Alain Carpentier, MD, PhD
Alain Carpentier was born in Toulouse, France, and received his Doctor of Medicine and PhD from the University of Paris. His operative dexterity and innovative thinking was recognized early during his surgical residency by Robert Judet, the revolutionary orthopedic surgeon and inventor of the first artificial hip, who offered the young resident to stay in his service after completing his training. Impressed by the mentorship and support by the chief of orthopedic surgery, Dr. Carpentier weighed heavily on the offer while transferring to his next rotation.
The following 6 months found Dr. Carpentier under the tutelage of Charles Dubost, one of the forefathers of cardiovascular surgery and pioneer in the treatment of abdominal aortic aneurysms using an aortic homograft. Carpentier was strongly influenced by the leadership of his mentor as he cordially described it that “of a roman emperor” but, more importantly, by his chairman’s encouragement and support to develop his innovative ideas in non-thrombogenic valve surgery that lead Dr. Carpentier pursue a career in cardiac surgery.
As a young surgeon, Dr. Carpentier was deeply impacted by the infrequent yet catastrophic embolic sequalae associated with the ball-and-cage valve prostheses. Inspired by Judet’s mercury solution used by his pervious mentor for cartilage preservation, Carpentier applied the method to reduce the xenograft antigenicity of porcine aortic valves as a biologic alternative to ball-and-cage prostheses with limited success. With the support of Charles Dubost, Carpentier returned to basic science studies to improve his knowledge in biochemistry, subsequently concentrating in aldehydes, a common component of leather treatment in the shoe industry at the time. His work resulted in identifying the dimer glutaraldehyde which applied to porcine or bovine pericardium, reduced immunologic reaction and increased tissue durability by cross-linking adjacent collagen molecules via the glutaryl groups binding to neighboring collagen amino- groups. With his wife Sophie, they developed foundational biochemical concepts that lead to the development of bioprosthetic heart valves. His career long partnership with Edwards Lifesciences resulted in the development of multiple generations of bioprosthetic valves that have been implanted globally in millions of patients. The academic community recognized Dr. Carpenter’s work in the development of bioprosthetic heart valves with the Albert Lasker Medical Research Award (2007) and The American Association for Thoracic Surgery Scientific Achievement Award (2005).
Dr. Carpentier is also known as the “father of mitral valve reconstructive surgery”. In keeping with his passion for non-thrombogenic alternatives for patients with valve disease, he developed surgical techniques that continue to be the foundation of reconstructive mitral valve surgery. His seminal contribution of the development of annuloplasty rings to restore annular geometry remains the gold standard in all surgical mitral valve repairs. His honored lecture which was later published “Cardiac Valve Surgery - The French Correction” at the 63rd annual meeting of the American Association of Thoracic Surgery in 1983 introduced the world to his pioneering work in valve reconstruction. Dr. Carpentier was the consummate teacher, devoting his life in the “true transfer of knowledge”. Over nearly 20 years, leading surgeons from around the world attended his unique “Le Club Mitrále” courses to watch him perform live surgery and listen to lectures explaining his concepts and techniques of valve reconstruction at Hôpital Broussais in Paris.
Despite his personal visits and countless invited lectures by the most prestigious institutions, Dr. Carpentier’s remained concerned for the patients he couldn’t reach and the surgeons he couldn’t personally train, primarily from underdeveloped regions where he felt his humanitarian surgical missions were short of a lasting effect. With the support of industry and government partners he created the Alain Carpentier Foundation with the scope to first train integral teams of physicians and surgeons in Paris to then return to their respective countries prepared to apply his methods. Carpentier founded and developed the Viện Tim Institute du Coeur in Ho Chi Minh, which is now the largest independent and financially solvent cardiac surgery center in Vietnam. The Viện Tim Institute du Coeur, with support from the Alain Carpentier Foundation has treated over 25,000 children and adults with complex congenital heart pathologies, with one quarter representing the medically indigent, and continues to train healthcare professionals across the country1.
1. Lajos PS, Carpentier AF. Viện Tim Institut du Coeur: Success of a Congenital Heart Disease Center in a Developing Country. Ann Glob Health. Jul-Aug 2016;82(4):621-624. doi: 10.1016/j.aogh.2016.08.002