Dr. Donald C. Liu


“Both my parents were physicians,” says Donald Liu, 49. “My dad was the rough, gruff cardiac surgeon. My mother was the warm and benevolent cardiology internist. I didn’t want to be a surgeon. I wanted to be like my mom.”

But as he studied to become a doctor, Liu discovered that he loved surgery. “My dad’s genes kicked in,” he admits. “And I was very lucky to have trained at the University of Pennsylvania with the giants of pediatric surgery.”

As the surgeon in chief at Comer—a position he has held since construction began on the hospital in 2001—Liu has built its surgical program into one of the country’s finest. “We have become a nationally prominent destination center,” he says. “Those children without hope and with diseases that can’t be taken care of at other places—they come here.”

That reputation stems in part from the close partnership between the clinic and the lab. “We have access to equipment and technology way before others,” says Liu. “We can really push the envelope. And we have the experience to perform surgery in a very safe way. Our goal is to make everything very routine, even the most complex procedure. At the end of the day, the biggest impact you can make in anything is through kids.”

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Photograph: Anna Knott