General Thoracic Surgery at The University of Virginia
Dr. E. Cato Drash
The history of surgical specialization in general thoracic surgery at the University of Virginia began in 1930, fully eighteen years before the establishment of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery in 1948, when Dr. Cato Drash joined the surgical faculty. Dr. Drash graduated from medical school at Washington University in St. Louis and completed his training in Surgery at Vanderbilt University. He specialized in the treatment of pulmonary tuberculosis and quickly became the consulting thoracic surgeon for all of the tuberculosis sanatoriums in the state of Virginia. He was known for his skill in performing percutaneous division of pleural adhesions between the chest wall and the lung, a procedure that allowed the lung to collapse which improved treatment response to tuberculosis in the pre-antibiotic era. During World War II, Dr. Drash served as Chief Surgeon and Commanding Officer of the University of Virginia’s 8th Evacuation Hospital, a mobile unit that treated soldiers during the North African and Italian campaigns.
When he returned to UVA after the war, Dr. Drash was appointed the first Professor of Thoracic Surgery, a position he held until his retirement in 1970. In 1974 he was honored by the establishment of the E. Cato Drash Professorship in Pulmonary Medicine.
Dr. George R. Minor
Dr. George R. Minor succeeded Dr. Drash as the Chief of General Thoracic Surgery in 1970. Dr. Minor had graduated from medical school at the University of Virginia and then trained in the first formal Thoracic Surgery Residency at the University of Michigan. He then returned to Virginia in 1949 and joined the surgical faculty at UVA. In addition to his role developing General Thoracic Surgery at UVA, Dr. Minor also served as Assistant Dean of the School of Medicine from 1963 to 1971. Dr. Minor also held a joint appointment in the Department of Radiology, and his diagnostic acumen in chest conferences and his Sunday morning medical student x-ray rounds inspired many generations of students to go into the fields of thoracic surgery and pulmonary medicine. He was a valued mentor to generations of surgical residents at the University of Virginia. Dr. Minor was also was an accomplished cook, pianist, and an inveterate world traveler. Dr. Minor died on November 29, 2007 at the age of 94.
Dr. Thomas M. Daniel
Dr. Thomas M. Daniel succeeded Dr. Minor in 1984 as the Chief of General Thoracic Surgery. Dr. Daniel graduated from the University of Virginia School of Medicine. After medical school, he trained in internal medical at Boston University Hospital and Emory University before realizing his passion for surgery and pursuing training in General and Thoracic Surgery at Duke University. Upon his return to UVA, Dr. Daniel oversaw a dramatic increase in the volume of general thoracic surgical cases. He co-authored the first textbook on the technique of thoracoscopic surgery, organized a weekly multi-specialty Thoracic Tumor Board, set up the first lung cancer screening program in the state, and developed a technique of radiotracer localization and thoracoscopic excision of small lung nodules which enabled earlier detection and treatment of lung cancer. Dr. Daniel established the George R. Minor Professorship in General Thoracic Surgery in 1989 in honor of Dr. Minor. Dr. Daniel remained clinically active until his retirement in 2006.
Dr. David R. Jones
Dr. David R. Jones was recruited by Dr. Daniel and the TCV faculty to join the UVA faculty in 1999. He subsequently became the fourth Chief of General Thoracic Surgery in 2005, succeeding Dr. Daniel. Dr. Jones graduated from medical school at West Virginia University. He stayed there to train in General Surgery with his mentor, Gordon Murray. He then trained in Thoracic Surgery at the University of North Carolina in Chapel Hill. Upon his arrival at UVA, Dr. Jones established an NIH funded thoracic oncology research laboratory. Dr. Jones also initiated a thoracic surgery database beginning in 1999 that now contains over 10,000 cases.
Under his leadership the University of Virginia lung transplant program became a major national program which was recognized at one point for having the best one-year patient survival rate in the country. Dr. Jones later recruited Dr. Benjamin D. Kozower in 2006 and Dr. Christine L. Lau in 2007, both of whom had trained in Thoracic Surgery at Washington University, to join the General Thoracic Surgery faculty. Recognizing that the increased clinical volumes in general thoracic surgery afforded additional educational opportunities, Dr. Jones oversaw the expansion of the existing thoracic surgery residency program to include an additional general thoracic surgery track position beginning in 2004. In 2007, Dr. Jones succeeded Dr. Kron as Division Chief of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery at the University of Virginia. Dr. Jones was subsequently recruited to be Surgeon in Chief of the Sloan Kettering Memorial Thoracic Surgical Service in New York City.
Cardiovascular Surgery at The University of Virginia
Dr. William H Muller Jr.
In 1954, at the age of 35, Dr. William H. Muller Jr. was recruited from the University of California at Los Angeles to be the Chairman of the Department of Surgery and the Division Chief of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery at UVA. Dr. Muller graduated from The Citadel in Charleston, S.C. and subsequently graduated from medical school at Duke. He then joined the general surgery and thoracic surgical training program at Johns Hopkins Hospital under the leadership of Dr. Alfred Blalock. Dr. Muller was present in the operating room when Dr. Blalock performed the first Blalock-Taussig shunt in 1946. After his arrival at UVA, Dr. Muller organized the open heart surgery program at UVA, established a laboratory to study the issues of the day in cardiac surgery, and instituted training programs in Thoracic and Cardiovascular surgery. He went on to become a highly respected leader in American surgery, serving on the American Board of Surgery and the Conference Committee on Graduate Training in Surgery.
