Mark Bleiweis, M.D.
Not all kids know exactly what they want to be when they grow up. But Mark Bleiweis, M.D., was different. His pediatrician set such a strong example for him that he knew he had to follow in his footsteps.
“He was my role model,” said Bleiweis. “He always made himself available. I could be sick or hurt, and he would make me laugh even while he was stitching me up.”
Bleiweis never lost focus of his goal. He went on to study at Cornell University. After graduation, he headed west to attend the University of California at San Diego Medical School.
“I saw my first heart surgery and I thought I have to do that,” said Bleiweis. “But then I saw my first pediatric heart surgery, and I knew I could do both. From my third year in medical school, I never wavered.”
Bleiweis’ extensive training and career as a pediatric heart surgeon and associate professor has taken him from San Diego to Chapel Hill, N.C. to Orange County, Calif., and finally to Gainesville, Fla., where he now serves as director of the University of Florida Congenital Heart Center and UF associate professor, surgery and pediatrics.
“The Congenital Heart Center is a unique program. It’s really an assemblage of the top experts in all fields related to congenital heart disease. It optimizes the care of all patients with everyone in one place, for one purpose – to provide the highest level of care.”
The center is nationally recognized and is one of the finest programs in the country. But Bleiweis says his patients, children like 6-year-old Sage Pridemore, are his true inspiration.
Pridemore came to Bleiweis as a newborn baby with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, meaning that the left chamber of his heart – the side that pumps blood throughout the body – never formed. Bleiweis treated Pridemore with a series of open heart surgeries, and today he is a bright, energetic young boy who loves to laugh and play.
“It’s amazing to watch patients like Sage. You see him now and you wouldn’t know that anything was ever wrong with him,” said Bleiweis. “He is bright and personable, and his parents are amazing people. The entire family has really embraced supporting other congenital heart families. My patients are a true inspiration.”