Grey's Anatomy: The Best Cardiothoracic Surgeons, Ranked

Nearly every surgical specialty is explored in the long-running ABC drama, Grey's Anatomy. The majority of the fan-favorite characters fell in love with General Surgery, Pediatric Surgery, Plastic Surgery, and Cardiothoracic Surgery. But the latter — which focuses on ailments in the thorax — features a lot more than the rest on the show.

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Cristina Yang — the current boss of the Klausman Institute — is the most distinguished cardiothoracic surgeon in the medical drama. However, she is not the only one with the skills to repair hearts, kidneys, lungs, and livers. A few doctors in the specialty have stood out, and while all of them are extremely qualified, some are not just better surgeons but better characters, in general.

10 Colin Marlow

Marlow, who doubles as a surgeon and professor, becomes famous thanks to the "Marlow Transplant," a procedure that simplifies the replacement of organs in the abdomen. He comes to Seattle Grace to not only seek the position of Chief but also to seduce his former lover, Cristina, once again. Unfortunately, he achieves neither.

Marlow is not only a driven professional but also a meticulous perfectionist. This is seen by how he corrects other surgeons in the OR. He then impressively presents a 10-year plan for the hospital while being interviewed for the position of Chief. Regrettably, Marlow's extreme focus on his work has robbed him of courtesy. He is rude towards everyone, making himself unpopular even before he gets the job. His strategy of bulldozing his way into Cristina's heart also sees him crash before the finish line.

9 Jeff Russell

The former cardio head does great by pioneering the Lotus Valve Trial and giving Cristina the freedom to do showcase her skills when she works under him. He later has the unfortunate honor of being among the doctors who resigned in Grey's Anatomy.

Russell's treatment of Cristina endears him to fans, but it's the only thing that saves him from the bottom spot among the list of best cardio surgeons. His pettiness knows no limit since he quits his job simply because Grey Sloan doctors are ineligible for the Harper Avery Award, yet there is no guarantee he'll ever win. His refusal to make budget cuts in his department, even when the hospital is operating at a loss, also paints him as unreasonable. In addition to that, he can't resist the urge to disobey Derek.

8 Virginia Dixon

The attending cardiothoracic surgeon shows up at Seattle Grace three times to work on various cases and appears to not like the institution. She isn't too fond of the doctors either.

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The best hospitals always seek out the best talents and it is no surprise that Richard tries to woo her twice with the intention of making her cardio head. Her personality aside, she is clearly a brilliant surgeon. Still, her attitude remains a problem. Dixon doesn't come close to being a contender for the top spot among the show's outstanding cardio stars because of her pride and inability to relate with others. She downplays Seattle Grace's luster, triggering the ire of colleagues. Her refusal to hug patients is even sadder.

7 Winston Ndugu

Ndugu is one of the most charming doctors ever featured on the show and he is as good with kids as he is with adults. He is a firm believer in love too, as he moved cities to be with Maggie.

His accomplishments might be minimal, but Ndugu is known for thinking outside the box. It's his idea to bring Zola into Meredith's ward that ends up kickstarting her journey to recovery from COVID-19 when everything else is failing. The show's prioritization of Ndugu's romance with Maggie over his work isn't necessarily a bad thing either, as it always helps extract more of his brilliant qualities, such as resilience, humor, and dedication.

6 Nathan Riggs

Riggs is introduced when he brings in a patient from the Middle East to have tumors removed from his hands. He is later hired by Bailey, but his time at Grey Sloan is a complicated one since he finds himself in a feud with Owwn and a love triangle involving Maggie and Meredith.

Bailey is usually an astute judge of talent and her decision to hire Riggs without consulting anyone proves that the cardiothoracic surgeon is one of the best. His dedication to patients is also unrivaled. Flying across continents to transport a patient when he could have easily sent him over is applause-worthy. On the day Megan disappears, Riggs is also ready to risk his life to transport a patient through unprotected airspace. Riggs' desire to please those close to him makes him a wonderful human too. He goes out of his way to get Farouk for Megan and makes Meredith feel extremely good about herself.

5 Maggie Pierce

The show wastes no time in showing Maggie's skill. While other doctors work their way to the top through a number of seasons, she is hired right away as Head of Cardiothoracic Surgery.

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There are many facts to back up Maggie's position as a top-tier surgeon. It's stated that she was a child prodigy who ended up graduating from high school and college earlier than most people. Maggie's open-heartedness and acceptance of others wows audiences too. Accepting a father that was away for years would be hard for some, but Maggie does so easily with Richard. And no matter how hard Meredith tries to push Maggie into a feud, it doesn't work because Maggie is too loving and accommodating.

4 Teddy Altman

Teddy serves as Co-Head of Cardiovascular Surgery at Grey Sloan and Chief officer at MEDCOM during her time on the series. She also mentors Cristina and together, with Owen, has one of the best relationships in Grey's Anatomy.

It takes intelligence and vision to come up up with new ideas in the medical field, and Teddy's stem cell regenerative heart medicine project shows how brilliant of a doctor she is. Apart from having gifted hands, Teddy is honorable and the revelation that she quit her job at Columbia University Medical Center after her friend's death in 9/11 to become a military doctor won the hearts of fans.

3 Erica Hahn

Hahn is tough with her colleagues, as seen during the LVAD incident, but patients appreciate her bedside manner. She is also full of love, and her pairing with Callie is one of the relationships fans would have loved to see in Grey's Anatomy.

Superior skills never go unnoticed, and Seattle Presbyterian Hospital's Dr. Stewart isn't wrong when he describes Hahn as the best cardiovascular surgeon he's ever worked with. Hahn follows Burke in the rankings because it's constantly implied that he is the only one better than her. At Johns Hopkins Medical School, only Burke scores higher than her. She also loses out on awards to him.

2 Preston Burke

Burke starts his Grey's Anatomy journey with a bang. As soon as he is introduced, he wastes no time in showing his competitive side by pushing to be Chief and butting heads with Derek. And he never changes.

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Burke's work speaks for itself. He not only keeps getting promotions, but he also wins the highly coveted Harper Avery Award. His ambition and business acumen then leads him to start the Klausman Institute for Medical Research. Burke's career hardly has any blemishes, but he doesn't get top spot because of his overbearing nature and being an unlikable character, in general. Not to mention, leaving Cristina at the altar is a sin most fans have refused to pardon.

1 Cristina Yang

Meredith's "person" is also the best in the specialty. Known as the "Cardio God," Cristina not only has one of the best nicknames in Grey's Anatomy but also some of the most envy-triggering accomplishments.

Cristina isn't just the best because she is a likable character. That dozens of hospitals approach her with gift baskets and incentives during her final year of residency reveals just how skilled she is. She is very competitive too, evident from how she easily won the "solo surgery" as an intern. Even more admirable is the fact that she chose to be a cardiothoracic surgeon after watching her father die from a car accident.

NEXT: 5 Old Grey's Anatomy Characters We Want To See Return In Season 18 (& 5 We Don't)



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