[Skip to Content]

University Hospital pediatric heart surgeon honored for role in Rotary's Gift of Life program

George Alfieris, M.D., a pediatric cardiac surgeon at University Hospital, has received one of Rotary International's highest honors—the Paul Harris Award—for performing life-saving open heart surgery on needy children from abroad during a ceremony held today (Nov.12) at University Hospital.

Alfieris received the award from the president of Rotary International Bhichai Rattakul, who has served as foreign minister and deputy prime minister of Thailand.

University Hospital and its surgeons are partners in the Rotary's Gift of Life program, which brings children from overseas who are in need of life-saving heart surgery to University Hospital. In most cases the life-saving surgery that is available at University Hospital is not available to these children in their homeland. Since 1990, University Hospital physicians have performed heart surgery on 34 children from a variety of countries, including the Ukraine, Jamaica and El Salvador.

Rattakul and Alfieris visited the most recent Gift of Life child, three-year-old Diomar Castillo of the Dominican Republic. Castillo was operated on Oct. 29 to repair a hole in his heart and to correct a condition called pulmonary stenosis.

Considered one of the region's foremost pediatric heart surgeons, Alfieris performs nearly 200 open heart surgeries on children from across New York state each year. He has performed numerous surgeries for children who have been brought to the United States for life-saving heart procedures by Rotary International's Gift of Life program. In addition to his appointment at SUNY Upstate and University Hospital, Alfieris also performs surgery at Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester.

The Paul Harris Award, named for the founder of Rotary, recognizes outstanding service and dedication to Rotary programs and initiatives.

There are more than 1,600 Rotarians in the District 7150, which includes Central New York.