A Fellow's Perspective

"Cardiothoracic surgery is a complex evolving field, which can create difficulties in finding a well-rounded and current training program. The University of Minnesota is a training program that has risen to this challenge. As a fellow, you will garner expansive skills by rotating through a VA, university, and private hospital setting. These rotations provide broad-based and specialized learning opportunities in working with very diverse patient populations.

The cardiothoracic team at the University of Minnesota is very dedicated to teaching and is open to tailoring your fellowship experience to your career interest. I have an interest in minimally invasive and endovascular procedures and was afforded the opportunity to spend time with our vascular and cardiology services. The University of Minnesota provides a solid knowledge base to their fellows while keeping pace with changes in the field, making it the optimal place to be trained in cardiothoracic surgery."

~Elan C. Burton, MD
Thoracic Surgery Fellow
University of Minnesota
February 2011 – June 2013


"I believe that general thoracic surgery makes great strides in improving the lives of patients who are devastated by these diseases. General thoracic surgery has unbounded potential for expansion and evolution in the future. In order to be on the cutting edge of the field, I felt that training in a high-volume focused academic center that has a multifaceted thoracic oncology experience, a functional foregut surgery experience, an extensive lung transplant experience and an outstanding cardiac experience would provide the environment needed to enable me to realize this vision.

After interviewing I felt that the University of Minnesota had such a program. The extensive training encompasses all facets of thoracic surgery. There is ample thoracic oncology and functional surgery experience in both the open approaches as well as minimally invasive techniques.

Additionally, there is a long standing cardiac and lung transplant program that fellows are able to participate in. The option of elective rotation time was especially appealing in that skills could be refined or expanded to obviate the need for a super-fellowship that comes with many 2-year programs. The holistic approach to disease management where less traditional, but highly marketable, skills such as endoscopic/endobronchial ultrasound, stent and catheter based therapies, and esophageal physiology are taught was icing on the cake."

~Bryan A. Whitson, M.D., Ph.D.
Matched Thoracic Fellow for Entering Class of July 2009
Finished 2012 and is employed as an Assistant Professor of Surgery at Ohio State University


"The experience I gained on the thoracic surgical services at the University of Minnesota and the VA far surpassed my expectations. The exposure to different diseases was very broad as I was involved in management of benign and malignant diseases of the foregut, lung, mediastinum, diaphragm, and chest. The operative management of each ranged from minimally invasive to maximally invasive. Specifically, I was involved with open, thoracoscopic, and laparoscopic operations and reoperations, endoscopic stenting of the aerodigestive tract, and tumor staging and biopsy via endoscopic ultrasound.

I was very inexperienced at first, but was instructed in each modality by very involved teaching staff. With time, as my knowledge base and experience increased, more responsibility was given, until I felt comfortable with the management of very complex patients, and many of the operative modalities."

~Brian Rundall, D.O.
Thoracic Surgery Fellow
University of Minnesota
July 2007 - June 2010
Finished 2010 and employed in private practice


"The University of Minnesota is a very special place, and my experience as a Thoracic Surgery Fellow has been very valuable. I attribute my career success thus far to the University’s faculty, staff, fellow colleagues in training, and the robust innovative environment.

From the day I arrived, I met surgical faculty that were exceptional, and dedicated to teaching. They recognized my potential even when I didn’t, and challenged me to be a better physician and surgeon. I accepted their challenges and was better for it. I have been an instrumental member of the cardiovascular medical team at the University of Minnesota that achieved a milestone by performing its first pediatric cardiac “hybrid” procedure. In addition to performing over 400 complex cardiac and thoracic surgical procedures during my fellowship, I was on the surgical team that performed the world’s first implantation of a third generation Left Ventricular Assist Device for destination therapy.

What I will always remember most about the University of Minnesota is that I was given every opportunity to be successful, and in the process of my training, I have become a part of cardiac surgery history.

Surgeons considering the University of Minnesota should recognize the great academic and clinical training experience the program affords. Since the time of Drs. C. Walton Lillihei, Clarence Dennis, and Richard Varco, graduates and visitors of our program have been the leaders in every facet of modern cardiac surgery, and that tradition continues today."

~Hassan A. Tetteh, M.D.
Thoracic Surgery Fellow
University of Minnesota
July 2005 - June 2008
Currently a staff cardiothoracic surgeon at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, US Navy