Message from Katie, a high school sophomore

Hello Mrs. Magliato! My name is Katherine Willis and I am a sophmore in high school from Pennsylvania. I just read your book and could not put it down. I know that I love science and now it is clear what I aspire to be. I want to help people everyday, so I want to be a doctor! I wanted to thank you for writing this book full of insight not only towards the medical field, but also to motherhood and balancing both worlds. I love school and understand the importance of good grades and dedication in order to follow your dreams. If you ever need a fun, smart, dedicated, and hardworking high school intern, I am your girl! Thanks again for this life changing book. There are stories and quotes that will stay with me forever. Thank you for inspiring me to do what I know I can do.


Thank you for inspiring me, Leonor

Dear Dr. Magliato,

I am 17 years old, and for as long as I can remember I’ve wanted to be a heart surgeon. I’m a senior. I haven’t graduated high school yet and its already been difficult for me to pursue my dream. I’ve had many people, mostly family members, tell me that I shouldn’t become a heart surgeon. My mom has had the heaviest participation in this. My mom not only believes that becoming a heart surgeon is a waste of time because I need to study something that will “make money right away”, but also because she doesn’t believe I’m strong enough to become one. She doesn’t understand that the reason I want to become a heart surgeon has nothing to do with money. It is a calling that I was born with. It is a dream that I can not let go of. It is something far greater than myself. I have doubted and questioned myself many times, but time and time again I have realized that this my passion and I just refuse to let it go. I recently read your book Healing Hearts, and I just had to let you know what a great inspiration you are to me. Reading your book has given me fresh determination to keep on fighting for what I love. I hope to one day become half as great a doctor as you. Thank you for inspiring me.

Why doesn’t everyone want to be a heart transplant surgeon?


Not sure where this email will end up, but I just have to say that I just got your book for Christmas.  I take my MCAT in 14 days from yesterday, and while part of me wants to drop dead and be put out of my misery (painlessly, please), the other part of me is so beyond determined to become one hell of a CT surgeon.  It’s been my dream job ever since I began having dreams.

I’m only 100 pages into your book – not sure how I’ve made the time for those 100 pages amidst memorizing the henderson hasselbalch equation and galvanic batteries (damn batteries) – but the way you talk about surgery and the heart and being a woman-boss is literally almost word for word how I’ve talked about those same aforementioned things.  In a nutshell: WHY DOESN’T EVERYONE WANT TO BE A HEART TRANSPLANT SURGEON? I burst at the seems every time I say that.  I fall asleep every night watching surgeries on YouTube, anxiously awaiting the next time I talk my way into a surgery observation.  I can’t decide if it’s sick and twisted, or preeminent learning.  Probably both.  I find most med students are a little of both. Sigh.

One day, when I am a lowly CT resident, I will track you down at a surgery convention, and have you sign my book.  Or show up at your office and geek out over CT history.  I’ll be *that* person.  Just give me a couple years.  But mark my word, it will happen.


A Beautiful Gift

Hi Kathy,

It’s a long shot that you’ll read this email – but considering your endurance, commitment and determination at your work – it won’t surprise me if you do.
I just finished your book ‘Heart Matters’, which I was reading as research to write a character for a film (yes it’s a cliché – but what can I say?).
I just wanted you to know that it was a beautifully written, insightful and moving book and on behalf of everyone that lives in the regular world – thank you so much.
What inspiring work you do.
Never stop (except maybe to spend more time with your family).

A thank you message by Jeff

Thank You so much. I just finished reading your memoire last night and I find myself sitting in the moment reflecting on it all.
Thank You for caring,
Thank You for enduring the glass ceiling,
Thank You for knowing what it is you wanted to do with your life,
Thank You for your tenacity,
Thank You for developing into a beautiful women who is guided by your Faith,
Thank You for your encouraging, positive outlook,
I could go on with praise for you as an inspiration for others to aspire to. Your book has caused me to take more time with others and be patient as well. I have spent some time in reflection over my past. This is a good thing. I see where there are areas of my life that I can improve on myself as well as assist or serve others. There is so much we can do for ourselves and others in our daily life,  only if were more cognizant of the bigger picture and the lives we touch.
May you continue to reach your goals. May you succeed with the woman’s health center as well as your continued involvement with research and development with developing procedures and devices towards more successful heart transplant surgery.
I am proud to know you and to know the good you put out into the world, your husband as well.
In Deepest Regards,


Letters of Inspiration: Jan 14th, 2012

I am always thrilled to hear from women pursuing a career in cardio:


