Attapulgus native has room dedicated in his name at Emory

Published 4:12 pm Tuesday, March 31, 2020

On Wednesday, February 26, 2020, current and former leaders of the Emory University Woodruff Health Sciences Center came together to formally dedicate the WHSC fourth-floor board room as the Charles R. Hatcher, Jr., MD Conference Room. Hatcher brought his considerable surgical skills to Emory in 1962 and served in various leadership roles during his decades-long career there.

Born in 1930 and raised in Attapulgus, Georgia, Hatcher knew early on that he wanted to become a surgeon and serve the people of his home state.

After an impressive performance at Johns Hopkins as the Halsted Chief Resident in cardiac surgery, Emory hired Hatcher as an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery. The very first morning after moving into his office at The Emory Clinic, Hatcher performed Georgia’s first successful “blue baby” surgery, correcting rare heart defects present at birth that cause shortness of breath and blue-tinged skin.

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This early achievement proved indicative of the trajectory of Hatcher’s surgical career. During his time as a surgeon, he performed not only the first double and triple valve replacements in the state, but also Georgia’s first coronary bypass in 1970.

As chief of cardiothoracic surgery, Hatcher recruited gifted surgeons from around the U.S. and positioned Emory to become one of the largest centers for open heart surgery in the country.

As a surgeon, Hatcher saved countless lives, but his impact was not limited to the operating room. As he rose through the administrative ranks, Hatcher made his vision for innovation clear and built the momentum necessary for Emory to continue expanding and improving the lives of many for decades to come.

As vice president for health affairs and director of the Woodruff Health Sciences Center, Hatcher led the center in developing a structure for the medical school’s expanding training programs, creating the first school of public health in Georgia, making Emory a major research institution and building and maintaining a patient care program to meet the needs of the state and the region.

At the dedication ceremony, Hatcher listened as his former colleagues recalled his skill as a physician, a mentor and a leader. He said how much he appreciated the honor of the dedication, and that “Emory’s done a lot more for me than I’ve done for Emory.”

Regardless of the veracity of that statement, it is true that Emory would not be the institution it is today without Hatcher’s leadership.

Hatcher currently resides in North Carolina with his wife, Phyllis.