Dr. Robert James “RJ” Cusimano is a Cardiac Surgeon at The Peter Munk Cardiac Centre at the Toronto General Hospital and a Professor of Surgery at the University of Toronto. A native of Toronto and the third of eight children, He earned his medical degree from the University of Calgary in 1983, interned in the Atlantic Canadian provinces (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, and Prince Edward Island), before completing his Residency in General Surgery, and Cardiac Surgery at the University of Toronto. During his General Surgical residency, he obtained a Master of Science degree from the Institute of Medical Science, Surgical Scientist Programme of the University of Toronto. His Thesis was in the area of myocardial protection during cardiac operations. He became a staff surgeon at the Toronto General Hospital in 1993 – the first Canadian of Italian heritage to achieve this status.
In 2006, Dr. Cusimano was invited to teach cardiac surgery at Xingxiang Medical University in China --- becoming the first non-Chinese physician to do so. The surgical procedure was televised to 100 million people in China. Over the next few years, he taught and worked on educational and programme development in many Chinese centres and was awarded an honorary degree from Xingxiang University for his work.
Dr. Cusimano is the inaugural holder of the Cynamon Professorship in Cardiovascular Innovation and Education at the Peter Munk Cardiac Centre. In addition to his clinical duties, he has been deeply interested in education. He was the programme director of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Toronto and at the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada, helped in the development and implementation of the Competency based curriculum now in existence in Canada. He has taught both within the University, Canada and internationally, having either taught or helped in programme development in China, Ethiopia, Sri Lanka, Brazil, Europe and the US. In 2016 he conceived and held the first Toronto Cardiac Tumour Conference, which brings the world's experts in the field of cardiac tumours on a yearly basis. The Toronto Cardiac Tumour Conference was created to share knowledge and best practices about the diagnosis, treatment and management of these little-known, benign or malignant tumours of the heart, an increasingly common heart condition, which can at times be fatal. Recently, he conceived and has been working on the INTERACT project (INTernational Registry to Assess Cardiac Tumours), a global initiative to capture all cardiac tumours in the world. This is a multi-national, multidisciplinary endeavor which will bring centres around the world together to try to improve care and outcome in these very rare tumours. Recently he was in Africa to help develop a plan to harmonize interaction on the continent. Eventually he would like to develop a subspecialty of cardiac surgery in the area of cardiac tumours.
Dr. Cusimano is the longest-serving member of Toronto General Hospital’s heart transplant team, a position he has held since 1993. As such, he has performed more heart transplants than any other adult surgeon in Toronto. He is a recognized specialist in insertion, modification and removal of cardiac rhythm management devices. He is also an active member of the Ventricular Assist Program at the Toronto General Hospital, focused on providing heart disease patients with cardiac-assist device, or mechanical heart technology, like the Left Ventricular Assist Device or LVAD. He is a member of the Transcatheter Valve therapy team.
Dr. Cusimano is married with two children. His wife is an Obstetrician/Gynecologist at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto. He is passionate about photography, technology, travel and history.