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UC Davis Health welcomes internationally renowned robotic heart surgeon as the new chief of cardiothoracic surgery

Bob Kiaii
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Bob Kiaii

(SACRAMENTO) —Internationally acclaimed heart surgeon Bob Kiaii has been selected as chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at UC Davis Health, one of the best cardiology and heart surgery programs in the nation.

Kiaii (pronounced KEY-eye) joins UC Davis from Western University in London, Ontario, Canada, where he was chair of cardiac surgery at the Schulich School of Medicine and Dentistry and chief of cardiac surgery at London Health Sciences Centre. He succeeds J. Nilas Young, who led the division for the past two decades.

At UC Davis, Kiaii leads the surgical team that treats adults and children for complex diseases of the chest ? including the heart, lungs and esophagus - and contributes to scientific advances through clinical and laboratory research. 

A leader in innovative therapies, Kiaii is expected to expand all areas of the practice, especially robotic-assisted, mechanical circulatory support and organ transplantation surgeries.

“We are so proud of our cardiothoracic surgery team and their stature as national experts, not just in quality outcomes but in compassion and innovation in heart care,” said Allison Brashear, dean of the UC Davis School of Medicine. “Dr. Kiaii is an exceptional surgeon, clinician and scientist in a rapidly evolving field. His leadership will further expand the national and international influence of the UC Davis team, with profound benefits for our patients needing cardiac interventions.” 

Kiaii is known for advancing minimally invasive cardiac surgery techniques that reduce hospital stays, recovery times and scarring. He is responsible for several firsts in his field, including North America’s first combined surgical and percutaneous procedure for multi-vessel coronary artery disease on the beating heart. He also performed the world’s first robotic-assisted surgeries for aortic valve bypass, right atrial perforation repair and left atrial appendage ligation for atrial fibrillation. 

His more than 100 published studies highlight a research program focused on safe and effective uses of new technologies in cardiothoracic surgery. Kiaii currently is an investigator on a study comparing quality-of-life differences in patients who receive either minimally invasive or standard open-heart surgery. He also is evaluating cardiac cellular changes that help predict post-operative outcomes. Together with anesthesia and nursing teams, he developed a post-operative care process that enables ultra-fast recovery and discharge following some heart procedures. 

Kiaii is president-elect of the International Society for Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery.

“Dr. Kiaii is a world-renowned surgeon who has made groundbreaking advances in the field of cardiac surgery, particularly with respect to minimally invasive and robotic cardiac surgery,” said Diana Farmer, chair of the Department of Surgery at UC Davis Health. “We look forward to all of the new dimensions he brings to our cardiothoracic surgery team.” 

UC Davis' adult cardiology and heart surgery program is ranked 17th best in the nation by U.S. News & World Report.The magazine also ranks the program as high performing in lung cancer, coronary bypass and aortic valve surgeries.

More information on UC Davis Health, including its Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, is at

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