Walter Randolph Chitwood, Jr., MD


Walter Randolph Chitwood, Jr., MD
Director of the East Carolina Heart Institute
Brody School of Medicine
East Carolina University

Dr. Chitwood graduated from Hampden-Sydney College (1968) and received his medical degree from the University of Virginia (1973). He completed the ten-year general and cardiothoracic surgical residency (1984) at Duke University under David C. Sabiston, Jr., M.D. His NIH sponsored research training there was under the direction of Andrew S. Wechsler, M.D. In 1984 he was recruited by the East Carolina University School of Medicine to begin the cardiac surgery program. From 1984 until 2003, he was the Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery and from 1995 to 2003 was Chairman of the Department of Surgery. After founding the East Carolina Heart Institute (ECHI), a 250 million dollar construction project, he was promoted to ECHI Director and Senior Associate Vice Chancellor: Health Sciences. He planned the development of the new integrated Department of Cardiovascular Sciences (cardiology, cardiac surgery, and vascular surgery). The ECHI Robotic Clinical and Training Center was the first of its kind and led the two FDA-Intuitive Surgical clinical trials that eventuated in approval for robotic mitral valve surgery. The center has trained over 350 surgeons world wide and mentors from there have helped start robotic cardiac surgical programs in 13 countries. Currently, the ECHI and Department are involved in clinical trials associated with the NHLBI Cardiothoracic Surgical Trials Network. Dr. Chitwood is a member of 25 professional societies and colleges, including the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, American College of Cardiology, The American College of Surgeons, the American Heart Association, the Royal College of Surgeons of England, and Society of Thoracic Surgeons. He peer reviews for seven scientific journals. His scientific articles number over 200 and he has written 75 book chapters. His other honors include: election to Alpha Omega Alpha Medical Honor Society (1983), O. Max Gardner Award (2004) from the University of North Carolina Board of Govenors, National Phi Kappa Phi Scholar (2005) Award, National Mended Hearts: Dwight Harken Award (2005), Honorary Doctor of Science from Hampden Sydney College (2005), and the Ellis Island Medal of Honor (2009). In 2007 he was named the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Distinguisher Chair, the largest endowed chair in the University of North Carolina System. He is a past President of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the Society for Heart Valve Disease, and the Society for Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery. His recent scientific interests relate to advancing mitral valve and coronary artery surgery, through new innovative approaches and multi-diciplinary techniques that will provide both the best evidence-based and least invasive outcomes for patients. Having performed nearly 900 robotic mitral valve repairs, he wants to perfect imaging methods that can model and simulate mitral repairs for both intraoperative planning and team training. The largest gap to not having more patients undergo a mitral repair, instead of a replacement, resides in limited experience of individual surgeons, inadequate valve exposure and visualization, impeded ergonomics, and inability to formulate dynamic reconstructions, preoperatively.