Spirit of Caring

Dr. J. Mark Morales: healing hearts and changing lives

Special to Inspire Coastal Bend

Longtime cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. J. Mark Morales, spends his days between operating in Corpus Christi and the Rio Grande Valley, and flying to exotic countries to care for the poorest of patients. It’s a hectic life, but one he is happy to do. Colleagues say it’s all due to the doctor’s heart of gold and passion for helping others.

On his website, you’ll find a favorite quote from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” That spirit of caring has carried through the doctor’s career from the beginning.

Morales began studying medicine at age 18, and graduated three years later as class valedictorian. He practiced medicine in his native Mexico before heading to the United States to study general surgery in Massachusetts, and cardiothoracic surgery at West Virginia University.

From there, he took a specialty fellowship in congenital heart surgery in London before coming back to the United States to start his practice in Corpus Christi, a town he loves. It’s a calling that’s never easy, but also never boring.

“Practicing medicine is a challenging, but very rewarding career path,” Morales reflected. “However, the improved quality of life that people experience from my care is what makes it so special.”

That’s a sentiment former patient Scott McClarren can attest to. In October 2009, he experienced a sudden heart attack and went into a coma. McClarren said that until then, he had not had any health issues and considered himself in good shape. It turned out he had a large aneurism that had gone undetected by several doctors, and had damaged a heart valve.

Once Morales took a look, everything changed, according to McClarren. The experienced cardiac surgeon could tell right away McClarren needed to have the aneurism repaired and the heart valve replaced. McClarren underwent surgery and credits the doctor with saving his life.

“Since my surgery, I have always told people how lucky I was to have Dr. Morales perform my surgery, and just recently, I recommended him to a friend who needed bypass surgery,” he said. “Besides being blessed by God, Dr. Morales has given me eight additional years to enjoy life. I had the chance to see both of my granddaughters born, and have been able to spend time with them.”

McClarren is one of many whose lives have been extended and transformed thanks to the skilled hands of Morales, who specializes in minimally invasive heart valve repair and replacement in adults and children, as well as artery and coronary bypass, and more. At CHRISTUS Spohn, Morales performs the revolutionary and minimally invasive Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement procedure (TAVR), which utilizes the advanced technology and imaging of the Dan A. Hughes Family Hybrid Suite.

“We’re fortunate to have Dr. Morales on our team and practicing at our facilities to provide high-quality, cutting-edge care to our cardiac patients,” said Justin Doss, market president of CHRISTUS Spohn Health System. Morales is an integral part of the cardiac team, who treat patients of all ages and backgrounds. It’s safe to say many lives are now better off because of Morales’ compassionate care.

In just the last 10 years, Morales has performed more than 350 heart surgeries on children in various parts of Mexico. He works closely with government officials to provide services for children who would otherwise not be able to afford these lifesaving surgeries. He’s also had the opportunity to perform humanitarian surgeries in El Salvador and Ethiopia.

He estimates he has performed more than 10,000 procedures during throughout his career, but he treats each case as if it were his most important. “My goal is to not only provide the best health care possible, but also be receptive to the concerns of my patients and make sure they and their families are comfortable during a difficult time,” Morales said.

Happily married for 22 years to wife, Patti, the couple has three children: John Mark, Lauren and Michael. It’s Morales’ goal to care for every patient as one of his own. “Patients can expect to be treated in a manner that I would expect one of my family members to be treated,” Morales said.

Between stacks of papers and case folders on his desk, you’ll find memorabilia of the doctor’s beloved Dallas Cowboys, a hobby he tries to keep up with. And like the team spirit of his favorite sport, Morales is quick to praise his partners and coworkers.

“The success of cardiothoracic surgery depends on the team,” Morales said. “Everybody that participates is what makes it possible. The nurses, cardiologists, techs, respiratory therapists and my partners all come together to provide the best care for our community.”

To learn more about Dr. J. Mark Morales’ practice, visit www.jmarkmoralesmd.com.

Photos courtesy of Christus Spohn