Our History

The East Carolina Heart Institute was the vision of Dr. W. Randolph Chitwood, Jr., associate vice chancellor for health sciences at the Brody School of Medicine at East Carolina University and the director of the East Carolina Heart Institute. When ECHI's creation was announced in 2004, ECU and Vidant Medical Center promised "a new approach that will offer one center of excellence for innovations in cardiovascular disease research, treatment, prevention, and education."

As part of the overall vision, the Robotic Surgery Center for Training and Education was established in 2002 under the direction of cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. L. Wiley Nifong. Currently, the Robotic Surgery Center is a lead institution in a national, multi-center clinical trial using the da Vinci® Si Surgical System for robot-assisted mitral valve repair. In the past fourteen years, this center has trained over 850 surgical teams from around the world in robotic procedures.

Officially opening its doors in 2009, the building standing on ECU's Health Sciences Campus and six-story hospital tower at Vidant Medical Center are working to provide life-saving cardiovascular care to the patients of eastern North Carolina. By completely reinventing the manner with which cardiovascular disease is perceived and treated, the East Carolina Heart Institute has created a working model for what one day could become a nationwide shift in the way health care, across all disease processes, is delivered.


ECHI State of the Heart

The East Carolina Heart Institute is dedicated
exclusively to cardiovascular care.


Leadership

Randolph Chitwood

Dr. Randolph Chitwood is the director of the East Carolina Heart Institute. Dr. Chitwood performed the nation's first total robotically assisted mitral valve repair surgery in 2000. He was chief investigator for the federal Food and Drug Administration clinical trials in robotic surgery. Dr. Chitwood also serves as professor and senior associate vice chancellor for Health Sciences at East Carolina University. He has served as president of the Society of Thoracic Surgeons.

L. Wiley Nifong

Dr. Wiley Nifong is an Associate Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the East Carolina Heart Institute. He is the Director of Surgical Robotics and Director of Surgical Research and has been involved with the training of over 700 surgical teams in the use of minimally invasive and robotic surgery. He is a pioneer of new technology to aid minimally invasive procedures including atrial fibrillation ablation energy sources, anastomotic devices, adherence devices, sutureless technology, and intracardiac retraction.


Robotics Training

ECHI, under the leadership of Dr. Randolph Chitwood, was the lead institution in a national, multi-center clinical trial using the daVinci® Surgical System for robot-assisted mitral valve repair. Following early success with the technique, a robotic training center at East Carolina University was established in 2002 under the direction of cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. L. Wiley Nifong. In the past seven years, this center has trained over 500 surgical teams from around the world in robotic techniques for most cardiac procedures and all mitral valve procedures.

Robotics Lab Staff

Robotics Lab Staff (L to R): Rebecca Merrick, Susan Bewick, Dr. L. Wiley Nifong, Dr. You Su Sun


Training Programs and Case Observations

ECHI offers the most current surgical systems with the daVinci® Si in the operating room and in the training center.

Advanced Mitral Valve Courses: Under the direction of Dr. Wiley Nifong, this two-day course is designed to include live case observations with Dr. Chitwood and hands-on cadaveric training for primary surgeons as well as their complete operative team. We can also tailor the course to meet individual needs.

Advanced Cryomaze Courses: The focus of this course is on treatment of Atrial Fibrillation using minimally invasive robotic techniques. This experience includes live case observation, hands-on lab training, and discussion with electrophysiologists.

Personal Mentorship Case Observations: Observe Dr. Chitwood and Dr. Nifong perform cardiac robotic procedures using the daVinci® Si Surgical System.