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Department of Thoracic Surgery

Rollin A. Daniel, Jr, MD


  • Chief Resident, Surgery, Vanderbilt, 1937-1938
  • Joined Vanderbilt faculty
  • Chief of Cardiothoracic Surgical Service
  • CT Surgery was a part of the Department of Surgery
  • Clinical focus more thoracic than cardiac
  • A founding member of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and served as Secretary

Rollin Daniel, M.D., provided early leadership for the development of thoracic surgery as a patient care specialty at Vanderbilt. He received both his BA. and M.D. from Vanderbilt, the latter in 1933. He interned on Dr. Brooks’ service after which he spent a year at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis with Dr. Evarts Graham, which kindled his interest in thoracic surgery. He returned to Vanderbilt and became Chief Resident Surgeon in 1938. He conducted research with Alfred Blalock, M.D. and also shared a private practice of surgery with Drs. Eve and Edwards. Upon Dr. Blalock’s departure for Johns Hopkins in 1941, Dr. Daniel assumed responsibility for the Vanderbilt Thoracic Surgical Service. At this time, and until 1971, thoracic surgery at Vanderbilt was a surgical service within the Department of Surgery. Dr. Daniel became Professor of Surgery in 1953. In the following year, he reentered the private practice of Surgery although he retained his teaching responsibilities at Vanderbilt.

In 1956 Vanderbilt began to take greater educational and patient care advantage of the diversity of experience presented by different hospitals in the area by forming associations with them. “Significant changes in the residency programs were initiated in the academic year 1956-1957. A most important change was the integration of the residency in General Surgery into a five-year balanced program that united the Surgical Services of Vanderbilt Hospital with those of Thayer General Veterans Administration Hospital. In addition, a tour of duty at the Tennessee Tuberculosis Hospital was incorporated at various stages of the General Surgical Residency. Hence, the Residency in General Surgery sponsored by Vanderbilt University would be based on an aliquot of 1150 beds provided by three hospitals. . . . A residency in Thoracic Surgery was developed in conjunction with the Middle Tennessee Tuberculosis Hospital, and under discussion was a plan to obtain approval from the Council for an integrated residency in General Thoracic Surgery based on the 1150 beds available in Vanderbilt, Thayer, and Middle Tennessee Tuberculosis Hospitals so that a resident who completed a five-year program of this integrated nature might be qualified for Board Examinations in both General and Thoracic Surgery.

The Middle Tennessee Tuberculosis Hospital, under the overall direction of Dr. Hubbard, developed an excellent program in Thoracic Surgery under the Service leadership of Dr. Robert McCracken with the consultation of Drs. Daniel and Dively. The Service proved to be an excellent addition to our residency training program.” (Scott, HW Jr., et al., The History of Surgery at Vanderbilt.)

In 1969-1970, Dr. Daniel still supervised the training programs in thoracic surgery although he continued to maintain a private practice. Drs. Harold A. Collins and Duncan Killen supervised the Thoracic and Cardiovascular Program at Veterans Administration Hospital. The Chief Residency experience in Thoracic and Cardiac Surgery was added and, according to Dr. H. William Scott, Jr., Chairman of the Department of Surgery, “made a good start.” The Middle Tennessee Chest Disease Hospital—one of the hospitals affiliated with the Vanderbilt surgical education program---experienced a reduction in patients with tuberculosis and so opened these beds to patients with nontuberculous thoracic disease. This, Dr. Scott said, “greatly enhanced the activities of the service.”

From 1970 until his retirement, Dr. Daniel served as Chief of Surgery at St. Thomas Hospital in Nashville. He is remembered by colleagues and former residents each year with the Rollin A. Daniel, Jr. Lecture.

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