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Harvey W. Bender, Jr. M.D., 1933 - 2020

Dr. Harvey W. Bender, Jr. was born on December 21, 1933 in Corpus Christi, TX. He spent most of his childhood in and always said he was from Humble, TX. He attended college at Texas A & M, and he graduated AOA from Baylor University College of Medicine in 1959. Dr. Bender then completed his surgical residency training at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in 1967. This was accompanied by two years of training as a Senior Assistant Surgeon at the National Heart Institute.

He was asked to join the faculty as Assistant Professor of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in 1967. What followed was the development of a very active practice as a cardiothoracic, vascular, and general surgeon, and he was the primary assistant to Dr. George Zuidema in directing the training program in surgery. He was appointed Associate Professor of Surgery in 1970.

Then in 1971 he was appointed as Professor of Surgery and Chairman of the Department of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgery at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, and he remained in that position for the next twenty-five years. During that time he developed a training program that was responsible for the maturation and training of numerous residents, and he directed a clinical program that achieved outstanding results. Under his leadership heart transplantation, lung transplantation, and left ventricular assist device programs were successfully introduced, and Vanderbilt became recognized as a leading center in congenital heart surgery. He also oversaw the development of a number of faculty members who went on to have distinguished careers in academic surgery and private practice. Dr. Bender played a major role in various professional societies and organizations. A partial list of his leadership involvement is as follows: he was a Director of the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, and he served on the Residency Review Committee for General Surgery and for Thoracic Surgery. He was Chair of the American Board of Thoracic Surgery and the Residency Review Committee for Thoracic Surgery. He served as President of the Nashville Surgical Society and the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association, and he was a Vice-President of the American Surgical Association. He was also President of the Tennessee Chapter of the American College of Surgeons, a Governor of the American College of Surgeons, Chair of the Board of Regents and President, American College of Surgeons.

He had many memorable and unforgettable moments in his role as a teacher. Among those particularly noteworthy teachings were his thoughts regarding the transferability of knowledge. He often said that his success as a congenital heart surgeon was due to his exposure to every aspect of tissue flaps that he experienced as a third year surgery resident on plastic surgery. Another key teaching was that the individual surgeon, whether a faculty member or resident, was totally responsible for every aspect of a given patient’s care, including results that were less than optimal.

Dr. Bender died on September 12, 2020. He was preceded in death by his wife of 60 years, Doris and his grandson, William. He is survived by two children and their spouses, a sister, and several grandchildren and great grandchildren. He was a masterful clinical surgeon and a continuing source of inspiration to all who had the privilege of knowing him.