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Dr. Chitwood’s lifelong avocations have been photography, amateur radio, trout fishing, and antiquarian medical bibliophilia. He has made productive photographic expeditions to Tibet, Cambodia, Thailand, South Africa, Botswana, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, France, Italy, the United Kingdom, Monaco, India, Japan, China, Nova Scotia, and various landmarks throughout the United States, including Alaska and Hawaii. During college became a professional photographer, and except for a hiatus during his medical training, he has maintained this status. His works have been presented in various photographic exhibitions in Delaware, Virginia, and North Carolina.
Dr. Chitwood is a native of Virginia and a naturalized North Carolinian. 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. 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 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). He received a Doctor of Science, honoris causa in 2005 from his alma mater, Hampden-Sydney College. 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 ten countries. He was principle investigator of the FDA robotic mitral valve trials that led to approval for this use in the United States. In early 2015, he retired from East Carolina University and is currently a consultant in the field of valve technologies and innovations. He continues to be very active in the field of heart surgery giving lectures and participating in surgery meetings nationally and internationally.
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 of Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery, the International Society for Heart Valve Disease, and the North Carolina Chapter of the American Heart Association.
He has served on the editorial boards of the Annals of Thoracic Surgery, the Journal of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, the Journal of Cardiac Surgery, 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 currently serves on the editorial boards of the American Heart Journal, The Annals of Cardiothoracic Surgery, The Journal of Cardiac Surgery, The International Journal of Medical Robotics and Computer-Assisted Surgery, The Journal of Robotic Surgery, European Journal of Cardiothoracic Surgery and the Journal of Visualized 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 is the Editor of the Atlas of Robotic Cardiac Surgery.
In 2001, he was awarded the Burokovsky Medal from the Russian Academy of Sciences. In 2003, he was elected to Fellowship in the Royal College of Surgeons of England. In 2004, he received the O. Max Gardner Award from the University of North Carolina Board of Governors that recognizes a faculty member, 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 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. In May 2015, he received the AATS Mitral Conclave Achievement Award for his accomplishments in the field of mitral valve surgery.