Announcing the R. Randolph Bradham, M.D., Endowed Chair in Surgery

Lauren Hooker
February 22, 2024
R Randolph Bradham MD

The Department of Surgery announces the establishment of the R. Randolph Bradham, M.D., Endowed Chair in Surgery, and recognizes Dr. Prabhakar Baliga, chair of the Department of Surgery, as the inaugural chairholder. An endowed chair is the highest honor MUSC bestows upon a faculty member.

“I am honored to receive the newly created R. Randolph Bradham, M.D., Endowed Chair in Surgery, which exemplifies Dr. Bradham’s lifelong values and service to the community,” said Baliga. “The R. Randolph Bradham, M.D., Endowed Chair in Surgery is a first-of-its-kind in the department, supporting the chair and, ultimately, the department, providing greater opportunity to create innovative and transformative education programs to educate the next generation of surgical leaders.”  


The newly created endowed chair is a long-term commitment to excellence and embodies the spirit and values of R. Randolph Bradham, M.D., who served as the department’s second full-time chair and has greatly impacted countless physicians and surgeons and, as a result, patients nationwide. It is the culmination of several notable collective efforts. It pays tribute to the legacy of R. Randolph Bradham, M.D., providing a lasting homage to lifelong professional contributions and commitment to surgical education that will make a difference in the lives of future patients. It is made possible through our benevolent donors within the Bradham family, whose vision, support, and trust in our leadership determined our ability to establish this endowed chair.


“Many of the qualities that made Dad a great parent also made him a great doctor and surgeon. His intelligence, curious mind, tireless determination to help others, compassion, selflessness and humility all worked beautifully together,” said John M. Bradham. “By endowing this chair, we hope that his legacy will continue and help to instill these qualities in future generations of physicians.”


Dr. Bradham led a life of service, exemplifying a commitment to excellence and professionalism in surgical training and patient care. He joined MUSC in 1956, and when the then-chair of the department’s health began to fail, Dr. Bradham gradually and altruistically assumed leadership responsibilities. He officially served as the second full-time chair from 1960-62, and his selfless commitment to quality care and professionalism spanned his entire career and life. 


Throughout his adult life, Dr. Bradham credited his military service to his success as a leader and cardiothoracic surgeon. He served as staff sergeant and squad leader in the 66th infantry division in the Army during WWII, the “Black Panthers” charged with neutralizing German forces in Northern France. “After going through the war and all that, doing surgery didn’t upset me,” he said during an interview in 2017 for MUSC’s Legacies Magazine.


A brilliant and accomplished cardiothoracic surgeon, Dr. Bradham was well known for his humility and selflessness; his concern, both as a doctor and as a person, was always to ease the pain and suffering of others. In 1995, he fully retired, then authored four books, three of which were about his experiences during WWII, became a licensed airline pilot at the age of 81, and started the largest blueberry farm in South Carolina, “Sweet Blues,” to which he was deeply committed until his passing in 2018. 


H. Biemann Othersen, Jr., M.D., Chair of the Curtis P. Artz MUSC Surgical Society, trained under Dr. Bradham, along with colleagues Randy Smoak, M.D., Wendell Levi, M.D., and many other prominent surgeons. He says he and his classmates benefited greatly from his wisdom and guidance during those critical times, as did the whole department. The two kept in touch over the years. During a 2011 visit to “Sweet Blues,” the conversation of the importance of a surgical leadership education program came up. “During my visit, we were talking about the next generation of surgeons and how much they can learn from us – And, equally important, what we can learn from them,” Othersen said. “The conversation flowed, and the seeds were planted to enhance our surgical training program right there on Randy’s blueberry farm!”

Realizing the healthcare landscape was changing at a swift pace and affecting surgical education programs nationwide, institutional leaders in the Department of Surgery, including MUSC President and former Department of Surgery Chair, David J. Cole, M.D., FACS, Interim Chair David B. Adams, M.D. and current Chair Prabhakar Baliga, M.D., met with Dr. Bradham on several occasions over the next few years to discuss his vision for an innovative and transformative surgical education program. These institutional leaders had the privilege of multiple opportunities to speak at length with him and discuss his thoughts on what was essential to include when considering ways to enhance and elevate our education program. Several themes emerged, including creating a leadership program, expanding our global surgery footprint, and advancing care through learning the latest technologies using advanced simulation training.

Dr Cole toasting Dr BradhamMUSC President David J. Cole, M.D., toasting Dr. Bradham, 2017 Distinguished Alumnus, during the 2017 Curtis P. Artz MUSC Surgical Society Distinguished Alumnus Luncheon.

In 2017, during the Curtis P. Artz MUSC Surgical Society luncheon honoring Dr. Bradham as a Distinguished Alumnus, the department leadership was pleased to announce Dr. Bradham graciously lent his name to the R. Randolph Bradham, M.D., Endowment for the Enhancement of Surgical Education. The endowment is devoted to the education of surgical leaders. As a result of this endowment, in 2020, the education division launched the Future Surgical Leaders Program, a first-of-its-kind surgical residency training program in the U.S. The innovative program aims to have sweeping downstream effects, including improved patient satisfaction. Two years later, the program expanded to include a Pathways Program to develop an academic niche for our graduates. By 2023, a Global Surgery Program was created, leveraging global relationships to create bidirectional clinical education, research, and innovation opportunities that improve the care of surgical patients in low- and middle-income countries and developed nations.


Foremost in this initiative is permanently naming the first-ever endowed chair for the chair’s office in Dr. Bradham’s name. Through its creation, an even greater opportunity has been given to the Department of Surgery to expand on the current education initiatives. “This commitment changes the trajectory and level of care we provide at MUSC,” said Baliga. “By providing a stable source of departmental funding in perpetuity, it allows us to significantly impact the next generation of surgeons and ensures that we carry on the strong values of service to the community that Dr. Bradham embodied – and, as a result - improve patient care for decades to come.” 


He adds, “Perhaps most important of all, there are the countless individuals whose lives are transformed because of the existence of the R. Randolph Bradham, M.D., Endowed Chair in Surgery: students, residents, faculty, staff, – and our patients – all lives that will be forever touched because of the innovative education, research and clinical care this chair helps fund.”