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The Catalyst

Lifetime achievement award honors a career of achievements

MUSC’s Dr. Fred Crawford, left, is presented with the AATS Lifetime Achievement Award by the AATS’ Dr. Craig Miller, right, and David Sugarbaker at its annual meeting on April 28 in Toronto. photos provided

By Mikie Hayes
Public Relations

Throughout the course of a distinguished career, few are fortunate enough to ever reach the pinnacle. But Fred A. Crawford, Jr., M.D., Distinguished University Professor of Surgery and the former Horace G. Smithy Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, has reached many.

When he was named president of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery in 2003, he knew he had received “the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval,” as the AATS enjoys a reputation as the most prestigious body in its field. Founded in 1917, the organization’s membership includes more than 1,300 of the world's foremost cardiothoracic surgeons hailing from 41 countries.

But when Crawford learned he was chosen to receive the AATS Lifetime Achievement Award, it was the icing on the cake of an illustrious career and an honor he most certainly did not expect.

Because the award is not presented yearly or with any regularity, it was not something he had his sights set on. “It’s a very special award. You can’t run for it and no one knows when it will be awarded next, so I never even considered that I might be a recipient.”

Only the fifth person in the history of the organization to have received the honor, Crawford was recognized for his contributions to the specialty of cardiothoracic surgery and to the AATS specifically. In particular, members were grateful for his service as the 82nd president of the organization and the many advancements that took place during his leadership, as well as the fact that he has remained an extremely active and integral past-president since that time.

James B. Edwards, D.M.D., president emeritus of MUSC, was not surprised to learn of the prestigious honor Crawford received. He feels great pride for having recruited him to the institution. “One of my finest accomplishments as governor was to bring Fred Crawford to the Medical University. The American Association for Thoracic Surgery could not have honored a finer man or surgeon than Fred with the prestigious Lifetime Achievement Award.

Dr. Fred Crawford, right, works with Dr. Walter DeNino in the skills lab.

Throughout the world, Fred is a legend among thoracic surgeons, and he most certainly took our Department of Surgery to extraordinary new heights.

In 2007, I was privileged to present Fred with the Order of the Palmetto, our state’s highest honor conferred on a civilian, during a ceremony honoring his 18 years of outstanding contributions as MUSC’s chairman of the Department of Surgery. Yet again he has been deservedly recognized for a lifetime of stellar achievements.

He is a beloved member of the MUSC community, and I join the institution in congratulating my personal friend for again reaching another pinnacle in his career.”

Recruited by Crawford to MUSC in 1994, David Cole, M.D., president–elect of MUSC, holds his mentor in the highest esteem.

“Fred Crawford is a rare talent and leader among cardiothoracic surgeons. To be recognized by a lifetime achievement award for his many important contributions to this field by a renowned organization such as the AATS is indeed a rare honor. Few have been honored with this distinction and his tremendous achievements have brought MUSC great pride and recognition. Fred recruited me to MUSC 20 years ago and has long been a friend and mentor. It has been a privilege working with him over the past two decades. In addition to his friendship, I have always valued in him the same traits that I am sure brought him this recognition and award: unquestioned integrity, a single-minded dedication to excellence, outstanding judgment, and an ability to effectively get things done.  I couldn’t be more proud that his many accomplishments have been recognized so significantly and I offer my heartfelt congratulations for this prestigious award and a most distinguished career.”

Credited for building a superlative surgery department at MUSC, Crawford is quick to give credit to others. “Jim Edwards transformed MUSC into the world–class institution it is today and we all enjoy a different level of care and prestige as a result,” he said of the former president. He credited the surgery faculty and residents who he described as “cream of the crop” as well as his family for providing strong support. He also believes that the future of MUSC is bright with the recent selection of Cole as president.

Jerry Reves, M.D., dean emeritus of the MUSC College of Medicine, is recognized as a founder of cardiothoracic anesthesiology. In his capacity as dean as well as a professor of anesthesiology, he worked closely with Crawford for nearly a decade. “In my career I was priviledged to work with some very distinguished cardiac surgeons, and Dr. Crawford was as technically gifted as any of them. Dr. Crawford is most deserving of this national recognition, and it is noteworthy that of the many legacies he has here at MUSC, one is the outstanding congenital cardiac surgical program and another is the recruitment and development of talented female residents and faculty as well as Dr. David Cole, the next president of the MUSC.”

In announcing the award, the AATS recognized Crawford’s service as the first chair of the Joint Council on Thoracic Surgery Education; his time on the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, including a term as its chair; and his untiring efforts in stewarding the AATS Leadership Academy.

It was also noted that Crawford participated on the Residency Review Committee for Thoracic Surgery, represented the AATS on the Board of Governors of the American College of Surgeons and served on the Board of Governors of the American College of Cardiology – all of this, in addition to his busy clinical practice while serving as chair of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and chairman of the Department of Surgery.

When asked what he thought were his top career achievements, Crawford related the accomplishments of which he was most proud:

  • His presidency of the AATS stands out as a significant experience he enjoyed immensely.
  • Another accomplishment that is particularly meaningful was his 10 years serving on the board of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, most especially his two years as chairman. The ABTS serves a critically important role as it is responsible for establishing and maintaining high standards in thoracic surgery.
  • A noteworthy achievement was his involvement in developing a new residency program that was recently introduced on a national level.

For the past 80 years, according to Crawford, the traditional method for training cardiothoracic surgeons has operated the same way. If a new doctor wanted to become a heart surgeon they would spend five years in general surgery after medical school before they could concentrate on becoming specialized in the area of heart for the next two years.

Crawford believed there was a way to get these residents working in cardiothoracic surgery from day one and played a significant role in initiating reform in the training process. As a result, he participated in the development of the Integrated Cardiothoracic Surgery Residency Programs introduced first at MUSC, University of Pennsylvania and Stanford. The first MUSC resident will graduate from the new program this year.

Crawford said the key advantages to the integrated approach include shorter, more focused training, which is attractive to potential applicants, and inclusion of fields adjunct to cardiothoracic surgery which are critical to today’s interdisciplinary approach to diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease.

Crawford also remains proud of the part he played in bringing the Ashley River Tower to fruition. After stepping down as department chairman in 2007, he continued to serve as division chief until the move to ART was completed in 2009. He remained clinically active until recently but continues to teach and mentor and participate in division and department activities in addition to his national responsibilities. He enjoys being “the wise old man,” in the division and spending time with his family on his farm in Holly Hill.

On Crawford’s list of memorable achievements in his career, the AATS Lifetime Achievement Award is now among the most special.


May 30, 2014




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