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Presbyterian’s new child heart surgeon

William “Bill” Stein, Presbyterian Healthcare Services new children’s heart surgeon is really excited about living in New Mexico and really, really enthusiastic about his new job.

Stein moved here from Florida this summer to take over from Dr. Carl Lagerstrom who retired after nearly 25 years as Presbyterian’s pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon.

“It seemed like a wonderful opportunity,” Stein said, “It’s very rare for someone to have a senior person who has built a program that’s completely independent and then have that person ready to retire.”

Stein is board-certified to perform general surgery, cardiothoracic surgery and congenital heart surgery. Put simply, he is a surgeon who is also trained to perform a variety of heart surgery on adults and children including defects children are born with such as a hole between the chambers of the heart.

Since arriving in late May, Stein has operated on patients from all over New Mexico, as well as some from El Paso, Texas, and Arizona. He said children with congenital problems who have surgery as babies often require multiple operations as they grow older.

“This program here is the busiest program in the state for a congenital surgeon,” Stein said.

He wants to increase awareness that children with heart disease can be treated in New Mexico instead of being sent to places like Houston, Denver or New York for treatment.

“My goal is to try and consolidate all the patients who have heart disease and keep them in this state,” he said.

A New Orleans native, Stein went to the University of Chicago and began his medical training at Louisiana State University in his home town. He switched to George Washington University in Washington, D.C., where he completed his general surgery residency. He was a post-doctoral at Stanford University in California, then continued his training with a cardiothoracic residency at Emory University in Atlanta. He came to New Mexico from the University of Florida hospital in Gainesville.

When Stein came to Albuquerque with his wife for the job interview they emerged from the airport just as the setting sun turned the Sandia Mountains the glowing pink that earned them their name.

“We said, Oh my God, this is fantastic,” Stein said.

He is just as excited about the team of support staff he is working with.

“There’s a huge team and it’s a very, very good team and a very experienced team,” Stein said. “Carl (Lagerstrom) did such a great job of training everyone,” he said.

Lagerstrom came to Presbyterian in 1992 and served as Chief of Thoracic Surgery and Pediatric Cardiac Care for Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care. He was a member of Presbyterian’s staff for nearly 25 years. He also donated his time and talents to Healing the Children, a non-profit dedicated to providing medical care to children all over the world.

During his time at Presbyterian, Lagerstrom said he saw thousands of patients, both adults and children. One thing that has changed in 25 years, he said, is that more children are having heart surgery as babies. In the past, surgeons would usually wait until they were older to operate.

“This is a good thing, but there’s not a lot of expertise in how to take care of this type of patient,” Lagerstorm said, “That’s why we’re so lucky to have someone like Bill Stein to come to New Mexico; he’s well trained. I think we’re very lucky to get him.”