Hi Dr. Magliato,

I was lucky enough that my mom heard one of your interviews on the radio last year in Massachusetts on Valentine’s Day, and she gave me a copy of Heart Matters. I loved it!! Thank you so much for telling the truth of your inspiring journey through your training and career in medicine.  It is amazing to hear the story of female role models who have paved the way for the rest of us, and also rather humbling in hearing how you really manage to do it all!  I am currently a 3rd year medical student at Tufts in Boston, and trying to figure out what I want to do for the rest of my life. I wonder if you have any advice for a student with a variety of interests, definitely leaning towards surgery, but finding it hard to decide what track to take.I started my career on a completely different place, working as an engineer for Boeing in El Segundo. In fact I lived in Redondo Beach for four years, and volunteered at Torrance Memorial since all along I had an inkling that I belonged in medicine instead. I’ve now returned to Massachusetts for med school, and have been frustrated that in my 3 years so far haven’t been able to find a place where I can blend my skills learned from engineering with further development of my medical career. I have always thought I would end up in Orthopedic Surgery and indeed am still considering that as a specialty.  My only two reservations are 1) likelihood of getting into ortho with less that stellar board scores– even though I have Honored all of my clinical rotations and 2) I really love the heart! This is part of why I found your book so captivating! I’m not sure if Cardiothoracic surgery is a realistic goal for me though. For starters, it is LONG road of training and I’d be starting residency at 30. I honestly worry about what this means for starting a family. I suppose you just cross that bridge when you get to no matter what your specialty. I also know that this is one of the most demanding specialties that exists, and I’m not sure that I can handle that later in life. Plus I know that this field has undergone significant changes in the past 10-15 years with increasing interventional cardio procedures as well as medical therapies. I think many people are unsure of the direction CTS will end up in the future, and that is a bit scary as a career choice now.  I am getting in touch with an engineering professor at Tufts who works with Biomedical design for cardiovascular problems, so maybe this will open me up to the connection between engineering and medicine that I have been looking for and make the decision much easier. Sorry for such a long email, but I would appreciate any words of advice you have. I know you are extremely busy. Thank you again for being such an inspirational role model.Sincerely,
-L S
M.D. Candidate
Tufts University School of Medicine

Letters of Inspiration Reply: Oct 26th, 2011

Although I can not reply to every correspondence, be assured, I read every one of them.  They are part of the sustenance that keeps me going.  Sometimes, though, I skip my lunch to respond to some letters.  I would like to share a reply in correspondence that summarizes my history and view about life:

Thanks so much, Aimee, for reaching out to me. I’ll tell you how I would answer your 3 questions and maybe that will give you some insight into the advice you are seeking:

1. I’m Kathy. I’m from the small town of Highland in Upstate NY that hardly anyone has every heard of – even though I went to college IN Upstate New York. I usually describe my town by what’s around it, not in it, like West Point, Vassar College or the Culinary Institute of America. But what’s IN my town is far more important. What’s in my town are hard working, kind, altruistic, salt-of-the-earth people. Why is this important? Well, first and foremost, your future begins where you began. It’s your taking off point – your spring board. Look to your origin, your roots to find who you really are and there you will find who you want to be. I am hard-working, kind, altruistic and a salt-of-the earth person. This led me to chose  heart surgery where you need to work hard, be kind and altruistic and be relatable to your patients – all the while you are being tough as shit.

2. My major in college was bioengineering with a minor in immunology but that’s unimportant – I could’ve majored in Home Ec and still been a heart surgeon. College is about finding your passion. What you’re doing right now as a “conflicted” freshman is EXACTLY what you should be doing – wondering about your future, dreaming about it, being frustrated by it and hopeful about it all at the same time. Hence the conflict. If you weren’t conflicted right now, I’d be worried about you. Open your mind to ALL the possibilities that college offers. Constantly be scanning your life for opportunity or that opportunity may just pass you by without you even knowing it. In college, I took the time to do creative things – a term abroad in Florence Italy, founding the first women’s rugby team (and breaking a few bones in the process), doing an honors research project that, unknowingly at the time, led me down the path of surgery. You do not have a crystal ball, Aimee, and you can’t possible know where your experiences in college will take you. The most important thing is to be at a learning institution that lets you enjoy the journey.

3. Simple question. simple answer. don’t over think it. you’ll drive yourself crazy. and BTW, it’s OK with not having a ready-made plan for your whole future – what fun would that be? The times in my life that were the most interesting were the times when someone pulled the rug out from underneath my future and I could be in free fall for awhile unsure when, if and how I would land.

