College of Fellows

College of Fellows

Peer M. Portner †
(1940-2009)

Citation at the Induction into the College of Fellows - Fr. Michael Sweeney, OP
May 2008

DSPT Fellow - Peer PortnerPeer M. Portner: husband and father, cardio-vascular surgeon, research scientist, medical entrepreneur, lecturer and teacher, friend of the Order of Preachers and loyal son of the Church, the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology salutes you.

"Scientists, precisely because they "know more," are called to "serve more." Since the freedom they enjoy in research gives them access to specialized knowledge, they have the responsibility of using that knowledge wisely for the benefit of the entire human family" (John Paul II, Address to the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, 11 November 2002). You have, indeed, used your knowledge wisely, "for the benefit of the entire human family."

Having pursued your undergraduate education at McGill University in Montréal, Canada, where you were awarded the distinction of University Scholar, you were appointed National Research Council Fellow at Oxford University in England. There you began to pursue your lifelong work in the development of implantable circulatory support systems, artificial organs, and medical instrumentation.

In 1979 you founded Novacor Medical Corporation, where you served as president and CEO. You directed a multidisciplinary team in the development of the Novacor Heart Assist System, an electrically powered artificial heart system, for patients with terminal heart failure. Critical evaluation began at Stanford University in 1984, resulting in the world"s first successful bridge to transplant. The clinical utilization of your system has rapidly grown worldwide, with more than 100 leading medical centers in over 20 countries having performed nearly 1800 implants. The wearable configuration that you first introduced in 1993 has afforded many recipients the opportunity to pursue an essentially normal lifestyle. In 1994, your system was utilized in the world"s first permanent implant at Cambridge University.

St. Thomas Aquinas, our brother and master, taught that one human soul is of greater dignity and worth than the whole rest of the material creation in combination. That one man or woman should be able to return to an active life is wonderful; you will soon have afforded that possibility for thousands.

As a world authority in mechanically assisted circulation and as a pioneer in the field of artificial organs, you have served Stanford University as consulting professor of cardiothoracic surgery since 1989, have been awarded 16 patents, have lectured around the world, receiving the Hans Salye Medal from the Fonds de Recherche en Santé, in Quebec, Canada, the Dr. Barney Clark Award from the American Society for Artificial Internal Organs, the Hastings Lecture, and the Bϋcherl Award of the European Society for Artificial Organs.

In April of this year you were elected president of the International Federation for Artificial Organs. Among your many other professional commitments, you presently serve as past president of the American Society for Artificial Organs, and are a founding fellow of the American Institute for Medical and Biological Engineering.

The generosity of spirit that is manifested in your relationships to your colleagues and patients is not limited to your professional life. Rather, in your private life (a very public private life) you have supported those in need in your community, and have offered the hospitality of your home to generations of young Dominican brothers and priests.

We are deeply grateful that you have consented to extend your friendship with the Order through collaboration with us in the work of our School. Accordingly, as an expression of our esteem and gratitude, and in virtue of the authority vested in me by the Board of Trustees of the Dominican School of Philosophy and Theology, I am privileged to bestow upon you, Peer M. Portner, the degree of Doctor of Humane Letters honoris causa, and to name you as a Fellow of the School.