June 21, 2010

Birthday gala for health sciences pioneer

Charles Hatcher

Charles R. Hatcher Jr., former head of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, took the health sciences at Emory to new heights of achievement between 1962 and his retirement in 1996. Emory will celebrate Hatcher’s legacy to WHSC’s ongoing success in transforming health and healing at his 80th birthday celebration on June 28, from 2-4 p.m. in WHSCAB.

Inspired by the accomplishments of pioneering surgeons, Hatcher chose to specialize in cardiac surgery, serving as chief resident in cardiac surgery during his internship at Johns Hopkins. In spite of Hopkins’ best efforts to recruit him, Hatcher elected instead to bring his expertise back to his home state, accepting a position as an assistant professor at Emory in 1962 at a salary of $13,000 per year.

The day after he moved into his office in the basement of the Emory Clinic, he performed Georgia’s first successful “blue baby” operation using open heart surgery– one of many firsts he would eventually perform, including Georgia’s first double and triple valve replacements and its first coronary bypass.

In 1971 Hatcher was named Emory’s chief of cardiothoracic surgery, and under his leadership Emory became one of the nation’s largest and most effective centers for open heart surgery. In spite of accepting the sickest patients from across the state and region, Emory consistently achieved lower mortality rates that its peers. In fact, fewer than 1 percent of centers nationwide could match its statistics.

It soon became evident that Hatcher was an outstanding leader as well as clinician. He was elected to partnership in the Emory Clinic just one year after joining the faculty, and he was named its director in 1976. He knew how to build teams and how to make a division successful both clinically and financially. So it came as no surprise when, in 1983, then-President James Laney asked Hatcher to serve as interim director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center.

Over the next 13 years, he would lead the WHSC on an impressive trajectory — developing a structure for the medical’s school’s expanding training programs, creating Georgia’s first school of public health, making WHSC a major research institution, expanding WHSC’s facilities, and building and maintaining a patient care program to meet the needs of Georgia and the region.

In addition to his institutional impact, a leader such as Hatcher is bound to have a human impact, and he shaped a generation of Emory’s best and brightest leaders. One protégé of more than 20 years, Gary Teal, now serves as chief administrative officer of the WHSC and as dean of its Woodruff Leadership Academy.

“I have read literally hundreds of leadership books, and I have become a student of leadership over the past eight years in my role with the Woodruff Leadership Academy,” Teal says. “But I have learned more about courageous, effective leadership from working with Dr. Hatcher on a daily basis than I could ever gain from the best-selling leadership books. His passion as a leader has always been to put Emory first in all his decisions.

“He represents the very best example of servant leadership. He is a great listener, and translates knowledge into wisdom better than anyone I have every worked with in my career. He is also unparalleled when it comes to telling stories — and that is a trait that can’t be taught.”

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Related Information

  • RSVP for the Celebration in Honor of Dr. Charles Hatcher, Monday, June 28, 2-4 p.m., WHSC Administration Building.