Heartfelt sendoff for legendary cardiologist 

June 12, 2024

Heartfelt sendoff for legendary cardiologist 

“MGH and MVH are losing one of the singularly talented cardiologists of the last half century.”

Those words, which come from Gerasimos Zervos, MD, FACC, a staff cardiologist at Mass General Hospital (MGH) and an Assistant Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, describe what he thinks of Dr. Timothy Guiney, who announced earlier this year he will be retiring in July.

“Dr. Guiney is one of our legendary cardiologists at MGH. As has been self-evident for decades, he has carried forward the flame, spirit, superlative clinical acumen, and authentic humanity of our great singular clinical cardiologists of the past at MGH, in the tradition of Paul Dudley White who shaped MGH Cardiology into a world renown entity.”

After more than 50 years as a distinguished cardiologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, and more than 40 leading and guiding the Cardiology Department at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, Dr. Guiney will turn his attention to teaching.

“In recent years I have become increasingly aware of the gap that exists in the mentorship and education of our cardiology trainees, namely teaching patients the nature and mechanism of serious illness, understanding its trajectory and preparing for what lies ahead,” stated Dr. Guiney in a letter sent to patients announcing his retirement. “With that realization I have decided that the time has come for me to wind down my cardiology clinical practice and refocus my efforts on cultivating the next generation of cardiologists. I will be working to improve the connection between the Divisions of Cardiology and Palliative Medicine, which is a subspecialty that focuses on optimizing quality of life for those with serious illness.”

Dr. Guiney’s visionary leadership paved the way for the establishment of the Cardiology Department at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital, facilitating its evolution from a humble venture to a thriving hub of advanced cardiac care.

“When I first started, the hospital was more like a first aid station attached to a helicopter pad,” said Dr. Guiney.

What began as a ‘one-man show’ has not only expanded the horizons of cardiac care on the island but has also fostered a profound partnership between MVH and MGH, enriching the healthcare landscape with collaborative excellence.

“I would credit him for the deep relationship with MGH cardiology and the advanced cardiology services and physicians he brought here,” said Claire Seguin, Chief Nurse and VP of Operations at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

The hospital honored Dr. Guiney for his contributions and achievements with a retirement celebration on Friday, May 31. It was standing room only in the lobby, as the doctor’s family, friends, patients, and colleagues gathered to show their appreciation.

“It’s a bittersweet day for me, for many of us. Dr. Guiney is a legend here at our hospital,” said Denise Schepici, Martha’s Vineyard Hospital president.

Seguin recalled working with Dr. Guiney at Mass General Hospital, before getting to know him better after she arrived at MVH.

“I’m just so proud of everything you’ve accomplished here,” she said. “The amount of growth in our cardiology division is just phenomenal. Through your relationships with Mass General… it has really made a world-class program that we can all be proud of, and the Vineyard should be very proud of as we serve our community.”

Michael R. Jaff, DO, the chairman of the MVH/WNR Board of Trustees, worked with Dr. Guiney at Mass General Hospital, where Dr. Jaff’s specialty was vascular medicine. He was later convinced by Dr. Guiney to come to Martha’s Vineyard Hospital to see patients here. “Now full circle, to stand here in front of this true giant in cardiovascular medicine, to say what a true honor and privilege it has been to get to know you and work with you clinically, the impact you’ve made on this hospital in this community is immeasurable, and we’re forever grateful.”

Dr. Guiney has spent most of his life in Boston, first as a public-school student, then pre-med at Boston College, and as an aspiring doctor at the Harvard Medical School. After two years of study at Duke University he returned to work at Brigham Hospital, before it merged to become Brigham and Women’s Hospital, and has worked for MGH since then. Following a sabbatical at St. George’s Hospital in London during 1979 and 1980, Dr. Guiney also began occasional work at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital.

It was around the time of returning from his sabbatical that Dr. Guiney and his wife purchased an old farmhouse on the Vineyard. They mostly rented it out, but the family would use it as a summer place with their children, and on occasional weekends. Then his wife suggested making the old farmhouse, built in 1804, their permanent home. It was the first of three homes the Guineys have owned on the island.

Dr. Guiney said he likes the neighborly atmosphere on the Vineyard and doesn’t mind when people come up to him while waiting in line at the store, asking for medical advice.

“He’s always been right there when I have a problem, but I try not to have a lot of problems,” said Trip Barnes, a longtime patient of Dr. Guiney’s. Trip credits Dr. Guiney with saving his life twice, including supervising a 12-hour quadruple bypass surgery at Mass General Hospital.

“I think the thing I’ve enjoyed most is getting to know the patients and making a diagnosis that led to people feeling better,” said Dr. Guiney during a recent interview at Martha’s Vineyard Hospital. “The patient has to be told with absolute honesty what the pluses and minuses are. That’s what good doctoring should be about. If you listen to a patient long enough, they’ll tell you what the diagnosis is.”

In his farewell letter to patients, Dr. Guiney wrote, “It has been an extraordinary half century, and I will genuinely miss the many friends I have made along the way, the multigenerational families I’ve cared for, and the laughs and the sadnesses we’ve shared.”

Before unveiling a portrait done by Chappaquiddick artist Elizabeth Whelan during the retirement ceremony May 31, Dr. Dan Pesch, Associate Chief Medical Officer, said, “We really are thankful for the impact that you have had on our hospital throughout your entire career… your legacy is going to be felt today and for generations.”

The portrait hangs outside the Cardiology Department, a fitting tribute to the man who established and grew that practice on the island.

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