September 25, Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood, Jr. delivered the inaugural lecture in the Voyages of Discovery Lecture Series offered by the Thomas Harriot College of Arts and Sciences at East Carolina University located in Pitt County, Greenville, NC.  Speaking on the history of heart surgery at East Carolina University, Dr. Chitwood addressed an audience of more than 200 people.

Dr. Chitwood is the senior associate vice chancellor for health sciences at the Brody School of Medicine, director of the East Carolina Heart Institute and a cardiovascular surgery professor at the medical school.  Dr. Chitwood described innovations that began with the turn of the 20th century as well as medical innovations that continue today—including his development of the da Vinci Surgical System currently used to help patients at the Brody School of Medicine. Chitwood uses the system he developed and conducts minimally invasive surgery remotely with robotic arms.

Surgeons from around the world travel to Greenville, NC to study and learn the da Vinci Surgical System techniques developed by Dr. Chitwood.    Chitwood’s recognition that robotic technology could provide surgeons with the visibility and freedom of movement required for performing cardiac surgery resulted in his development of the da Vinci System.

The Brody School of Medicine is the first U.S. institution to perform robotic-assisted mitral valve surgery.  The Cardiovascular Center at Pitt County Memorial Hospital currently performs 1,200 cardiac surgical, 3,000 interventional, and 5,000 catheter-based procedures every year according to Dr. Chitwood. He described the surgery as being very much like virtual reality. “You are doing the operation as if it is a hand motion, but there are not the mistakes that hands can make,” he said. 

The University Health Systems (UHS) 2008 Quarterly Report, Dr. Chitwood leads the field in heart surgery using the robot, and he recently performed his 400th robot-assited mitral valve replacement.

Dr. Chitwood is a member of 25 professional societies, and is the President of The Society of Thoracic Surgeons. The community of Greenville, NC is proud and fortunate to claim the world-renowned surgical pioneer as one of our esteemed residents..

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