Home |  PublicationsEncyclopedia |  Zuhdi, Nazih

The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture

Dr. Nazih Zuhdi (right) with Nancy Rogers, the first person to receive a heart transplant in Oklahoma, 1985
(2012.201.B1103.0129, by D. McDaniel, Oklahoma Publishing Company Photography Collection, OHS).

ZUHDI, NAZIH (1925–2017).

Heart surgeon Nazih Zuhdi was born in Beirut, Lebanon, on May 19, 1925, to Dr. Omar Zuhdi and Lutfiye Radan Zuhdi. After matriculating at the American University in Beirut, he received his medical degree. In 1951 he immigrated to the United States. Zuhdi served an internship at Columbia University-Presbyterian Medical Center under the prominent surgeon Clarence Dennis. In 1954 he served a fellowship with the equally prominent surgeon C. Walton Lillehei at State University of New York–Downstate Medical Center, Brooklyn. Both of Zuhdi's mentors led the movement to develop a workable heart-lung machine.

In 1957 Nazih Zuhdi joined the faculty of the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine in Oklahoma City. His task was to set up an open-heart surgery program. Drs. Allen Greer and John Carey, the state's first board-certified thoracic surgeons, included him in their work. In late 1958 the Sisters of Mercy, under the leadership of Sister Coletta Massoth, gave Zuhdi research space and access to personnel at Mercy Hospital in Oklahoma City. This important step allowed him to set up Mercy Heart and Research Institute, where, on January 8, 1959, he performed the first cardiopulmonary bypass surgery ever conducted in the state. At Mercy Hospital Zuhdi and his colleagues continued to perfect a heart-lung machine. Zuhdi and Clark A. Ritchie also created a version of an artificial heart.

Zuhdi is responsible for the establishment of a number of other medical institutions in Oklahoma City. In 1982 came the Oklahoma Cardiovascular Institute at St. Anthony Hospital. In 1983, at Baptist Hospital, the Oklahoma Heart Center opened, renamed in 1984 as the Oklahoma Transplantation Institute at Baptist Medical Center. There in 1985, Zuhdi performed the state's first heart transplant. The Transplantation Institute became the state's and the nation's first solid organ transplant center after Zuhdi recruited top specialists in each field and fully staffed and equipped the facility.

Nazih Zuhdi campaigned for a law preventing Oklahoma organ donations from leaving the state, and in 1998 the Oklahoma Legislature passed a suitable measure. Inducted into the Oklahoma Hall of Fame in 1994, he retired in 1999. In his honor the Oklahoma Transplantation Institute was renamed the Nazih Zuhdi Transplantation Institute. Zuhdi died on February 7, 2017.

Dianna Everett

Browse By Topic

Industry and Business



Learn More

Brooks Barr, The Life of Nazih Zuhdi: Uncharted Voyage of a Heart (Oklahoma City: Oklahoma Heritage Association, 2005).

"Nazih Zuhdi," Vertical File, Research Division, Oklahoma Historical Society, Oklahoma City.


The following (as per The Chicago Manual of Style, 17th edition) is the preferred citation for articles:
Dianna Everett, “Zuhdi, Nazih,” The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and Culture, https://www.okhistory.org/publications/enc/entry?entry=ZU001.

Published January 15, 2010
Last updated February 8, 2017

Copyright and Terms of Use

No part of this site may be construed as in the public domain.

Copyright to all articles and other content in the online and print versions of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History is held by the Oklahoma Historical Society (OHS). This includes individual articles (copyright to OHS by author assignment) and corporately (as a complete body of work), including web design, graphics, searching functions, and listing/browsing methods. Copyright to all of these materials is protected under United States and International law.

Users agree not to download, copy, modify, sell, lease, rent, reprint, or otherwise distribute these materials, or to link to these materials on another web site, without authorization of the Oklahoma Historical Society. Individual users must determine if their use of the Materials falls under United States copyright law's "Fair Use" guidelines and does not infringe on the proprietary rights of the Oklahoma Historical Society as the legal copyright holder of The Encyclopedia of Oklahoma History and part or in whole.