MUSC to get new cardiac surgical chief

Dr. Fred Crawford (left), Dr. John Ikonomidis (right).

The Medical University of South Carolina soon will have a new chief of cardiothoracic surgery.

Respected heart surgeon Fred Crawford is stepping down from the post that he held for 30 years, and John Ikonomidis will take over on Wednesday.

Cardiothoracic surgery includes heart transplants and other procedures of the heart and chest.

The division is housed in the university's Heart and Vascular Center in the Ashley River Tower.

"I'm really excited about all the energy that he's going to bring to the division," said Crawford, who recruited Ikonomidis from Stanford University about nine years ago.

"He is clearly a rising superstar in academic cardiothoracic surgery and he's going to mean great things for the Medical University."

Ikonomidis is a professor of cardiothoracic surgery at MUSC and the surgical director of the heart transplant program.

"We're currently trying to expand that to include lung transplants, which would make us the only full service cardio-pulmonary transplant program in the state of South Carolina," Ikonomidis said.

He also has a keen interest in thoracic aorta disease and plans to continue his research of why thoracic aortic aneurysms occur, research which is funded by the National Institutes of Health.

Ikonomidis is board certified in general surgery and cardiothoracic surgery.

He also is program director and vice chairman of the national American Heart Association's Council for Cardiovascular Surgery and Anesthesia, and will become the chairman next year.

"I'm interested in the opportunity to lead the division and to incorporate some of my ideas for the expansion of clinical care and research and resident education, and I'm excited about the prospect of working with a very talented faculty and trying to help them achieve their goals in keeping with the mission statement of the university," Ikonomidis said.

Crawford will continue performing surgeries at MUSC as a distinguished university professor.

He said the change in positions was part of a plan he took to the dean three years ago to transition out of his administrative responsibilities.

The first step was to relinquish his role as chairman of surgery, which he did two years ago. David Cole filled that position.

"At some point administrative responsibilities get a little bit tiresome, and not quite as much fun as they used to be," Crawford, 66, said. "I thought I would turn that over to somebody younger with a lot of energy."

He said he is looking forward to leaving work a little earlier and spending more time with his family and on his Holly Hill farm.

But most importantly, the change is best for the MUSC, Crawford said.

"I have seen people in a comparable position to this hang on too long, and what they have built begin to deteriorate, because at some point you can't continue. ... I've worked hard to build something and I want it to continue, and continue to get better."