Reestablished Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery names Kalpaj Parekh interim chair

After five years spent as a division within the larger department of surgery, the cardiothoracic surgery department is relaunching with a new chair.



Kalpaj Parekh, interim chair of the Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery poses for a portrait at the UI Heart and Vascular Center on Wednesday, Sept. 1, 2021.

Anthony Neri, News Reporter

Kalpaj Parekh, professor of Surgery-Cardiothoracic Surgery, began his role as interim chair and departmental executive officer of the relaunched Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery in the University of Iowa Carver College of Medicine on Sept. 1.

Over the past five years, the cardiothoracic surgery department was a division within the larger department of surgery. UI Professor and Chair of the Department of Surgery Ronald Weigel served as the interim chair, Parekh said.

Cardiothoracic surgery deals with surgery of the thoracic cavity — the chest cavity that holds the heart, lungs, and esophagus — cardiac surgery, and congenital heart surgery.

The department was previously dropped and rolled into surgery because it lost two chairs back-to-back in the span of just two years, Parekh said.

“There was a lot of exodus of faculty members,” he said.

The department was approved for reestablishment by the state Board of Regents in June, according to the Carver College of Medicine website.

“Over the last five years, we have been fairly stable, and there has been a steady growth,” Parekh said. “And so, the institution decided it was time to bring it back as a department as it used to be.”

Parekh said one of his responsibilities as interim chair and department executive officer is to communicate to the college of medicine what resources his department needs.

These resources, Parekh said, can go toward administrative support, human resource support, and academic and educational support.

“So, my role is to kind of take an inventory of all that we need to be successful as a free-standing department,” he said.

In his new position, Parekh said his primary responsibility is to make sure the patient care in the service lines continues to function seamlessly.

UI Clinical Associate Professor of Surgery-Cardiothoracic Surgery John Keech said the reestablishment of the department is beneficial because of the unique service-line needs of cardiothoracic surgery, including personal and anesthesia needs, hospital resources, and intensive-care units.

“I think the totality of unique aspects does differentiate us from other service lines in the hospital,” he said.

Keech added that being separate gives the department the opportunity to recruit the best faculty. It also fosters a direct line of communication with hospital leaders that will help provide the department’s unique service line with the right resources, he said.

Parekh said the department provides some one-of-a-kind services in Iowa, such as the heart transplant program, the lung transplant program, and the pediatric heart transplant program.

“For a group of individuals that provide such unique services, I think the institution leadership felt that it was important for us to have a seat at the big table with the other department chairs so we can have a say in how strategically the institution should allocate [resources],” he said.