Dr. Randolph Chitwood is a native of Virginia. He is the son and grandson of “Southwestern Virginia mountain doctors and nurses”. He graduated from Hampden-Sydney College and received his medical degree from the University of Virginia. After medical school, he completed the 10-year general and cardiothoracic surgical residency program at Duke University under Dr. David C. Sabiston. He was the first house staff member there to be selected to the Alpha Omega Alpha honor society. He then was selected to begin and head the new cardiac surgery program at the East Carolina University School of Medicine. Except for a two-year hiatus as the Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Kentucky, he has spent his entire career at East Carolina University. He served as Chairman of the Department of Surgery from 1995 to 2003. In July 2003, he was promoted to Senior Associate Vice Chancellor to be in charge of the development of a new specialty hospital and research institute – The East Carolina Heart Institute (ECHI). In 2007, as founder and Director of ECHI, he was named the Eddie and Jo Allison Smith Distinguished Chair. The institute now includes an integrated Department of Cardiovascular Sciences as well as a heart hospital, outpatient, research, and education center. The Robotic Surgical Center at East Carolina University has trained over 450 surgeons worldwide. He performed the first robotic mitral valve operation in the United States and twelve countries. He was principle investigator of the FDA robotic mitral valve trials that led to approval for this use in the United States. He retired from East Carolina University and is currently working in the field of innovative valve technologies. He continues to be very active in the field of heart surgery giving lectures and participating in surgery meetings nationally and internationally. In 2017 the W. Randolph Chitwood Distinguished Chair was established in the Department of Cardiovascular Sciences, which he founded. He has published over 250 peer reviewed articles on his research and clinical work. Clinically, he was very active having performed over 10,000 cardiac operations during his career.
He is a member of 25 professional societies, including the American College of Surgeons, the Royal College of Surgeons of England, the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association, the Society of University Surgeons, the American Surgical Association, the American College of Cardiology, and the Cardiac Surgery Biology Club. He is a past-president of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the International Society for Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery, the International Society for Heart Valve Disease, and the North Carolina Chapter of the American Heart Association.
He has either served or serves on the editorial boards of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, the Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, the Journal of Cardiac Surgery, the American Heart Journal, the Journal of Heart Valve Disease, the Asian Annals of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery, CTS Net, Chest, the American Heart Journal, and the Journal of Robotic Surgery. He has authored over 250 peer reviewed scientific and clinical articles, as well as many book chapters and several monographs. Dr. Chitwood has given over 60 invited lectures and has published the Atlas of Robotic Cardiac Surgery.
In 2003 he was elected to Fellowship in the Royal College of Surgeons of England and during 2007 was a Hunterian Professor there. He is also an honorary member of the of the German Society for Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, the Australian and New Zealand Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons, and the Society for Cardiothoracic Surgery in Great Britain and Ireland. In 2004, he received the O. Max Gardner Award from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors that recognizes a faculty member from the 16 constituent campuses, who during the scholastic year, made the greatest contribution to the “welfare of the human race.” In 2005 he received the National Mended Hearts - Harken Award, which recognizes excellence in the field of cardiovascular medicine. In the same year he received the National Phi Kappa Phi Scholar Award for outstanding teaching, research, practice, and service. In 2005 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Sciences degree from his undergraduate college Hampden-Sydney. In 2009 he received the Ellis Island Medal of Honor at Ellis Island for contributions to the health and welfare of diverse populations nationally and internationally. In 2012 he was awarded the Bakoulev Premium Medal from the Russian Academy of Medical Sciences and the Bakoulev Scientific Center for Cardiovascular Surgery for his work in minimally invasive cardiac procedures. Previously, he had been awarded the Burakovsky Medal from the same organization. In May 2015, he received the AATS Mitral Conclave Career Achievement Award for his accomplishments in the field of mitral valve surgery. In 2020 he was awarded the Scientific Achivement Award from the American Association for Thoracic Surgery – There have only been 13 other recipients. His current interests relate to the development of innovative less invasive heart valves and robotic surgical devices as well as heart center program development and teaching surgeon’s safe patient application of new technology.
His lifelong avocations have been photography, amateur radio, trout fishing, and antiquarian medical bibliophilia. He has made many productive photographic expeditions to interesting places worldwide, and his photographs have been shown through salon photographic exhibitions. The compass for his life was Tammy Chitwood who passed away after nearly 50 years of marriage. He has two grown married children, who have picked up the helm for personal guidance.