Newark College of Engineering Names Surgeon Joseph Gorman, Class of 1984, an Outstanding Alumnus

NCE Outstanding Alumnus Joseph Gorman

Joseph Gorman is a prominent surgeon and professor of surgery at the University of Pennsylvania School Of Medicine.

But he began his academic career at the Newark College of Engineering at NJIT. And he attributes his success as a surgeon to the problem-solving skills he acquired as a student at NJIT.  He enrolled here in 1980 and majored in chemical engineering.  So did his twin brother, Robert Gorman, who is also a surgeon and a professor at Penn. 

In 1984, Joseph graduated from NJIT with honors. He did graduate work at NJIT for a year and then worked for two years as a process design engineer. It was during this time that he decided on medical school and in 1987 he entered UMDNJ’s Robert Wood Johnson Medical School.

He excelled at UMDNJ and afterwards did his internship in general surgery at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania. He also did his surgical residency at Penn., excelling in the field of cardio-thoracic surgery.       

Today, he is an associate professor of cardiovascular surgery at the University of Pennsylvania. Along with his brother Robert, he also co-directs the Gorman Cardiovascular Research Group.  To honor his medical achievements, the Newark College of Engineering recently named Joseph Gorman an Outstanding Alumnus.

In this interview, Dr. Gorman talks about the benefits of studying engineering at NJIT, and how it prepared him to work as a surgeon, a professor and a researcher. 


You studied chemical engineering at NJIT.  Did that help you in medical school? And does your engineering background help you in your work as surgeon?
An engineering background is not uncommon among surgeons. In fact, in addition to my brother and I, there are thee other cardiovascular surgeons in our medical group who have undergraduate degrees in chemical engineering. It’s a very good preparation for medical school and for surgeons. The work ethic you develop in a rigorous program like chemical engineering prepares you well for the demands of medical training. The scientific expertise you develop is also extremely helpful.

What advice do you have for NJIT students who want to go to medical school?
I would choose the engineering discipline you find most interesting and work hard at it.

You graduated with honors from NJIT.  Looking back, do you think you got a good education at NJIT?
NJIT provided me with an excellent educational experience. In addition to the large amount of scientific and engineering knowledge I acquired at NJIT, I developed the ability to approach complex design problems in a methodical fashion. These problem solving skills have stood me in good stead throughout my entire career.

What were your favorite classes or professors at NJIT?
As far as favorite courses go, I particularly enjoyed the third and fourth year curriculum, where the problem solving skills I have mentioned where honed and fine tuned. I remember Professors Angelo Perna and Deran Hanesian very fondly. 

Why did you select NJIT for your undergraduate studies? 
Coming out of high school, I didn’t have a lot of money for college. I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do but was pretty good at math and science, so I chose engineering. NJIT had a good reputation as an engineering school and the price was right. I think my tuition for the first semester was about $500.

And when did you decide to go to medical school? 
I really didn’t decide to go to medical school until after graduation. I did graduate work at NJIT for a year and then worked for two years as a process design engineer for Airco Industrial Gases. That allowed me to save money for medical school and study for the entrance exams. I started medical school in 1987, three years after I graduated from NJIT.

You and your brother, Robert, are identical twins and came to NJIT the same year to study chemical engineering. Now you work together. Have you two always been close?
Rob and I have worked together for the majority of our adult lives. It has always been helpful to have a smart partner who I can trust and one with whom I can discuss creative solutions to challenging problems. Our approaches to problem solving are in some ways different but in general very synergistic.

What town did you grow up in and what high school did you attend? And can you talk about your background, -- your parents? 
I grew up in Fairfield, N.J. and went to West Essex High School. I was involved in sports (football, wrestling and baseball). My father was a sales representative and my mother was a housewife and book-keeper. Neither went to college. My parents were always very supportive but they did not encourage or discourage our pursuit of medicine as a career. They always let us make our own decisions.

Are you honored that NJIT is naming you an Outstanding Alumnus?
Yes, it’s an honor to be acknowledged.

Along with your work as a surgeon, you direct a lab that designs devices for patients with valve problems.  Is your engineering background helpful to you in your research in the lab?
Our group is involved with the design and deployment of several medical devices and pharmacological strategies to treat cardiovascular disease. I use the engineering and problem solves skills that I began to develop at NJIT every day.

What do you do for pleasure outside of work?
With my wife Patti, I have five children whose ages range from 7 through 15. This takes up most of my spare time.

(By Robert Florida, University Web Services)