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Department of Thoracic Surgery

Harvey Bender, MD


  • Chairman, Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery 1971 - 1997
  • Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery separated from the Department of Surgery
  • Establishment of Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellowship at Vanderbilt
  • A member of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and served as Chair
  • A member of the Residency Review Committee for Thoracic Surgery
  • Strong interest in developing programs in heart and lung transplantation, children’s heart surgery, and resident education

In 1971, Dr. Harvey Bender came from Johns Hopkins University to become the head the Vanderbilt Division of Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery in the Department of Surgery. During his first and second year Dr. Bender increased the cardiac and thoracic experience for residents rotating through the Division, with cooperation from Dr. Duncan A. Killen and Dr. Harold Collins. Dr. Collins was a Vanderbilt Chief Resident in 1956-1957. His clinical focus was more on cardiac than thoracic surgery. The educational experience also began to emphasize collaboration. “Dr. Freisinger and his excellent group in Cardiology in the Department of Medicine brought splendid collaboration and strong support for Dr. Bender and his associates,” (Scott, et. al.). Dr. Killen left Vanderbilt in 1972 to enter private practice, and Dr. Collins left to become Head of the Division of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery at the University of Illinois Medical School in Peoria.

In 1974-1975 the Vanderbilt Department of Surgery was reorganized into the Section of Surgical Sciences. At that time a number of surgical specialties which had been divisions within the Department of Surgery became separate departments. On July 1, 1975, Dr. Bender became Chairman of the newly formed Department of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery.

“Dr. Bender’s excellent program has been expanded by the valuable input of Dr. Darryl Fisher and the appointment of Dr. Issam Shaker. The residency program has been expanded to a two-year one which includes rotations to the Cardiac Surgical Service at St. Thomas Hospital headed by Dr. William S. Stoney. Dr. Bender has continued as Chairman of the Executive Committee of the Vanderbilt Professional Practice Program and has continued to contribute greatly to the strength of this Medical Center,” (Scott, et al.)

Around 1993, residents ceased rotating to St. Thomas Hospital for cardiothoracic surgical training.

A symposium was held in honor of Dr. Bender at the time of his retirement in 1997. In the words of his colleague, Walter Merrill, M.D., 'Dr. Bender has certainly been a pivotal figure in the growth and development of the department over the past 25 years, particularly with the increased activity in children's heart surgery and in the development of the heart and lung transplantation programs. He has also been instrumental in general and thoracic surgical resident education at Vanderbilt over the years. Last but not least, he has held, and continues to hold, important leadership positions here at Vanderbilt and nationally.'

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