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UTHSC, Methodist Collaborate to Build New Cardiovascular Institute


The University of Tennessee Health Science Center and Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare have successfully recruited three nationally renowned cardiovascular physicians to lead a new cardiovascular institute in Memphis.

Dr. Chittoor Sai Sudhakar

Chittoor Sai Sudhakar, MD, is the most recent recruit to Memphis. He is the new division chief of Cardiac Surgery in the UTHSC College of Medicine’s Department of Surgery, the Methodist Endowed Professor of Cardiac Surgery, and co-director of the Methodist Le Bonheur Adult Cardiac Service Line. He brings a track record of program development, leadership, clinical excellence, and academic achievement from his previous position as division director for Cardiothoracic Surgery at Baylor Scott & White Health System, Central Division, Scott & White Medical Center in Temple, Texas, and as surgical director of the Heart Transplant and Mechanical Circulatory Support Program at The Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, Ohio.

Dr. Sudhakar joins John L. Jefferies, MD, MPH, who in June was appointed the Jay M. Sullivan Endowed Chair in Cardiovascular Medicine and chief of the Division of Cardiology in the College of Medicine at UTHSC. They will be co-directors for a new UTHSC-Methodist Cardiac Institute, which will be designed to offer world-class care in all areas of cardiovascular medicine. Dr. Jefferies formerly served as director of the Advanced Heart Failure and Cardiomyopathy Services at the Heart Institute at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center.

Dr. Zhongjie Sun

Zhongjie Sun, MD, PhD, FAHA, a distinguished cardiovascular investigator, rounds out the leadership team as the chair of the Department of Physiology in the College of Medicine at UTHSC and deputy director of the Cardiac Institute. Dr. Sun came to UTHSC in April from the University of Oklahoma College of Medicine, where he was a professor of physiology, vice chair of research, chair of the research committee, and director of the Robert & Mary Cade Laboratory at the University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center.

“This recruitment was the result of an outstanding collaboration between the leadership of the UTHSC College of Medicine, the UTHSC Department of Surgery, and the leaders of the Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare system,” said David Shibata, MD, FACS, FASCRS, Scheinberg Endowed Chair in Surgery and professor in the Department of Surgery at UTHSC. “Together, we defined and agreed upon the multidisciplinary and comprehensive components that would be needed to create a national-caliber cardiovascular program here in Memphis.”

Dr. Shibata said the strategy has involved a three-pronged approach to recruit leaders in cardiology, cardiac surgery, and cardiovascular research. “They will serve as the pillars for both recruitment and community partnership that will create an extraordinary program that will bring the benefits of innovative, cutting-edge, and high-quality care to the Memphis patient community.”

Dr. John L. Jefferies

Chancellor Steve J. Schwab, MD, has said UTHSC is committed to working with its clinical partner, Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare, to significantly raise the profile of its cardiovascular enterprise in alignment with the university’s academic, clinical, research, and outreach missions.

“UTHSC and Methodist are very heavily invested in making this a nationally and internationally recognized program,” Dr. Jefferies said when he joined UTHSC. “My role will be to lay the groundwork to further develop this institute, expand the number of services offered, and develop Centers of Excellence in distinct areas of cardiovascular medicine.” He said organizers of the institute anticipate national and international referrals coming to Memphis.

“My vision for the institute is for us to be a regional and national leader in cardiovascular care in the very near future,” Dr. Jefferies said. “Our goal is to be a Top 50 cardiology program in the U.S. News & World Report rankings within the next few years.”