The influence of Plato, Aristotle, and the ancient Polis on a programme for congenital cardiac surgery: The Virtuous Partnership

Constantine Mavroudis, Carl L. Backer

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


The problems that exist in maintaining a partnership in paediatric cardiac surgery are considerable. They relate to fairness in allocation of time for leisure, the apportioning of cases between the partners, internal competition between them, financial considerations, and promotion of the ego. In this review, we discuss our own experiences in maintaining a partnership over a period of more than 18 years, relating such a "virtuous partnership" to the writings of Plato and Aristotle, and setting it against the tenets of the ancient Greek polis. The polis, or city state, came to prominence in ancient Greece during the golden age of Pericles, this period seeing the initial evolution of Western philosophy, as well as numerous other scientific, artistic and architectural advances. The concept of the polis was to create a natural association with its citizens that nurtured all that is best in people, at the same time defining their character. In this respect, according to Plato, the person and the polis are mirror images. Aristotle then expanded this notion to incorporate the various forms of friendship, which he pointed out last only as long as the interrelated pleasure survives. Using these principles as the point of departure, we argue that cardiac surgeons should respect moral virtue in each other. Extending this process means that we should also respect, and celebrate, our relationships with affiliated physicians, nurses, perfusionists, administrators, and all concerned in the care of children with congenitally malformed hearts. In this way, we create a virtuous partnership for congenital cardiac surgery that promotes all that was good, as engendered in the ancient Greek polis. As we extend these observations to the modern world, we discuss some of the features that have permitted us to work so well together. One of the most important is a summoning and unwritten tenet that greets us as we enter the operating room, namely "check your ego at the door". The operative choice should always be dictated by discussion, citations of literature, considered opinions, and relevance to the particular patient. Continuity of care should lead inexorably to the paediatric intensive care unit, where collegial relationships should be maintained with all those working therein. We need to recognize that there are various "captains of the ship", who must work in harmony so as to bring the best possible care to our patients. We always endeavour to empower others to act on our behalf, based on their experience and training. Whether we have achieved our desired moral excellence, and produced the completed or perfected friendship, is for others to judge. From our stance, we believe we have created a favourable environment by hard work, unselfish attitudes, and celebration of our mutual accomplishments. We were not the first to forge this kind of professional association, and happily we will not be the last.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)159-163
Number of pages5
JournalCardiology in the young
Issue numberSUPPL. 2
StatePublished - Sep 2007
Externally publishedYes


  • Collaboration
  • Mentoring
  • Paediatric cardiac surgery

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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