Surgeon credited with pioneering work

From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Dr. John M. Salyer, 96, a pioneering heart surgeon in Orange County, died July 25 at his home in Coronado, Calif., his daughter, Barbara Yagi, said. The cause of death was not given.

Salyer performed what is believed to be the first open-heart surgery in Orange County in 1961 when he repaired a hole in the heart of 5-year-old Steven Colliflower at St. Joseph Hospital in Orange. He also performed Orange County’s first cardiac pacemaker implant in 1963, also at St. Joseph Hospital.

A native of Paintsville, Ky., Salyer received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky in 1935. He earned his medical degree from Vanderbilt University in Nashville in 1938.

After joining the Army, he became a surgeon with the 73rd Evacuation Hospital in the China-Burma-India theater during World War II and continued as a combat surgeon during the Korean War. He also served at Fitzsimmons Army Hospital in Denver, where he became chief of the Department of Surgery and performed open-heart procedures in the 1950s.


Salyer served 20 years in the Army, attaining the rank of colonel, before establishing his practice in Santa Ana in 1959. At St. Joseph he rose to chairman of the Department of Surgery. After retiring from St. Joseph in 1978, Salyer continued to teach at UC Irvine, where he was a professor of clinical surgery.