Here’s how I would answer Question # 3;

I want to help people (not save people – big difference) and make a difference in the world that is much greater than myself. That’s it. that’s all I ever wanted to do with my life. Heart surgery was just a vehicle to get me there. It may be the vehicle for you. It may not. who cares? Just continue on your journey and your heart will lead you the right way. Of this, I am certain.

Oh, and one more thing. Like Steve Jobs said at the June 12, 2005 Stanford Commencement Address:If you live each day as if it were your last, someday you’ll most certainly be right. I have ALWAYS lead my life like this. Time is a precious gift. Use it wisely. Make the best of each day, every day. Then, no matter what happens in your future, you will never have any regrets, and in the process, you will lead a full life.

From my Heart……to yours.


Letter of Inspiration: Oct 25th, 2011

Date: Tue, Oct 25, 2011 at 10:59 PM
Subject: Pre-med student seeking guidance!

Dr. Magliato,

Over the past two months, as I have been adjusting to college life as a dorky little freshman, I have been asked three questions at least 100 times now.
1) Where are you from?
2) What is your major?
3) What do you want to do with your life?
Answering the first question is easy. I am from Katy, Texas, which is only about a three hour drive away from the University of Texas at Austin, which is where I am currently studying. People only ever ask this question out of mere courtesy. Afterall, most kids going to UT are from either the Houston, Dallas, or Austin area. It’s only interesting when someone throws a wrench into the mix and says they are from some exotic, faraway land like Michigan or New York.
The second question is a little more difficult to answer. I mean, I have a major, but most people have never heard of it. I am majoring in something called Plan II Honors, which is just a strange name for an interdisciplinary honors major that serves the main purpose of shipping kids off to graduate school, law school, or medical school. Besides Plan II, I do plan (no pun intended) on declaring another major in the natural sciences college.
Now, the third question is where I start to fumble. What do I want to do with the rest of my life? I am only eighteen! How am I supposed to know what I am supposed to do with the REST of my life? Generally, I tell people that I plan to go to medical school and end the conversation. Hopefully, it will not take me the rest of my life to complete med school, but I honestly have no plan after that. The only thing I know is that I want to save people and that is simply not something I want to blurt out to new acquaintances.
As a means of clearing up some of my confusion about the blurry mess that is my future, I read Heart Matters. Since reading your book a few months ago, I cannot stop thinking about heart surgery! By that, I don’t mean that I dream of opening patients’ chest cavities. I mean that something about heart surgery has struck a chord with me. The innovation, the intensity, and the adrenaline of surgery. It all appeals to me! And then the romantic idea of fixing a broken heart has also passed through the “sentimental” portion of my brain.
Ultimately, I just wanted to let you know that you have had an immense impact on me- a conflicted college student- and I wanted to thank you for giving me something to ponder and dream about.
If you have any advice for an undergraduate student hoping to get into medical school and possibly even enter the realm of heart surgery, please do let me know!

Thank you,
A. F.

Letter of Inspiration: Sept 19th, 2011

This is a letter I received from a reader whose grandson, Wyatt, was born with a congenital heart defect.  For more information about Wyatt, goto:

A Wish for Wyatt letter

Letters of Inspiration: Aug 9th, 2011

It’s letters like these that make it all worth it.  Thank you!

Date: Tue, Aug 9, 2011 at 3:16 PM
Subject: Amazing book!

Dr. Magliato–I must tell you how much I enjoyed your book, “Heart Matters”. I just finished reading it I found it extremely inspirational and informative. You are a remarkable woman! My husband and I have three sons who have completed Medical or Dental School and one who completed both ( to become an Oral Surgeon). One of our daughter-in-laws is an anesthesiologist and one of our sons is a cardiac anesthesiologist. My husband is a dentist and I am a Registered Nurse. So we are deeply entwined with the medical/dental field!

One of our grandsons is a 4 year old fraternal twin (conceived through IVF) born with a biscupid aortic valve. He has displayed no symptoms but the tests show that the valve is leaking a bit and there is some stenosis. In my heart there is a sadness and fear of what this adorable little guy will be facing. My constant prayer is that he will not have to have intervention until he is older, but time will tell. How I wish you were the one in charge of his care. Your compassion for your work and your compassion for your patients is commendable. If I were faced with a cardiac issue, I would be looking for you!!

I wish you the very best as you continue in your work. I hope there is time in your life for you to enjoy your precious family–they are a gift. The world and medical field could certainly use more people like you!

Sincerely, K. P.