Peter M. Guida, M.D., beloved husband, father, grandfather, stepfather and friend, died on Wednesday, April 20, at his home in Lloyd Harbor surrounded by loving family members. Peter was guided by three loves in his life—medicine, flying and his family.
Born on July 18, 1927, in New York City, Peter missed his high school graduation (where he was valedictorian) because he was “less than forthright” about his age and had a pre-induction interview with the local Navy recruitment office.
Ultimately following the rules, he enlisted at 17 and, under an accelerated wartime program, flew Grumman F6F Hellcats—at the age of 18—off the aircraft carrier Essex in the South Pacific for the next two years.
After his discharge, Peter entered Long Island University under the G.I. Bill as a pre-med student on scholarship, gaining a top spot out of 1,200 applicants.
After graduating with honors from Albany Medical College in 1954, he was admitted to the prestigious surgical resident training program at Weill Cornell Medical College and the New York-Presbyterian Hospital. Focusing on cardiac surgery, his care, understanding and insight helped countless patients.
During his tenure at Weill Cornell, Peter’s professional life had many firsts.
He performed the first aortic aneurysm surgery at New York Hospital. He founded the division of cardiac surgery at Cornell University and performed the first open-heart surgery at New York Presbyterian Hospital. In addition, he founded the divisions of vascular surgery and thoracic surgery.
Rising to become associate professor of surgery and associate attending surgeon, he went on to serve on 82 committees of the medical center, half of which he presided as chairman. He performed more than 20,000 major medical operations and published numerous scientific papers.
Beloved and respected by his patients, peers and staff, Peter retired from the department of surgery in 2005, after being affiliated with New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Weill Cornell Medical Center for more than 60 years of research and surgical care.
In his honor, the hospitals, together with Maurice R. Greenberg, endowed the Greenberg-Starr University Professorship to honor Peter’s work. On receiving the award, he was quite surprised, saying, “This honor is beyond anything I can imagine. This institution has been my life; it has supported and challenged me. I can never thank you enough.”
In recognition of his professional success and devotion to the medical community, Peter received the Horatio Alger Award in 1981. A man of faith, beginning when he served as an altar boy, he was Knighted in 1982 as a member of the Order of the Holy Sepulcher of the Roman Catholic Church; a Knight in the Order of Merit of the Republic of Italy; as well as (in 1989) a Knight of Malta. In addition, because of his outstanding work with cancer patients, Peter was inducted into the Royal Knights for Cancer Research in Ocala, FL.
Peter was predeceased by his first wife Jennie Josephine Guida. He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Bernadette Castro, and by children Patricia Guida May and Peter M. Guida, Jr. PhD, and stepchildren Terri Austin Keogh, David Austin, Jonathan Austin and Bernard Austin. He is also survived by two grandchildren Jennifer and David; and eight step-grandchildren Grace, Piper, Bernard, Georgia, Gwenyth, Josie, Finlay and Terence.
Visitation was held at M.A. Connell Funeral Home in Huntington Station. A Mass of Christian burial was concelebrated by Monsignor John Bennett and Monsignor Jim Vlaun on April 23 at St. Patrick’s Church in Huntington.
In lieu of flowers, the family has requested that contributions be made in memory of Dr. Peter M. Guida to Hospice Care Network, 99 Sunnyside Blvd., Woodbury, NY 11797.