He was a member and, later, Chairman of the Surgery Study Section of the National Institutes of Health. He served as President of The Society of University Surgeons, The Southern Surgical Association, The American Surgical Association, and The American College of Surgeons.During his time as Chairman, Dr. Muller trained or mentored surgical leaders including Dean Warren, Stan Nolan, Larry Michaels, and Irv Kron. He pursued his primary work in heart surgery, especially in the realm of aortic valve replacement, and he continued working on his original contribution of pulmonary artery banding for pulmonary hypertension in children with congenital heart disease.
In 1976 Dr. Muller was named Vice President for Health Affairs at the University of Virginia, and then became the Chief Executive Officer of the Medical Center. He reorganized the Vice President’s office and brought great strength of leadership to that position. Dr. Muller recognized the inadequacy of the hospital facilities and led the planning, development, and, ultimately, construction of the new University of Virginia Hospital which opened in 1989. This hospital stands as a tribute to his vision, energy, and leadership. In 1981, Dr. Muller resigned his position as Chairman of the Department of Surgery, but he continued his active leadership as Vice President until 1990, when he retired.
Dr. Stanton P. Nolan
In 1968, Dr. Stanton P. Nolan was appointed to the faculty, and in 1970 he was named the Chief of The Division of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery, succeeding Dr. Muller in that role. A native of Washington DC, Dr. Nolan graduated from Princeton University and then graduated from The University of Virginia School of Medicine. He then completed his training in Surgery and Thoracic Surgery at the University of Virginia. In addition, he spent several years at the NIH studying the pathophysiology of congenital heart disease and working on the development of prosthetic heart valves. He had a successful research laboratory funded through the AHA, the NIH, and industry. His clinical interests were in congenital heart surgery and in diseases of the valves of the heart.
Among his many accomplishments were co-authoring the first comprehensive curriculum for The Thoracic Surgery Directors Association and serving on the Editorial Boards of The Annals of Thoracic Surgery and The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. Faculty recruited during his tenure included Dr. Ivan Crosby, Dr. Bert Wellons, Dr. Robert Mentzer, Dr. Irv Kron, Dr. William Spotnitz, and Dr. Curt Tribble.
Dr. Irving L. Kron
In 1982, after completing his residency here at UVA, Dr. Irv Kron was appointed to the faculty by Dr. Stan Nolan. Dr. Kron graduated from the University of Pennsylvania and subsequently graduated from the Medical College of Wisconsin. He then trained in Surgery at The Maine Medical Center and in Thoracic Surgery at the University of Virginia. Dr. Kron succeeded Dr. Nolan as Chief of the Division of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery and became the Program Director of the Thoracic Residency in 1993. Dr. Kron helped increase the national visibility of the Division and the Thoracic Residency program at UVA, and he developed a successful NIH-funded research laboratory where many residents and students have gained experience in Thoracic Surgical research.
Dr. Kron has served on The American Board of Surgery, The American Board of Thoracic Surgery, The Thoracic Residency Review Committee (including serving as Chair), and NIH study sections. In 2002, Dr. Kron succeeded Dr. Scott Jones as Chairman of the Department of Surgery at the University of Virginia. Dr. Kron was elected the 91st President of the American Association of Thoracic Surgery and served in that role from 2010-2011. Dr. Kron received the prestigious Bakken Scientific Achievement Award for his scientific contributions in cardiothoracic surgery during the 51st Annual Society of Thoracic Surgeons in 2015.
Dr. John Kern
Dr. John Kern joined the faculty of the Division in 1998. Dr. Kern is a loyal alumnus of Penn State University. After graduation from Penn State, he came to the University of Virginia where he completed his medical education, graduating near the top of his class. He then completed residencies in Surgery, Thoracic Surgery, and Vascular Surgery prior to joining the faculty. He has had an NIH funded laboratory which focused on spinal cord ischemia. He was the Program Director of the relatively new Vascular Surgery Residency at UVA. He has been a busy cardiovascular surgeon throughout his career, helping lead the Heart Transplant Program and the Ventricular Assist Device Program. He became the Chief of the Division of TCV Surgery in 2013 and took on the role of Program Director of the UVA Thoracic Surgical Residency in 2015. Dr. Kern has been regularly recognized for his considerable abilities as a teacher, most recently winning the prestigious Socrates Award, given annually by the Thoracic Surgery Residents Association.
Currently the Division of Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery at the University of Virginia is one of the major thoracic surgical centers in the country and has one of the most highly competitive and desirable cardiothoracic training programs. Dr. Gorav Ailawadi is a Professor of Surgery and Chief of Cardiac Surgery at the University of Virginia. He holds a joint appointment in biomedical engineering and is the director of the medical device Innovation Center. He is certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and the American Board of Surgery. Dr. Ailawadi has expertise in vascular heart disease, minimally invasive cardiac surgery and percutaneous/transcatheter valve therapy, complex and redo heart surgery and surgery of the thoracic aorta. He became the Division Chief for Cardiac Surgery in 2017.