Meet The Johns Hopkins Hospital’s New Surgeon-in-Chief

Published in Dome - June 2015

Cardiothoracic and heart-lung transplant surgeon Robert Higgins will become the new surgeon-in-chief of The Johns Hopkins Hospital on July 1, when he assumes his role as the William Stewart Halsted Professor of Surgery and director of the Department of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Higgins comes to Johns Hopkins from The Ohio State University, where is he is professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery, as well as surgeon-in-chief and director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Wexner Medical Center.

“Robert Higgins is not only a brilliant cardiothoracic surgeon and talented clinician, but also a prolific researcher, educator, innovator and transformative leader whose accomplishments render him a perfect fit for Johns Hopkins Medicine,” says Paul Rothman, dean of the medical faculty and CEO of Johns Hopkins Medicine. “We are thrilled and honored to welcome him among us.”

Higgins is a leading authority in the field of heart and lung transplantation, minimally invasive cardiac surgery, and mechanical circulatory support. His scientific interests are broad and far-ranging, including the mechanisms of cell injury in failing hearts, health economics and policy, racial disparities in post-transplant outcomes, access to care, and improving outcomes among heart failure and cardiac surgery patients.

“Academic medicine is facing turbulent times, as established surgeons and trainees alike must deal with the ever-growing pressures of research innovation, clinical care, and training and education,” Higgins says. “My job is to ensure that faculty and trainees are not only able to meet these demands, but also grow, excel and thrive. It’s a challenge I very much look forward to.”

Higgins earned his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College, his medical degree from the Yale School of Medicine, and a master’s degree in health services administration at Virginia Commonwealth University. He completed a residency in general surgery and served as chief resident at the University Hospitals of Pittsburgh, was a Winchester Scholar and fellow in cardiothoracic surgery at the Yale School of Medicine, and served as a senior registrar in transplantation at Papworth Hospital, the U.K.’s largest cardiothoracic surgical program and its main heart-lung transplant center.

Prior to becoming chairman of the Department of Surgery at Ohio State, Higgins served as professor and chief of the Division of Cardiac Surgery there, and as executive director of the Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital. Before joining Ohio State, Higgins directed the thoracic surgery resident program in the Department of Cardiovascular-Thoracic Surgery at Rush Medical College in Chicago. As surgical director of thoracic organ transplantation at Henry Ford Hospital, Higgins led the surgical team that performed the first lung transplant in southeast Michigan. He also created a Medicare-approved lung transplant program and a pediatric heart transplant program in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Michigan.

Higgins has held leadership positions at various organizations, including president of the United Network for Organ Sharing and of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons.

Editor’s Note: Robert Higgins left Johns Hopkins Medicine Nov. 30, 2021, to become president of Brigham and Women’s Hospital and executive vice president at Mass General Brigham, in Boston.