September 23, 2014

Churchwell to depart VUMC; Clair assumes role

by John Howser

Keith Churchwell

Keith Churchwell

Walter Clair

Walter Clair

Keith Churchwell, M.D., executive director and chief medical officer for the Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute (VHVI), is departing Vanderbilt and will join Yale-New Haven Health System as vice president and executive director of Cardiovascular Services as of Dec. 1.

Walter Clair, M.D., MPH, associate professor of Medicine and medical director of Cardiac Electrophysiology, will move into an interim role and assume Churchwell’s responsibilities.

Since joining Vanderbilt’s faculty in 1999, Churchwell has held an array of Medical Center leadership roles, most notably helping to build VHVI into the region’s most preferred provider of cardiology, cardiac surgery and vascular surgery services, as well as of one of the nation’s leading programs in terms of the depth and breadth of its comprehensive approach to patient care, research and training.

“Keith is a highly valued friend and colleague to all of us and has played important and very successful roles in the organization and development of one of the Medical Center’s pre-eminent programs. He has represented us well in the community and nationally. I want to wish him the very best as he begins this new chapter in his career and he and his family settle into life in Connecticut,” said C. Wright Pinson, MBA, M.D., deputy vice chancellor and CEO of the Vanderbilt Health System. “We are fortunate that Walter will be assuming additional leadership responsibilities. The VHVI is well positioned for growth, and the future of cardiology, cardiac surgery and vascular services at VUMC is very bright.”

“My time at Vanderbilt has been an amazing experience, working with truly wonderful colleagues and associates who have taught me much more than I have given to them. Our work in the division and Heart Institute has provided a platform for a truly innovative way of providing cardiovascular care to the greater Nashville community that has, I think, set the standard. In the next stage of my professional life, I will strive to pass on to those I work with the recipe of the Medical Center’s “secret sauce”: community, collegiality, and a drive to learn from and help those who have a need,” said Churchwell.

Churchwell has served as the VHVI’s clinical director of Cardiac Imaging and despite administrative commitments has continued to hold a full clinic one day each week. He has been an active and highly visible volunteer with the American Heart Association (AHA) over the past decade and is the past president of the Greater Southeastern Affiliate for the AHA.

He will be joined in Connecticut by his wife, Leslie Douglas Churchwell, M.D., and their daughter Lauren, 18, who is a freshman at Pitzer College.

"Keith is an outstanding colleague who has done much for Vanderbilt and for the VHVI. I want to thank him for his many contributions to the growth and success of our programs, and for representing the Heart Institute in such a distinguished manner, both within the organization and out in our community where he has been a highly visible ambassador,” said Thomas Wang, M.D., the Gottlieb C. Friesinger II professor, director of the Division of Cardiovascular Medicine and physician-in-chief for VHVI.

Clair joined Vanderbilt in 2006. As a clinician, he is a nationally recognized specialist in arrhythmias, sudden cardiac death, syncope, palpitations, pacemakers and defibrillators and has led a number of firsts for VUMC’s Electrophysiology team.

At Vanderbilt, Clair has received multiple cardiology teaching awards and the Levi Watkins Jr. Faculty Award for Commitment to Diversity in 2012. He also serves in the mentoring program, 100 Black Men of Middle Tennessee, which seeks to enhance educational and economic opportunities for the African-American community.

“Dr. Churchwell has spent over a decade helping VHVI assemble a collection of this country’s best scientists, physicians and healthcare workers in the fight against heart disease. My aim is to successfully and responsibly steward this institute,” said Clair.

Clair is a graduate of Harvard University where he received his A.B., M.D. and MPH degrees. He was an intern, resident and primary care chief resident at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Deeply committed to his alma mater, he currently serves as vice chair of Harvard’s Board of Overseers.

He is married to Deborah Webster Clair, M.D., an OB-GYN, and they have two sons, Brian Clair, M.D., MBA, and Matthew Clair, who is currently pursuing a doctoral degree from Harvard.