Victor Parsonnet
Cardiac surgeon, philanthropist
Born: August 29, 1924, in Deal, New Jersey
New Jersey Hall of Fame, Class of 2018: Public Service

To describe Dr. Victor Parsonnet’s achievements as “groundbreaking” is the epitome of understatement. But what can you say about the first surgeon in New Jersey to implant a permanent pacemaker and perform heart and kidney transplants?

Raised in Newark, Parsonnet attended Maple Avenue School and Weequahic High School, before enrolling in Cornell University. After serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve during World War II, he completed his medical education at New York University School of Medicine. He later took time out from his career to serve in the Air Force during the Korean War.

In 1955, Parsonnet joined his father’s medical practice at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center, which his grandfathers, Victor Parsonnet and Max Danzis, had founded in 1901. Early in his career, Parsonnet did research and studied with cardiac surgery pioneers Michael DeBakey and Denton Cooley; the latter performed the first U.S. heart transplant in 1968.

In his early days as a medical intern, “there was no such thing as heart surgery,” Parsonnet told the New Jersey Jewish News in 2008. “There was no heart-lung machine. You couldn’t open the chest. The heart-lung pumps began around 1957. Heart surgery began as a specialty in the late 1950s. So, I was lucky. I was in the right place at the right time.”

In 1961, Parsonnet became the first surgeon in New Jersey to implant a permanent pacemaker. In 1985, he performed New Jersey’s first heart transplant and kidney transplant. More recently, Parsonnet helped develop a robotic system for chest and abdominal surgeries.

Parsonnet served as chief of surgery at Newark Beth Israel and later as medical director of the hospital’s Pacemaker and Defibrillator Evaluation Center and director of Surgical Research. He retired as Beth Israel’s chief of surgery in 2016, some 66 years after beginning his internship there. During his career, Parsonnet also served on the editorial boards of numerous academic publications and wrote more than 600 articles and five books. He holds five patents.

A patron of the arts, Parsonnet served as chairman of the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra for 17 years, taking over the position previously held by his father. He also has been a supporter of the Jewish Community Foundation of Greater MetroWest NJ and a board member of the Jewish Historical Society of New Jersey.

Intro/Acceptance Video