Like many young men, William Clifford “Cliff” Kitchens, M.D., looked to his father’s influence as he was choosing a profession.

Both father and son are now heart surgeons.

“I was influenced by my dad,” Dr. Kitchens says. “Also in medical school, I worked with people who trained him. They got me excited about heart surgery. I looked at every specialty and decided I liked this best.”

This month, Dr. Kitchens joined Peter I. Ellman, M.D., and Art Edgerton, M.D., in the surgical treatment of diseases affecting the chest, including the heart, blood vessels, lungs and esophagus at Reid Heart Center’s FirstHealth Cardiovascular & Thoracic Center.

According to John Krahnert, M.D., who started the open-heart surgery program at Moore Regional Hospital 27 years ago and is now FirstHealth’s chief medical officer, Dr. Kitchens will be a welcome addition to the long-successful FirstHealth team. The FirstHealth program recently reached a new milestone with its 8,000th open-heart surgery.

“We expect Dr. Kitchens to fit right in with the successful program we already have with Drs. Ellman and Edgerton and the Reid Heart Center nursing and support staff,” Dr. Krahnert says. “He has the skills and experience we had hoped to find for this addition to our team and – best of all – he is just as excited about joining us as we are to have him.”

Dr. Kitchens comes to FirstHealth from University Medical Group – Cardiothoracic Surgery in Augusta, Georgia. A magna cum laude graduate of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia, he earned his medical degree from Emory University in Atlanta.

He completed his residency in general surgery at the University of Alabama in Birmingham, where he also engaged in postdoctoral fellowship research in intimal hyperplasia and trauma, sepsis and inflammation.

Fellowship-trained in cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Utah Affiliated Hospitals in Salt Lake City, he has 20 years of surgical experience.

Dr. Kitchens and his wife, Heather, have three children: daughter Emma, a high school senior; daughter Evelyn, a high school sophomore; and son Will, a sixth-grader. He says they are excited about the relocation from one golf capital – Augusta – to another – Pinehurst and that his wife – “a gung-ho Tar Heel” graduate of the University of North Carolina – is happy to be so near Chapel Hill.

While he didn’t know a lot about FirstHealth and its heart program beforehand, Dr. Kitchens says he liked what he learned. He is especially happy about the consolidation of “small-town living and big-city medicine” that allows patients to stay close to home for their medical care.

Calling Moore Regional “the centerpiece of the community,” Dr. Kitchens says, “I can tell the community really wants the hospital to do well. That was also appealing to me.”

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