Dr. Richard Faro featured as Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center’s Physician Spotlight
Richard Faro, MD, FACS, Cardiac, Vascular & Thoracic Surgeon
Tell us about yourself:
After medical school, I did my training in general surgery at the Creighton University School of Medicine in Omaha, Nebraska and completed my fellowship in vascular and cardiac surgery at Rush Medical College – Presbyterian St. Luke’s Medical Center in Chicago. Then, I went on to become an assistant professor at the University of Florida at Shands Medical Center (now known as UF Health Shands Hospital) teaching cardiac surgery and vascular surgery. In 1982-1983, we consulted and worked on the certificate of need (CON) to start the heart surgery program here at Palm Beach Gardens Medical Center. We started our program here in November of 1983 and performed the first open-heart surgery in Palm Beach County (and surrounding counties to the north – Martin, Indian River, St. Lucie counties and to the northwest Okeechobee County) in an area known as District 5. At that, time there was no other heart centers around for five counties. The closest heart surgery center at the time was in Broward County and up in Orlando and Melbourne. If you needed heart surgery at that time, you had to go to the west coast of Florida, up north or way down south. After we completed the first open-heart surgery in Palm Beach County, different hospitals in our area started heart programs. We were doing upwards of 1,300 open-heart surgeries a year.
Can you tell us a bit about that first open-heart surgery?
The first open-heart was done as an emergency. I did it alone. It was an emergency out of the hospital in Jupiter and consisted of a rupture ventricular injury from a car accident. We took care of an 85-year-old man at the time and he did well.
Growing up, what did you want to be?
I always wanted to be a scientist but by fourth or fifth grade started telling people I was going to be a surgeon. I was persistent in studying surgery. My family were immigrants from Italy with no education. My father had a minimal education and my mother went up to eighth grade. I have two other brothers; one is an obstetrician, PhD, MD and chairman of multiple OB-GYN Departments and my other brother is a pharmacist. They are both retired. My father is the American dream, he came from overseas with minimal education and put three children, with my mother through school and always worked hard. He was an upholsterer so he taught us how to sew in his upholstery store.
If you could have dinner with one person, past or present, who would it be?
I would say John Paul II. I thought a lot about that question and why he would be the one person. I am Catholic and he was a hallmark person in the fact that he was not just a pope. He was a man of politics and because of him communism fell (with his work with Poland and with President Ronald Reagan). Pope John Paul II did many good things with the church and tried to advance things (for many people in society). He is one of the most prominent popes we have ever had.
If you could only eat one thing for the rest of your life, what would it be?
What do you do in your spare time?
I do things with my family. My wife and I like to travel and we used to travel a lot, before COVID. I have four daughters and we took them all over the world. Work is my main thing at this point. I also like reading and raising orchids. We have racks of orchids and flowers that keep us busy tending to as we have them around the house and outside. I was a Biology major in college at Villanova University and took plant courses that I found interesting so I guess that stuck with me.
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Maybe a pilot because I was in the Air Force and to this day I marvel at those people. I was in Guam at a Strategic Air Command (SAC) base. At that time, I was a physician on the base. The war (Vietnam War) was going on and we were a B-52 base. I was involved with the Vietnam refugee evacuation similar to what has been going on recently with Afghan refugees; they were transported to our base so we took care of them. I also spent a few weeks on a volunteer trip sponsored by the Society of Vascular Surgeons during the Afghan and Iraq Wars at Ramstein Air Base in Germany and Landstuhl Regional Medical Center. I was a cardiovascular attending surgeon taking care of the wounded, Iraqi and Afghani boys. I went over to Germany as a cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon to help them in both areas. In terms of the military, I have a relationship and feeling of what they go through, sometimes I think they do not get the appreciation they deserve for leading a tough and sacrificing life.
September is Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) Awareness Month. What is PAD?
Peripheral arterial vascular disease consists of blockages in the vascular system and arteries throughout the body. Peripheral arterial vascular disease can occur in your neck and in your heart with coronaries, which we can take care of as cardiac and vascular surgeons. We operate on individuals as well as stenting vessels and conduits.
How has cardiac and vascular care changed since when you started?
When I started all of the procedures were open 100 percent of the time. Now stenting and interventional procedures are taking the forefront. There is still a place for surgery but (over time) that is going to become a lost art because everyone is stenting, stenting, stenting and when someone needs to be operated on, the problem is going to be finding people who can still do open cases. Experience in open surgery (dwindling) is going to be a big problem. Therefore, you are going to see referral centers opening up specializing in open procedures. An individual needing open aneurysm surgery care will be sent to a referral center because they (surgeons, by that time) will be saying we do not do open procedures locally anymore. At our practice, we do both cardiothoracic and vascular surgery including extensive revascularization of the legs.