Profile: Jennifer Lawton, MD, and the Washington University Heart Care Institute at Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Women in St. Louis are fortunate to have access to one of the top heart care programs in the country — the Washington University Heart Care Institute at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis. The Institute is the only heart program serving Missouri or Illinois ranked in the top 13 nationally by U.S. News and World Report. In addition, many of the specialists serving the Institute are women, including not only cardiologists, but cardiac surgeon Jennifer Lawton, MD.

Lawton is one of about 170 female cardiothoracic surgeons in the country certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery; more than 7,600 men have been certified in the specialty. Lawton also specializes in women and heart disease and is dedicated to raising awareness of heart disease as the No. 1 cause of death for adult women in the United States.

Lawton earned her medical degree from Hahnemann University in Philadelphia. She went on to complete her surgical residency at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond and a cardiothoracic surgery fellowship at Penn State Milton S. Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, PA. After finishing her fellowship, Lawton joined the Washington University Section of Cardiac Surgery in 2001 and is now a professor of surgery.

In her clinical practice, Lawton performs coronary artery bypass graft (CABG) surgery, including a variation called off-pump coronary artery bypass (OPCAB) surgery, which has been shown to have better results for women in the post-operative period. She also performs valve repair/replacement surgery and removes and replaces pacemakers and defibrillators.

Lawton has many clinical research interests, including gender differences in cardiac surgery. Among her basic science research interests, Lawton studies protection of the heart muscle during surgery by examining the responses of isolated heart cells (myocytes) in response to stress. She also is a past recipient of the Nina Starr Braunwald Career Development Award, given by the Thoracic Surgery Foundation for Research and Education, as well as an American Heart Association Beginning Grant in Aid.

Dr. Lawton's CV