Cracking jokes and cracking chests

Originally published on March 18, 2016 on


It took Kathy Magliato, M.D., three tries to write the book that eventually became the basis for the new NBC series Heartbeat, which premieres March 23.

First, she tried writing a fact-driven book about heart disease and the risk it poses to women. But the book, she now concedes, was “dry” and the topic had been covered numerous times elsewhere.

So she tried to pepper it with interesting and enlightening anecdotes from her experience as one of only a handful of female heart surgeons practicing today. Better, but those who read the manuscript told her they wanted to learn more about her story, too.

And that’s when the book, eventually titled Heart Matters: A Memoir of a Female Heart Surgeon, became the full-fledged memoir that Magliato says she hopes will inspire young people, especially young girls, to pursue careers in medicine as well as STEM – science, technology, engineering and mathematics – fields. Publishers Weekly called the memoir “amazing.”

NBCUNIVERSAL EVENTS -- NBCUniversal Press Tour, January 2016 -- NBC's "Heartbeat" Session -- Pictured: Dr. Kathy Magliato, Co-Executive Producer -- (Photo by: Chris Haston/NBCUniversal)

Now Magliato is preparing for the fourth incarnation of her book, as a primetime TV show starring Melissa George as Magliato’s alter ego, the talented but unorthodox heart transplant surgeon Alex Panttiere.

“The show is loosely based on and inspired by my own life,” said Magliato, who today is director of women’s cardiac services at Saint John’s Health Center in Santa Monica, California. “The producers, I think, have captured my humor and quirkiness, but also my conviction to fight for my patients.”

Of course, TV rarely leaves well enough alone, so Magliato’s quirkiness has been exaggerated.

In the show, airing Wednesdays at 8 p.m. Eastern, Alex’s ex-husband Max, played by Joshua Leonard, has come out as gay and is the primary caregiver of their two children. She works at a hospital with ex-boyfriend Dr. Jessie Shane (Don Hany) as well as her current one Dr. Pierce Harrison (Dave Annable, whom Magliato calls “the new McDreamy”) who wants things to get more serious than she does.

If the personal stuff is heightened dramatically, the medicine portrayed on the show is entirely plausible, according to executive producer Amy Brenneman.

“We do cool, cutting-edge stuff,” she said. “In one episode Alex does something where the patient’s body [temperature] is dropped to the point where they stop breathing and there’s no heartbeat or brain activity.”

Called hypothermic circulatory arrest, the procedure temporarily stops blood circulation during aortic surgery, and patients can remain in this state for up to 40 minutes.

The show isn’t all seriousness. Magliato and Brenneman both separately used the term “dramedy” to define the tone.

In one scene, for example, Alex gushes, “I love the smell of lung burning first thing in the morning.”

“We didn’t want to do just a hard-charging medical drama,” explained Brenneman, who created and starred in Judging Amy. “We wanted to portray the humor, often the gallows humor that doctors need in order to get through the things they often see and do.”

So will the show do what Magliato wanted her book to do? Will it help inspire a generation of young people to pursue the hard sciences, including medicine?

“Absolutely,” Magliato said. “I often say women can’t be what they can’t see. Young girls need to know they can be anything they want to be.”

Heartbeat First Look: Blood, Sex and Open Heart Surgeries on Planes

NBC’s upcoming hospital drama Heartbeat will turn the real life of cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Kathy Magliato into a heart-racing hospital drama.

Melissa George plays Magliato’s television alter ego Dr. Alex Panttiere, a maverick surgeon who isn’t afraid of pursuingbig risks for big rewards. Her rock-star style in the operating room has to be balanced with her equally fast-paced love life. (Imagine cracking a chest open in the morning to come home to your ex-husband and two kids, an ex-boyfriend turned co-worker and your new boyfriend. It sounds like a roller coaster just talking about it!)


Dr. Magliato Will Be Honored at the Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards



Event in support of the American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women


NEW YORK (January 21, 2016) – On February 9, 2016, Woman’s Day will celebrate the 13th annual Red Dress Awards, honoring those who have made significant contributions in the fight against heart disease, the number one killer of women today. NBC co-host and author Hoda Kotb will host and Grammy Award-winning sibling trio The Band Perry will headline the event, held at The Allen Room at Frederick P. Rose Hall, home of Jazz at Lincoln Center in New York City. The Awards will feature additional performances from The CraigLewis Band of America’s Got Talent, singer and impressionist Christina Bianco, and six-person a cappella group Duwende. Woman’s Day is proud to partner with CocoaVia, Mayo Clinic, Rosa Regale Red Sparkling Wine, Land’s End, and Lenox for this year’s event.

“Each month, Woman’s Day provides readers with actionable tips on how they can stay heart healthy,” said Susan Spencer, Editor in Chief, Woman’s Day. “We’re thrilled to celebrate our honorees, whose innovative contributions and thinking are improving the heart health of every American.”

Woman’s Day is proud to honor the following heart health advocates: Vivek H. Murthy, MD, MBA, the 19th Surgeon General of the United States; Paula A. Johnson, MD, MPH, Founder and Executive Director of Connors Center for Women’s Health and Gender Biology at Brigham and Women’s Hospital; Kathy E. Magliato, MD, MBA, FACS, Director of Women’s Cardiac Services at Saint John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica, American Heart Association Western States affiliate board member; and Sam Kass, former White House Chef, Senior Food Analyst for NBC News.

Woman’s Day will also honor Joanne Lupton, PhD, distinguished professor emeritus at Texas A&M and member of the National Academy of Medicine; who will receive the CocoaVia Healthy Heart Award.

