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The Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery at University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics and the UI Roy J. and Lucille A. Carver College of Medicine, established as a division of Surgery in 1948 by Johann (Hans) Ehrenhaft, MD, is one of the oldest surgical and educational programs in the United States. Dr. Ehrenhaft was the division director until 1985. Ehrenhaft’s interest in general thoracic surgery for tuberculosis and lung cancer established the program, and soon it was expanded to the newly developing specialty of cardiac surgery. He performed the first closed mitral commissurotomy in 1951. After designing, building and testing a pump oxygenator, he was the first to use it in 1956 to close a ventricular septal defect in a 5-year-old girl. Dr. Ehrenhaft served on the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and other national committees as a result of having developed and maintained surgical educational and training programs of exceptional clinic scope. The Iowa residency program was established by Dr. Johann L. Ehrenhaft, namesake of the Departmental Chair position and was the longest-running such program under a single director, until Dr. Ehrenhaft stepped down from these duties in 1985. The Thoracic Surgery Residency Program is fully accredited by the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education (ACGME) and is Iowa’s only cardiothoracic training program. It has been in existence since 1949, the first year the American Board of Thoracic Surgery recognized training programs.
In 1985, Nicholas Rossi, MD, assumed the role of Interim Chairman.
In 1986, Douglas M. Behrendt, MD, was chosen as the new division director and served as such until January 2004. He established pediatric cardiac surgery as a premier program in the Midwest. Since that time, numerous advancements have been made not only in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery but also in adult cardiothoracic surgery and general thoracic surgery, all of which continue to burgeon.
Mark D. Iannettoni, MD, MBA, was appointed Chairman in January 2004. Dr. Iannettoni joined the division to increase the ever-expanding role of general thoracic surgery, re-establish lung transplantation, and continue the development of minimally invasive surgical procedures both from a general thoracic and cardiac standpoint.
The UI Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery, formerly a division of the UI Department of Surgery, was established in 2004.
Each of these surgeons served as program director of the training program. Through all three eras, the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery has been on the forefront of innovation and technological advancement in the areas of cardiac and thoracic surgery. This spirit of hard work and diligence in the fight against chest disease continues.