The UK College of Medicine is excited to announce that Joseph (Jay) B. Zwischenberger, MD ‘77, professor of surgery, pediatrics, interventional radiology, and bioengineering, has been named recipient of the prestigious William R. Willard Dean’s Recognition Award. He was honored at the 2022 College of Medicine Awards Convocation.

Named after the college’s founding dean, the William R. Willard Award recognizes individuals who have demonstrated significant and longstanding dedication to medical education.

“Dr. Zwischenberger is incredibly deserving of this award and is a wonderful role model for students, trainees, and early-career faculty,” Acting Dean Charles Griffith, MD, MSPH, said. “It is an honor for the college to have such a clinical talent, extraordinary teacher, and pioneer of education serve on our team.”

Dr. Zwischenberger is an internationally recognized general thoracic surgeon and educator whose numerous leadership positions within the UK College of Medicine have included serving as the Johnston-Wright Professor and Chair of Surgery from 2007-2019, as well as surgeon-in-chief for UK HealthCare from 2010-2019 and director of the UK Transplant Center from 2007-2012. UK HealthCare and surgical services experienced an unprecedented period of growth during this period.

A testament to his forward thinking, he developed the “Zwisch Model,” a feedback tool for assessing resident autonomy and performance in the operating room. The model garnered national attention and led to the Society for Improving Medical Professional Learning (SIMPL) Operating Room smartphone application that has been used across the country as a platform for immediate evaluation and real-time workplace feedback. SIMPL now includes more than 200 residency programs and 19 specialties in the U.S. and seven countries, involving more than 5,000 trainees. SIMPL has recently partnered with the American Board of Surgery for implementation of Entrustable Professional Activities (EPAs) management.  

In 1977, Dr. Zwischenberger (known to his colleagues as “Zwisch”) earned his Doctor of Medicine at the University of Kentucky, followed by residencies in general and cardiothoracic surgery at the University of Michigan, where he also completed his critical care/extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) fellowship. He also completed a cardiac surgery fellowship at the National Institutes of Health.

Over the next 21 years, he served as professor of surgery, medicine, and radiology at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, Texas, where he directed programs in general thoracic surgery, ECMO, and the cardiopulmonary section of the Bioengineering Center. He was the associate program director of the cardiothoracic surgery residency and served as the LeRoy Hillyer, MD, Endowed Chair in Surgery.

As a clinician, he was known for expertise in general thoracic surgery and was an early developer/educator of ECMO. He co-authored the first “red book”, known as the “bible” of ECMO, with his mentor Robert Bartlett, as well as the next two editions. With his close friend and colleague, Dongfang Wang, MD, PhD, they invented the first double lumen cannula for ECMO which allows ambulation and bridge to lung transplantation. Together, they hold six patents through work within a world-class sheep lab they developed at UK.

Dr. Zwischenberger is a member of many professional organizations including the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the Southern Thoracic Surgical Association, the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons, the Southern Surgical Association, American College of Surgeons, and the American Surgical Association. He recently served as president of the American Society of Artificial Internal Organs, where he has been an active member for 40 years. He was also a member of the Board of Governors for the American College of Surgeons.

Since 2010, he has served as a member of the American Association of Thoracic Surgery Research Scholarship Committee. For the American Association for Thoracic Surgery, he served on the Accreditation Committee for Perfusion Education from 2008-2010. He was a reviewer on National Institutes of Health study sections for over 20 years, as well as an exam question writer for the American Board of Surgery.

Over the years, he has authored or co-authored more than 400 publications in peer-reviewed journals, 75 book chapters, and six books as editor. Hundreds of presentations locally, nationally, and internationally highlight his love for teaching. He is currently enjoying teaching and simulation, coaching medical students, research, mentoring residents and faculty, and consulting.

William B. Inabnet III, MD, MHA, the college’s current Johnston-Wright Professor and Chair of Surgery, nominated Dr. Zwischenberger for this esteemed award.

“Dr. Zwischenberger has made significant contributions, not only to the University and the college, but also in the overall field of surgery,” Dr. Inabnet said “He has achieved national and international recognition for clinical innovation and advancements in education, and he is highly regarded by his peers. He has made a tremendous impact at UK, as well as on the many students, residents, and faculty with whom he has interacted.” 

Dr. Zwischenberger