Vascular surgeon Erica Mitchell, MD, MEd SE, FACS, DFSVS, can trace her interest in medicine back to her childhood, when she was growing up on farm in Zimbabwe. Because her father was a petroleum engineer, the family lived in many countries across five continents. That farm in Zimbabwe was particularly memorable as the triage point for anyone in the vicinity who was injured or ill. “That’s when I decided to be a physician,” she said.
Before becoming one, though, she had a brief career in the family business, as a geological engineer. “I didn’t love it,” she said. And the pull of medicine was strong. She volunteered in a hospital, took her pre-med requirements, went to medical school, and fulfilled her desire to help people.
Dr. Mitchell recently joined the University of Tennessee Health Science Center as a professor in the Department of Surgery in the College of Medicine, interim chief of the Division of Vascular Surgery, and the medical director for vascular and endovascular surgery at Regional One Health.
Dr. Mitchell received her medical degree from the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver in 1996, a Master of Education degree in surgical education from Imperial College in London in 2013, and is completing a Master of Health Care Delivery Science degree from the Tuck School of Business and the Geisel School of Medicine at Dartmouth College.
She did her residency in general surgery at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center in Denver, a fellowship in vascular and endovascular surgery at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon, and a fellowship in interventional radiology at the University of Colorado Health Sciences Center.
“I would say my interest in vascular surgery developed at Denver General Hospital (now General Health Medical Center), which is very similar to Regional One, a Level 1 trauma center serving multiple states, one of the busiest in the nation,” she said. “My mentor there was a trauma surgeon who did a lot of vascular surgery, and he was the one who initiated my interest in vascular surgery.” She did not decide to specialize in vascular surgery until her fifth year of general surgery.
“I like the variety and acuity of it,” she explained. The work ranges from the smallest veins and arteries to large, life-threatening injuries. “It involves everything from saving a limb to saving a life,” she said.
Dr. Mitchell worked for a dozen years in surgery at Oregon Health & Science University as a professor of surgery, a clinician, and a surgical educator. Her academic focus was surgical education, specifically competency assessment of technical and non-technical surgical skills. Most recently, Dr. Mitchell was the medical director of the vascular lab, cardiovascular service line, and Salem Health section chief at Salem Health Hospitals and Clinics in Oregon.
A funded researcher, she has published 75 papers in peer reviewed journals and provided more than 80 invited lectures, conference presentations, and professorships. She remains active within the Society for Vascular Surgery (SVS) coaching peers, supporting diversity, equity, and inclusion, verifying vascular surgical centers, and overseeing SVS guidelines.
“We are delighted to have Dr. Mitchell at UTHSC as one of our Department of Surgery leaders,” said David Shibata, MD, FACS, FASCRS, the Scheinberg Endowed Chair of Surgery for the UTHSC Department of Surgery. “I believe that she has the leadership skills, expertise, and vision to recruit and build an outstanding division.”
Dr. Mitchell said she is pleased that her new position at UTHSC allows her to use both her clinical and academic skills. “I can bring the skill set that is needed, and yet I’m also maintaining my academic connections, because I think that’s been very important to me,” she said.
Though she has lived around the world, Dr. Mitchell said she is happy to be in Memphis at this point in her career. “It’s a wonderful landing spot and we love this Southern hospitality,” she said. “I cannot be in a better place for me at this point in my life. I love Regional One. I love the people here. I love the population we serve. I love all the other surgeons. It’s such a collegial environment.”