Robert Gustafson, M.D., known as “Dr. Gus” to his young patients at West Virginia University Children’s Hospital , has helped to save the lives of thousands of West Virginia children. Now he’s being honored with an international award for his work as the state’s sole provider of pediatric heart surgery.
The Children’s Miracle Network recently presented the Children’s Miracle Achievement Award to Dr. Gustafson, surgeon-in-chief at WVU Children’s Hospital and chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery . He is one of three medical professionals to receive the award this year. It is given in recognition of “commitment to children’s health and the notable work they’ve made in their respective fields.”
A native of Keyser, W.Va., Dr. Gustafson completed his medical education, internship and residency at WVU. Following a pediatric cardiac surgery fellowship at Children’s Hospital Medical Center in Boston, he joined the faculty at WVU in 1984.
“Helping children with heart problems is a way to leave a legacy for the future,” Dr. Gustafson said. “Helping these children thrive is the best gift I can give.”
In nominating him for the award, Cheryl Jones, R.N., director of WVU Children’s Hospital, said, “Dr. Gus is the cornerstone and essence of our mission to serve the children of West Virginia. Through his efforts, increasing numbers of children are able to stay in West Virginia for care. He is a visionary, whose leadership has had a positive impact on children on the state, national, and international level. In his career, he has had more than 4,200 patient discharges, including those from Africa, where he gives of his time and talent to repair the broken hearts of children.”
Giovanni Piedimonte, M.D., chair of the WVU Department of Pediatrics and physician-in-chief at WVU Children’s Hospital, also wrote a letter of support for Dr. Gustafson. “His reputation is built on more than just clinical skill. He is a friend, advisor and confidante of young parents in their time of crisis,” Dr. Piedimonte wrote. “He creates lasting relationships with his patients as they grow and heal. He is a leader among our faculty, and is respected and admired by our nurses and staff.”
But for Dr. Gustafson, he’s just doing his job – a job that he loves.
“I tremendously enjoy the interaction with the families. There’s nothing you can do in life better than to help someone else’s child get through a major problem with the outlook that that child will be normal,” he said. “It’s a tremendous calling, and therefore, the gratitude you get from the families is what it’s all about. It’s much more than an occupation.”
The award ceremony, which was presented by Delta Air Lines, took place at the Children’s Miracle Network annual Celebration event, which was held Nov. 13 at Walt Disney World Resort in Orlando, Fla.
WVU Children’s Hospital provides maternal, infant and pediatric care for West Virginia and the surrounding region, giving care to high-risk mothers, premature infants and children with life-threatening conditions through adolescence to adulthood. It is the only Children’s Miracle Network hospital in the state. For information on WVU Children’s Hospital, see www.wvukids.com.
The Children’s Miracle Network is a fundraising program to benefit hospitals providing healthcare for children. Created by the Osmond Foundation in 1983, the Children’s Miracle Network includes 170 hospitals throughout the United States, Canada and Mexico. For information on Children’s Miracle Network, see www.childrensmiraclenetwork.org.
CONTACT: Angela Jones, HSC News Service