continuous perfusion

Clinical Focus

  • Heart Rhythm Treatment/Electrophysiology
  • Surgical Treatment of Thoracic Aortic Disease
  • Heart Valve Repair/Replacement
  • Open Heart Surgery
  • Heart Transplant Surgery

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Q&A by Dr. Jessen