The awards ceremony will be attended by participants of the third annual Woman’s Day Live Longer & Stronger Challenge alongside their mentor, TODAY Show nutritionist and Woman’s Day columnist Joy Bauer. Over the course of eight months, Woman’s Day and Bauer have provided nutrition counseling and guidance to five women who have collectively lost more than 220 pounds and have achieved impressive heart health milestones. Rent the Runway will provide dresses for the women to help celebrate their transformations.

The 2016 Red Dress Award honorees will be featured in the March issue of Woman’s Day, on newsstands February 9. For more information on the Woman’s Day Red Dress Awards, log onto Supporters can follow the awards on Instagram and Twitter using the hashtag #RedDressAwards.

The Awards are being produced for the eighth consecutive year by Scott Mauro Entertainment, Inc. / Scott Mauro, Executive Producer.


About Woman’s Day

Woman’s Day is an indispensable resource to 16 million women. The brand speaks to readers’ values and focuses on what’s important. The pages empower women with smart solutions for core concerns—health, home, food, style and money—and celebrate cherished connections with family, friends and community. Whether in-book, online, mobile or through social outlets, we provide inspiring insight and fresh ideas on how to get the most of everything. Woman’s Day inspires its loyal audience with actionable and relatable tools to lead a vibrant, healthy and satisfying life. Woman’s Day is published by Hearst Magazines, a unit of Hearst, one of the nation’s largest diversified media and information companies. With 21 titles in the U.S., Hearst is the leading publisher of monthly magazines in terms of total paid circulation (AAM 2H 2014), reaching 78 million readers (Spring 2015 MRI gfk) and 54 million site visitors each month (comScore). Follow Woman’s Day on Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest.


About Go Red For Women®

Go Red For Women® is the American Heart Association’s national movement to end heart disease in women. We are committed to the fight, for as long as it takes. The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement advocates for more research and swifter action for women’s heart health. The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement was created by women, for women. Because our health is non-negotiable, because we have the power to save our lives, and because the best force for women is women. The American Heart Association’s Go Red For Women movement is nationally sponsored by Macy’s., Inc, with additional support from our cause supporters. For more information please visit or call 1-888-MY-HEART (1-888-694-3278).


For more information, please contact:

Carrie Carlson,, 212-649-2617

Kaitie Ames,, 212-649-2180

How NBC’s ‘Heartbeat’ Sprang To Life

“I wasn’t looking to produce,” Amy Brenneman said about Heartbeat, the upcoming NBC medical drama she’s executive producing

“But I know what makes a good role,” said the actress who couldn’t even consider the lead in Heartbeat as a female cardiothoracic surgeon given her obligations to HBO’s The Leftovers. Heartbeat sprang from Dr. Kathy Magliato’s book Heart Matters: A Memoir Of A Female Heart Surgeon. Upon
coming away from a meeting with Magliato, Brenneman said to her filmmaker husband Brad Silberling, who also serves as EP, “That woman is a TV show.”

Read the full article on Deadline.

How NBC’s New Medical Show Was Born at a Ron Meyer Dinner Party

NBC’s forthcoming medical series Heartbeat began as fodder at a Ron Meyer dinner party.

When the NBCUniversal vice chairman’s wife, Kelly, heard the tales of Dr. Kathy Magliato, one of few female cardiothoracic surgeons, her response was immediate: “Oh my God, you’re a show.” Not long after, Amy Brenneman and Brad Silberling were introduced to Magliato and the Leftovers actress said she, too, had that response: “I remember driving away thinking that woman’s a TV show.”

Read the full article at The Hollywood Reporter.

Queen Latifah Opens Up About Helping Her Mom Live With Heart Failure

“We’re not going to talk about dying from heart failure, we’re going to talk about living with heart failure because that’s what Rita’s doing,” says Los Angeles cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Kathy Magliato…


Read more:

Queen Latifah and Her Mother Rita Owens Are Fighting Heart Failure—Together

Queen’s mother, Rita Owens, began experiencing symptoms of heart failure 10 years ago. The mother-daughter duo now work with theAmerican Heart Association and its “Rise Above Heart Failure” initiative, designed to cultivate awareness and decrease hospitalizations due to heart failure. Queen spoke with Parade about their journey, as did Kathy Magliato, M.D., a cardiothoracic surgeon and director of women’s cardiac services at St John’s Medical Center in Santa Monica…

Read more:

CCTV – Dr. Kathy Magliato: Heart disease and women – A silent killer

It’s a common misperception that heart disease mainly plagues men, but in reality, it’s actually the number one cause of death among women, worldwide.

Dr. Kathy Magliato is one of the few female cardiothoracic surgeons in the world.“No country is immune from heart disease,” says Magliato.

Read more:

One of World’s Only Female Heart Surgeons Sits Down for a Heart-to9Heart Talk

In her violetblue surgical scrubs and wedge heels with shoulderlength blonde hair and matte blackmanicured nails, and carrying a pink tote bag, Dr. Kathy Magliato had a commanding presence as she greeted the PalisadianPost with a strong handshake and an engaging smile.

As one of the few female heart surgeons in the world (and in the history of heart surgery), the El Medio Bluffs resident Dr. Kathy Magliato attracts respect and admiration wherever she goes throughout her field and beyond.

Read more at the Palisadian-Post.


Lessons Learned: Stories from Women in Medical Management

I was fortunate to contribute a chapter in this book, “Lessons Learned: Stories from Women in Medical Management“. It will be released in March. The print version can be pre-ordered from Amazon. Please get your copy today as each chapter is filled with much inspiration.