The Pathway to Healthcare

Al Stammers entered the Marine Corps at the tail end of the Vietnam War, right after completing high school. After serving, he went to college, intending to become a veterinarian. However, that didn’t work out. As he was deciding what he wanted to do next, Stammers considered careers that would allow him to travel wherever he wanted to go. Rural medicine piqued his interest, so he applied to nursing school at Syracuse University. While he was completing the prerequisites to enroll, he applied to various jobs. 

After he initially forgot that he applied for a position at a medical center in upstate New York, he got a call from a pediatric cardiac surgeon, Dr. Edward Bove, asking him to come in to interview at a research lab. Stammers had some background in research after graduating from college. After finishing the prerequisites, he decided to forego attending nursing school and went to work for Dr. Bove instead. 

He started to learn more about myocardial protection, cardioplegia, and other aspects of clinical medicine. He and Dr. Bove developed the Langendorf heart preparation model, which protects it by placing it on a device similar to a heart-lung machine. This eventually led Stammers to perfusion school, and Upstate Medical Center had one of the fifteen perfusion programs at the time. He continued working in research throughout school and, upon completing the program, Dr. Bove recruited him to work as a cardiovascular perfusionist at the University of Michigan. 

Early Career in Perfusion 

The beginning of his perfusion career was very busy once he arrived in Michigan and started working for Dr. Bove. Everyone in the program was early in their career. They learned a lot from each other, created an artificial heart program, and implanted the Jarvik heart. At this time, they were one of the only centers nationwide that were doing this. Additionally, they got to participate in the first successful artificial heart transplant. Stammers also researched techniques of brain protection during aortic surgery and blood management.

The next stage of his career landed him at the research center at the University of South Carolina after the program director recruited him. After working a few years in research, he taught research studies at the Medical University of South Carolina. Then, he became the program director at Nebraska Medical Center, where he started a new education program in the ’90s. 

Stammers credits this period to when his perfusion research really took off after being granted adequate funds and resources to set the foundation for the work. During this period, his team published research papers on perfusion, cardiac surgery, blood management, and other areas they were studying at the time. 

A Personal Trajectory 

Stammers later adopted a child and then had a biological child, Zachary, 18 months later. After two years, he felt like Zachary was disappearing. At this time, autism wasn’t well known, and there wasn’t much research on it. He did 50 hours of applied behavioral analysis each week and flew him to every clinic across the nation to get him the right services.

Stammers learned about the Children’s Miracle Network, which had just invested a million dollars to establish a clinic for childhood-age autism. His friend called him and asked if he was interested in being the chief. Stammers saw this as a sign and moved to Pennslyvania to excel in his career and help his family. 

John H. Gibbon Jr. Award 

The American Society of Extracorporeal Technology (AmSECT) established the John H. Gibbon Jr. Award, which is awarded to an individual each year that has made significant contributions to the perfusion field. Al Stammers received the award this year, which can be attributed to his 40 years in conducting perfusion research. Stammers is humbled by the honor and accredits much of his success to all the individuals he has had the opportunity to work with throughout his career.

About Perfusion Leaders

Perfusion Leaders is a community built for those who provide perfusion services, from the novice student in perfusion school to the experts researching new techniques.