Victor P. Satinsky, 84, Innovative Surgeon

Posted: September 13, 1997

Victor P. Satinsky, 84, a cardiovascular surgeon who helped develop coronary bypass surgery and other life-saving operations, and who invented an instrument widely used in heart operations, died of heart failure at his home in Center City on Sunday.

Dr. Satinsky, who practiced at Hahnemann Hospital (now Allegheny University Hospitals/Hahnemann), was called ``one of the most innovative cardiovascular surgeons who ever lived,'' in a story in the Inquirer magazine in 1974.

He was credited with 30 major medical innovations, either inventing operational procedures or improving on existing techniques, and with the invention of the Satinsky clamp, now a standard instrument used in cardiovascular surgery.

One of the procedures he helped develop through experiments in 1961 was the coronary bypass.

But Dr. Satinsky, who liked to refer to himself as ``The Renaissance Doctor'' on promotional material, was never just a surgeon and inventor.

He was, in addition, a poet, a playwright whose plays were produced in London and elsewhere, a painter, a clarinetist, and a fencer. At age 80, he earned a black belt in aikido and subsequently taught it.

Although he had no religious training, he once filled in as rabbi on a troop ship bound for Europe during World War II when he learned that the ship had Catholic and Protestant chaplains aboard but no rabbi.

He also taught himself psychiatry and, while still at Hahnemann, began developing and directing educational programs for young people.

The first of the programs, for gifted high school students, began in 1961. Later, he added programs for disadvantaged youth, for adolescents with emotional programs, and for college dropouts.

He continued to develop similar programs until 1977, when he retired from Hahnemann and formed the Satinsky Institute for Human Resource Development, which he ran until his death.

He was known to be spirited at Hahnemann, practicing his swordsmanship in the halls of the hospital or in the classroom, and sometimes flying into titanic and very public rages.

Born in Philadelphia, Dr. Satinsky was orphaned at 5 years old and was raised by an aunt and uncle.

He received a bachelor's degree from the University of Pennsylvania in 1934, and his medical degree from Jefferson Medical College in 1938.

After serving in the Army during World War II, he joined the Hahnemann staff in thoracic surgical research in 1946. From 1961 until 1977 he was the research director in the cardiovascular institute.

A lifelong bachelor, he is survived by a brother, Morris P.; and two sisters, Rose Rubinson and Helen Splaver.

Services were held Tuesday.

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