Commencement Speaker

Robert S. D. Higgins, M.D.

Robert S. D. Higgins, M.D., is the surgeon-in-chief of the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. He is a leading authority in heart and lung transplantation, minimally invasive cardiac surgery and mechanical circulatory support. His scientific interests are broad and far-ranging, including the mechanisms of cell injury in failing hearts, health economics and policy, racial disparities in post-transplant outcomes, access to care and improving outcomes among heart failure and cardiac surgery patients. Dr. Higgins is also the William Stewart Halstead Professor of Surgery and director of the Department of Surgery at the Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine.

Dr. Higgins came to Johns Hopkins from The Ohio State University in Columbus, Ohio, where he was professor and chairman of the Department of Surgery, as well as surgeon-in-chief and director of the Comprehensive Transplant Center at Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center. Prior to that he began his surgical career as the director of heart and lung transplantation at the Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit, Michigan. Under his leadership, the transplant team performed the first lung transplant in Southeast Michigan. He then created a Medicare-approved lung transplant program in 1997 and a pediatric heart transplant program in collaboration with the Children’s Hospital of Michigan in Detroit. Since then, he has served in numerous leadership positions, including chief of cardiac surgery at Ohio State’s Richard M. Ross Heart Hospital; chairman of cardiovascular-thoracic surgery at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, Illinois and chairman of cardiothoracic surgery at the Medical College of Virginia in Richmond.

Dr. Higgins obtained his bachelor’s degree from Dartmouth College and earned his medical degree from the Yale School of Medicine, followed by a master’s degree in health services administration at Virginia Commonwealth University. He completed a residency in general surgery and served as chief resident at the University Hospitals of Pittsburgh. He was a Winchester Scholar and fellow in cardiothoracic surgery at the Yale School of Medicine. Dr. Higgins served as a senior registrar in transplantation at England’s renowned Papworth Hospital in Cambridge, the U.K.’s largest cardiothoracic surgical program and its main heart-lung transplant center. He also served as a major in the United States Army Reserve Medical Corps.

Dr. Higgins has held leadership positions at various organizations, including president of the United Network for Organ Sharing, president of the Society of Black Academic Surgeons and president and founding member of the Association of Black Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgeons. He has also been appointed to the Advisory Committee on Organ Transplantation by the secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services. He has authored over 100 scientific articles and book chapters.