Faculty Profiles

David Vega

J. David Vega, MD

Professor of Surgery, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Department of Surgery, Emory University School of Medicine

Director, Heart Transplant Program, Emory University Hospital

Chief, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Atlanta VA Medical Center

Telephone: 404.778.5289

Email: david.vega@emory.edu

Certification: American Board of Surgery, American Board of Thoracic Surgery

Year Joined Emory as a Faculty Member: 1996


Dr. Vega is the director of of the heart transplant program at Emory University Hospital. He implanted Georgia's first dual pump ventricular assist device (VAD) in 1999 to serve as a bridge to heart transplantation, which initiated Emory's ongoing national position at the forefront of the use of mechanical circulatory assist devices. In 2006, Dr. Vega was the first physician in Georgia to implant a VAD as a form of destination therapy for individuals who are ineligible for or are unwilling to undergo a heart transplant, and in 2007 implanted an even smaller VAD for the same purpose that featured an automatic speed control mode designed to regulate pumping intensity based on different levels of patient or cardiac activity.

In August 2014, the Joint Commission (TJC) awarded Emory's VAD program its Gold Seal of Approval for the third time since 2009 and identified no requirements for improvement. As a result, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will provide reimbursement for the care of destination therapy VAD patients at Emory Hospital.

From 2012-2014, Dr. Vega served on the board of directors of the Organ Procurement and Transplantation Network (OPTN) and United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS) as the thoracic transplant representative. Board members develop national organ transplant policy.


View Dr. Vega's publications in PubMed.


  • Emory University Hospital

  • Atlanta VA Medical Center

  • Wellstar Kennestone Hospital

  • Grady Health System


  • MD, University of Michigan, Class of 1986

  • General Surgery Internship (1986-1987) and General Surgery Residency (1987-1988, 1990-1993), University of Texas Health Science Center

  • Research Fellowship in Cardiothoracic Surgery (1988-1990), Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery Residency (1993-1995), Texas Heart Institute

  • Fellowship in Cardiopulmonary Transplantation, University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (1995-1996)

Honors and Awards

  • Woodruff Fund Clinical Teaching Support Award in Cardiothoracic Surgery, Emory, September 2002

  • The George P. Waldron Award, Outstanding General Surgery Chief Resident, University of Texas Health Science Center, Houston, TX, 1993

Editorships and Editorial Boards

  • Associate Editor, American Journal of Transplantation

Current Organizational Memberships

  • American College of Surgeons: Fellow

  • American Society of Transplant Surgeons: Thoracic Organ Transplantation Committee

  • American Association for Thoracic Surgery

  • LifeLink Foundation: Board of Governors

  • Society of Thoracic Surgeons: Clinical Education Resource Group

  • United Network for Organ Sharing

  • American Society for Artificial Internal Organs

  • Denton A. Cooley Cardiovascular Surgical Society: Executive Committee

  • International Society for Heart and Lung Transplantation

Clinical Interests

  • Cardiac transplantation

  • Cardiopulmonary transplantation

  • Heart failure/heart transplantation

  • Lung transplantation

Research Interests

  • The surgical treatment of advanced heart failure, encompassing high-risk coronary bypass, mitral valve repair, heart transplantation, and the use of mechanical circulatory support devices as a bridge to transplant or for destination therapy