In Memoriam: Charles R. Hatcher, MD

A celebrated cardiothoracic surgeon known for his dedication to foundations and family—as well as for many “firsts” in his home state and beyond—died March 27 at age 90 at Emory University Hospital, where he worked and taught for more than 3 decades.

Charles Ross Hatcher Jr., MD, became the Society’s 22nd President in 1986 after previously serving in various other STS leadership roles. An STS member for more than 50 years, he continued to lend his time and talents to STS long after his presidency, holding positions on several committees.

A Georgia native, Dr. Hatcher graduated in 1954 from the University of Georgia School of Medicine (now Medical College of Georgia), completing his internship and residency at The Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine, where he was named Halsted Chief Resident in Cardiac Surgery. While still a resident, Dr. Hatcher was drafted into the US Army and served as a captain in the Medical Corps at the Walter Reed Army Institute of Research in Maryland. Afterward, he was offered a surgical position at Johns Hopkins, but he chose to work at Emory to be near his parents as they aged. Dr. Hatcher joined Emory Clinic and Emory School of Medicine in 1962 as a surgeon and instructor, launching a long career of surgical milestones.

Dr. Hatcher performed Georgia’s first “blue baby” operation—on his second day at Emory—and continued the trend in the following years, performing the state’s first double and triple valve replacements and its first coronary bypass. He was named chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Emory University Hospital in 1971 and director and chief executive officer at the Emory Clinic in 1976, and he went on to lead Emory’s Robert W. Woodruff Health Sciences Center in 1984.

Through Dr. Hatcher’s vision, the state of Georgia gained the Rollins School of Public Health—another first—and new institutions and partnerships including the Carlyle Fraser Heart Center, Emory Healthcare, and a 30-year contract between the Emory School of Medicine and Grady Memorial Hospital. At Emory, he has a distinguished named professorship in his honor.

Dr. Hatcher also oversaw the movement and expansion of the Yerkes National Primate Research Center, which since 1984 has consistently received full accreditation from the Association for Assessment and Accreditation of Laboratory Animal Care for the humane treatment of animals in research. The Yerkes model implements social housing, environmental enrichment, and positive reinforcement training for the animals at its facilities and has developed advancements in combating diseases including malaria, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer disease, and stroke.