Honoring Our Legacy of Surgical Leaders: Fred A. Crawford, Jr., M.D.

April 28, 2024
Dr Crawford

Fred A. Crawford Jr., M.D., holds the Distinguished University Professor and Chair Emeritus in the MUSC Department of Surgery. An accomplished surgeon, outstanding educator, and dedicated leader, Dr. Crawford built a strong foundation in the department and the division of cardiothoracic surgery at MUSC, achieving many milestones throughout his tenure at MUSC.

Nationally recognized for his accomplishments and contributions to cardiothoracic surgery, Dr. Crawford was elected the 83rd President of the American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS), the world’s oldest and most prestigious thoracic surgery organization. In 2014, he was honored with the prestigious AATS Lifetime Achievement Award, the fifth person in the organization’s 100-year history to receive this honor. He also served for ten years on the American Board of Thoracic Surgery, including two years as its chair.

A native of Holly Hill, SC, Dr. Crawford graduated from Duke University and the Duke School of Medicine, graduating first in his class. He continued his surgical education at Duke and entered the United States Army at the end of his second year of residency, where he served two years as a surgeon, including one year as a trauma surgeon with the rank of major at the 24th Evacuation Hospital in Vietnam. He returned to Duke to complete both his general and cardiothoracic surgery residency. In 1976, he was appointed chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the University of Mississippi’s School of Medicine.  

In 1979, he accepted the position of professor of Surgery and chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina. In 1988, Dr. Crawford was appointed chairman of the Department of Surgery and served the University as chair until 2007. He believed that teamwork was paramount to the success of any program. During his tenure as chair, he recruited a strong team, including our current MUSC President, David J. Cole, M.D., and our current Chair of the Department, Prabhakar Baliga, M.D. During his tenure at MUSC, Dr. Crawford achieved many milestones. In 1987, he was part of a team that performed the first heart transplant in South Carolina. Crawford was named MUSC’s first Horace G. Smithy Endowed Chair in Surgery in 1996. He has received the Honorary Alumnus Award and the Distinguished Faculty Service Award at MUSC. He was instrumental in the formation of University Medical Associates, the faculty practice plan, and served two terms as its first president. He believed that teamwork was paramount to the success of any program. 

Dr. Crawford received the Order of the Palmetto in 2007, the highest civilian award for service in South Carolina. The prestigious award was presented to Dr. Crawford by former Gov. James Edwards at a dinner honoring Crawford’s many contributions as MUSC’s Department of Surgery chair. During Dr. Crawford’s tenure, he transformed MUSC into one of the most prominent cardiothoracic surgery programs in the country. Over the years, countless patients have written personal notes praising Dr. Crawford not only for his skill and expertise but also for his compassionate care of his patients and their families. 

Dr. Crawford's commitment to surgical education was unwavering. During his tenure at MUSC, he served as a residency program director for 30 years, training over 80 general surgical and 38 cardiothoracic surgical residents. He also served on the American Board of Thoracic Surgery for ten years, including two years as its chair, and on the Thoracic Surgery Residency Review Committee. Dr. Crawford was the first chair of the Joint Council on Thoracic Surgery Education, served on the editorial board of The Journal of Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery, and was editor of Operative Techniques in Thoracic and Cardiovascular Surgery. His dedication to preserving MUSC's surgical history led to his authorship of "Approaching Two Centuries, A History of the Department of Surgery at the Medical University of South Carolina - 1824-2013."

In 2008, MUSC opened the Ashley River Tower, a facility designed specifically for treating cardiovascular and digestive diseases. As a tribute to Dr Crawford’s contributions to MUSC, the operating suites within the Ashley River Tower bear his name.