MORGANTOWN, W.Va. – “Every day, my goal is to help deliver the best cardiac care to children that are born with heart defects.”
Those are the words of Dr. Chris Mascio, the relatively new executive director of WVU Medicine Children’s Heart Center. He is a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon who said he finds satisfaction in his work.
“I am very, very satisfied. I’ve always been someone that likes to construct things, do things with my hands, etc. You know, when you go into medicine, you have to decide if you want to do something operative or interventional, or not. And I, definitely, quickly knew I wanted to do something operative. And so, for me, I get a lot of satisfaction out of trying to fix hearts. It’s just most of the days, I feel like things went great, and I have a lot of satisfaction, and there are some tough days, though. But nine days out of 10, very satisfied.”Dr. Christopher Mascio – Executive Director of the WVUMC Heart Center
Mascio spent nearly eight years at the renowned Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. There, he maintained a busy clinical practice, performing complex congenital heart surgeries on newborns, children, teens and adults. He was also the associate clinical chief of CHOP’s Division of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery.
It was this combination of pediatric surgical expertise and leadership experience that led to his recruitment to WVUMC.
As to why he took the job, Mascio offered multiple factors.
“There are really three reasons for me,” Mascio said. “One was the chance to help shape a program. Of course, it’s not just me. There are cardiologists, intensivists, anesthesiologists. We all work together, but the chance to be a leader in my area of that—that’s one reason.”
The second reason, he said, is the overall hospital leadership. He said people like Gordon Gee, Albert Wright, Amy Bush, and Dr. Vinay Badhwar‘s leadership styles and approaches to thinking drew him into the job.
Seeing what they have managed to accomplish through the last 6–7 years, Mascio said, is “truly impressive.” A standalone WVUMC hospital building is under construction and has been through the pandemic. Mascio called the dedication to the construction, even through the pandemic, “very impressive.”
“It just struck me as people who get things done, who are serious about what they say,” Mascio said. “And, that’s something that I wanted to be part of.”
The third reason he accepted his position as executive director of the Heart Center, Mascio said, was family.
“My family is nearby,” he said. “My mother and my sister live here, and so that was also a big part of the decision.”
In many ways, Mascio is just a West Virginian returning home. His mother was born in Wheeling, and, although he grew up in nearby Ohio, he spent nearly every weekend of his childhood in
West Virginia. Now, his family is back together again.
He said there is extra significance in returning to The Mountain State to work at WVUMC due to his upbringing and familial ties.
“I think, to me, it’s like coming home, number one,” Mascio said. “And number two, there’s a need in this state. When I was in Philadelphia, that’s a great hospital. It’s a large outfit, it’s been there for a long, long time. But, you know, here there’s a need for these services, and, right now, children in this state are being shipped out of state to get the cardiac care that they need. And so, our goal is to be able to provide top-notch care to these children, so no child in the state has to leave to get top-notch cardiac care.”
Someday soon, that care will be provided in the state-of-the-art standalone hospital WVUMC is building.
Mascio said it’s going to be “new and very clean.” He said it will reiterate the hospital’s commitment to caring for children and women.
“I think they’re going to be very excited,” he said.
Despite a dedication to expanding and growing WVUMC and to saving lives, Mascio said he’s no hero.
“I don’t really consider myself a hero,” he said. “I consider myself—I consider this just doing my job. And, really, I think again, like I said earlier, my job is not a standalone position. You know, I can’t do what I do without cardiologists, intensive care unit physicians, OR team, anesthesiologists, bedside nurses. It’s all very, very important.”
“There is a lot of pressure when parents hand over a child to you, and there’s no, you know, there’s no C-plus days in my business. It seems like it’s either a win or it’s not, and so, the whole team is very invested. The whole team is very serious, but, I don’t consider myself a hero. I just think I’m just happy to be part of a larger team that is trying to do something good for children here.”