Robbins named cardiothoracic surgery department chair

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Robert Robbins

Robert C. Robbins, MD, has been named chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the School of Medicine, effective Feb. 1. He succeeds Bruce Reitz, MD, the Norman E. Shumway Professor, who had been chair of the department since 1993.

"Bobby is a highly accomplished researcher, surgeon, and teacher," said Philip Pizzo, MD, dean of the medical school. "We carried out a comprehensive search for this position and in my opinion and that of the search committee, he was the very best candidate."

Pizzo added: "I have come to know Bobby as an outstanding leader, and I am thrilled that he has agreed to serve as department chair. These are exciting and transformative times for cardiothoracic surgery, and I am confident that Bobby will provide the kind of leadership and vision that is called for."

In his new position, the internationally known heart transplant expert who performs around 40 transplants each year, will oversee the department's clinical and research programs. In addition to adult cardiac surgery, the department has a pediatric cardiac surgery program, which is one of the largest such programs in the country, and a thoracic surgery program, which treats patients suffering from lung and esophageal diseases.

"The Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery has a long, distinguished legacy of research that dates back to the late 1950s," said Robbins. He noted the departmental achievements of performing the first adult human heart transplant in the United States, the world's first successful combined adult human heart-lung transplant and the first successful use of a ventricular-assist device as a bridge to transplantation.

"I am proud to assume the leadership of this pioneering cardiac program and hope to continue to be at the forefront of cutting-edge research," he said, "as well as to maintain our status as one of the top clinical cardiac programs in the nation by recruiting new faculty members to expand areas of innovative surgical procedures."

An associate professor of cardiothoracic surgery, Robbins is also the director of the Stanford Cardiovascular Institute, one of the medical school's four institutes created to focus on translating discoveries from the bench to the bedside. He also directs the cardiothoracic transplantation program and runs the cardiothoracic transplantation laboratory, a resource for researchers wishing to study graft function after transplantation.

A member of the faculty at the School of Medicine since 1993, Robbins received his medical degree from the University of Mississippi Medical Center in 1983. He completed his general surgery training at the University of Mississippi from 1983-89, taking a couple of years during that time to do research at the surgery branch of the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, one of the National Institutes of Health. In 1989, he began his cardiothoracic surgery residency at Stanford.

The laboratory that Robbins heads integrates basic and clinical research and fosters collaboration across several departments. His current clinical research projects include improving the successful outcome of heart transplantation by genetically manipulating the donor heart tissue. He is also active in basic research, developing animal models of transplantation and using stem cells to repair tissue damaged by a heart attack.

Robbins said he looks forward to departmental research advancements in minimally invasive coronary bypass and valve operations, novel surgical procedures for the treatment of congestive heart failure and less invasive procedures for the treatment of patients with aortic diseases and atrial fibrillation.

"The same principles of vision of innovative technologies that guided the founding of this department nearly five decades ago have inspired us to maintain its respected status among cardiac research groups throughout the world," he said. "I look forward to carrying on this tradition."