“I don’t feel like you should ever compromise.”

“She is quite an impressive woman. It’s not easy to become a heart surgeon, to become a teacher, and to become a mother at the same time. Her patients and their families feel safe with her, and she’s very compassionate. It can be easy to forget about showing sympathy, but she does that very well. That’s why the patients and families adore her. She has a great career ahead of her, and she’s going to only get better. She doesn’t look at it as a job—it’s a passion.” 

Dr. London is seated with her two kids, a young brown-haired boy with a red sweater and jeans, and a baby girl in white tights, red dress and fur navy winter jacket. Dr. London’s husband, a middle-aged white man in a black sweater with a dark blue and green checkered scarf, sits next to her. They are seated on a couch outside, as their golden labrador retriever lays down beside them.
“Building a work life balance around your patient's care and family is possible because both are important to me.”

Dr. Hassan Reda is glowing as he describes his colleague, Dr. Tessa London—and for good reason. By all accounts, Dr. London is extraordinary. She’s one of a handful of female cardiothoracic surgeons in Kentucky, and one of just a few in the country. Only a few years into her career, she’s achieved a level of skill, empathy and grace that others take decades to achieve.

Dr. London is dressed in her white doctor’s coat and mask, standing in a medical office between two of her colleagues dressed in the same gear—an older white man with grey hair, and a younger whihte woman with brown hair. Dr. London is pointing at the screen at the same time as her male colleague, while simultaneously being on the phone.
“We support each other, focus on patient care and have a similar philosophy on where the practice should go.”

Dr. London’s desire to serve others started early. The daughter of a physician’s assistant and a Peace Corps medical officer, she and her family traveled all over the world, helping people from Africa to Thailand. After college, Dr. London worked as an HIV/AIDS consultant in Cambodia. The work confirmed what she’d suspected for years: she wanted to go into medicine. During and after medical school, Dr. London was drawn to a challenging, intense specialty: cardiothoracic surgery. 

The computer screen displays the scan of a patient's heart as it is being monitored.
“Cardiothoracic is a young, innovative field and has all these options of new growth.”

“I always loved cardiovascular surgery. It’s a finely-detailed, precision-based surgery, but also there’s a lot of new stuff. It’s constantly evolving, with a lot of innovation that you don’t see in a lot of other surgeries. Being a younger surgeon, that’s very much what I’m interested in—participating in cutting edge things, evolving my own techniques, not stopping what I learned.”

Dr. London is standing in the hallway of UK HealthCare reading through notes. She is wearing her doctor’s coat and mask, and has her hair tied into a bun.
“I'm very independent and challenge myself technically, but I also know that I have backup.”

While Dr. London’s field is one that is constantly evolving and challenging her, the people are truly what keeps her coming back. Her patients are the number one reason she continues to strive for new techniques, new breakthroughs and better care. Every patient she comes to know drives her to do better and work harder. The patients, the diversity of high level cases and the extremely evolved pathology in Kentucky is exactly what drew Dr. London to UK HealthCare’s Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

Dr. London is walking through the hallway of UK HealthCare, carrying her lunch as she hurries between patients. The camera follows her.
“What keeps me coming back to work? My patients. My commitment to my patients.”

“One of the things about cardiothoracic that’s really great is that I remember all my patients. I may not remember them by name, but as soon as I start talking to them, I remember their stories. I remember something they told me about their family or a trip they took.”

Dr. London stands with her phone to her ear in a medical office. She is wearing her doctor’s coat and a mask.
“It’s not just about being the first, but showing others in my field that it is feasible to make it here.”

Dr. Reda can attest to Dr. London’s exceptional patient care. “She’s very caring, very attentive and a great teacher. Dr. London knows how to select her cases, how to select her patients, and how to approach using the resources around her. She has no problem doing whatever it takes to take care of her patients.”

Dr. London is standing outside her home, laughing and cuddling her daughter, while her son stands in front of her and reaches up to his sister.
“It's all about prioritizing and enjoying what you prioritize.”

Today, Dr. London continues saving lives and doing groundbreaking work in her field—and she’s doing it all while raising a growing family. For her, that balance is key, both for herself, and for other young surgeons in such a demanding specialty. “It’s nice to be able to show them that it is possible to have a fulfilling career in cardiac surgery and to be able to also support your family. I don’t feel like you should ever compromise.”

A portrait of Dr. London, standing outside the hospital in a white coat and a blue shirt. Her hair is loose and pushed to one side, and she is wearing a small gold chain and green hoop earrings.
“Once I make up my mind, that's what's going to happen, whether it takes a month or ten years. I’ll go for it.”

Learn more about Dr. London’s work at

at UK HealthCare’s Gill Heart & Vascular Institute.

Rory McCamish, a white toddler with blonde hair, blue eyes, and a round face, is standing in his living room waving. He is wearing a navy blue shirt and grey pants.MaKenzie Baker, an 18-month-old white baby girl in a black and white striped shirt with a grey headband, is being held in her father’s arms.