Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery
Message from the Chief
John S. Ikonomidis, MD, PhD
In 1938, Horace Smithy came to the Medical College of South Carolina as a resident in surgery. Upon completion of his residency, he became the third full-time faculty member in the Department of Surgery. His interest in rheumatic heart disease ultimately led to one of the earliest successful mitral valve operations in the world. Unfortunately his untimely death at age 34 from rheumatic heart disease “robbed” MUSC of the opportunity to become one of the early world leaders in the development of cardiac surgery. Nevertheless, cardiac surgery did develop and progressed in the 1950s under the leadership of Drs. Edward Parker, William H. Lee, Peter Hariston, R. Randolph Bradham, and Jack E. Arrants. In 1964, thoracic surgery became a semi-autonomous division in the Department of Surgery under the leadership of Dr. William Lee, an internationally recognized authority on cardiopulmonary bypass. Under his leadership, a residency program in thoracic surgery was established, and this program has maintained continuous accreditation by the Thoracic Surgery Residency Review Committee for over 40 years. Unfortunately Dr. Lee died tragically in an automobile accident in 1977. Dr. Edward Parker, whose grandfather had served as a Dean for the Medical College of South Carolina and who himself was recognized as the father of thoracic surgery in South Carolina and an international expert in carcinoma of the esophagus, then returned to MUSC from private practice to serve as interim division chief. Under his leadership, Dr. Fred Crawford, a South Carolina native, Duke graduate and who was at that time Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Mississippi, was recruited as the new division chief in 1979. The name of the division was changed from the Division of Thoracic Surgery to the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery. Dr. Crawford has served continuously as Division Chief since 1979 and also served from 1988 to 2007 as Chairman of the Department of Surgery. Upon becoming Division Chief, Dr. Crawford expressed a goal to establish a “full-service” division with expertise in every area of cardiothoracic surgery in order that the citizens of South Carolina would not have to leave the state for their cardiothoracic care. He also wanted to achieve increased diversity by recruiting promising young faculty members from the very best medical schools in the United States and to also establish a successful/funded research program. In 2009, Dr. John Ikonomidis succeeded Dr. Crawford as Horace G. Smithy Professor and Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at MUSC. New faculty have been added to the Division which will further expand the breadth of clinical and research expertise. New programs, such as mechanical ventricular assist and pulmonary transplantation, either implemented or soon to begin, will further enhance the treatment options for South Carolinians and solidifies MUSC as the only thoracic transplantation program in South Carolina. MUSC remains the only program in South Carolina approved for cardiothoracic surgery residency training. Currently, two training programs are available: a traditional three year residency program for individuals who have already completed general surgery training, and a novel six-year integrated program that individuals may participate in starting as early as completion of medical school.
The Division is currently organized into four sections. The Section of Congenital/Pediatric Heart Surgery originally established by Dr. Robert Sade in 1976 is currently headed by Dr. Scott Bradley and includes Dr.Dr. Minoo N. Kavarana. Essentially every child with congenital heart disease in South Carolina who requires surgery is cared for at MUSC, and truly outstanding clinical results/outcomes have led to the section being ranked 19th in U.S. News and World Report in 2008. The Section of General Thoracic Surgery was originally headed by Dr. Edward Parker until his retirement in 1985. At that time, Dr. Carolyn Reed was recruited from the New York Hospital, Cornell Medical Center and the Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, and she has become the most widely recognized and respected woman cardiothoracic surgeon in the United States. Under her direction, the section which also includes Dr. Chad E. Denlinger has developed innovative surgical approaches to all types of lung and esophageal disease. Dr. Ikonomidis heads the Section of Adult Cardiac Surgery and the faculty include Dr. John Kratz, Dr. Crawford, and Dr. J. Matthew Toole. Dr. William Yarbrough, a South Carolina native, has recently joined this section having completed his Cardiothoracic Surgical Training at Stanford University. This group is widely known and respected for expertise in all types of adult cardiac surgery including valve surgery, myocardial revascularization, aortic surgery, transplantation, and pacemaker/arrhythmia surgery. In 1985, Francis Spinale, M.D., Ph.D. was recruited to start a basic science research program. Under his leadership, this research program currently supports 5 faculty members within CT Surgery and 6 faculty members in a collaborative inter-departmental structure (Anesthesiology, Medicine, Radiology). The program contains over 30 staff members and houses approximately 5 million dollars in extramural research support. This funded research is not multi-center, corporate sponsored trials, but rather investigator initiated NIH (5) and VA (3) peer reviewed grants. The Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery operates fully equipped laboratories comprising approximately 8,500 square feet located within the Thurmond/Gazes Cardiac Research Institute (CRI). This laboratory is recognized as one of the very best cardiothoracic surgery research laboratories in the world.
Currently the Division has eleven clinical faculty and three non-clinical research faculty. Of the eleven clinical faculty, six (Drs. Ikonomidis Crawford, Kratz, Reed, Bradley and Crumbley) have been listed in one or more “Best Doctor” publications on multiple occasions. The faculty has gained international recognition through important leadership roles such as President of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (Crawford 2004), American Board of Thoracic Surgery Chair (Crawford-2001, Reed-2007), Southern Thoracic Surgical Association President (Parker-1959, Sade-1991, Reed-2007), Chair of the American Heart Association Council for Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia (Ikonomidis-2010), as well as by service on numerous national committees, councils, boards, etc.
In February 2008, the Sections of General Thoracic Surgery and Adult Cardiac Surgery moved to the new Ashley River Tower (see virtual tour) , a state-of-the-art facility designed for the comprehensive care of patients with cardiovascular and gastrointestinal disease. This facility provides a “one-stop-shop” for the care of cardiovascular and thoracic patients including a chest pain center, out-patient clinics, catheterization labs, ORs, ICUs, wards, and office space. The Section of Adult Cardiac Surgery partners with Adult Cardiology. Vascular Surgery, and Interventional Radiology in the Heart and Vascular Service Line and share contiguous office space and ICU space. The Section of Pediatric Heart Surgery remains at the MUSC Children’s Hospital (one block away) in close proximity to the Division of Pediatric Cardiology and other pediatric subspecialties.