A Message from our Chairman


Christian de Virgilio

Chair, Department of Surgery

The Department of Surgery at Harbor-UCLA is a vibrant and growing tertiary care academic unit. It is composed of 13 divisions, staffed with 50 full-time and 10 part-time faculty, all of whom are appointed and promoted through the high standards of the UCLA School of Medicine. We are one of the busiest operative Level I Trauma Centers in the western U.S. The Department supports residency programs in General Surgery, Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery, and General Dentistry, as well as fellowships in Vascular Surgery, Surgical Critical Care, and Trauma Surgery. Our mission is to provide first class surgical care for our patients, and we take pride in the fact that our faculty, residents, and fellows are a multifaceted group of exceptional clinicians, outstanding teachers, and cutting-edge innovators.

Four years ago, Harbor-UCLA Medical Center opened 16 new ultramodern operating rooms, along with a new 50+ bed emergency department that is fully equipped for high-level trauma management. With a full complement of surgical subspecialists, many of the latest advanced surgical technologies are offered at our facility, including cutting-edge endovascular techniques for complex thoracic aortic pathology (TEVAR), intraoperative radiation therapy (IORT) for breast cancer, hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy (HIPEC) with cytoreductive surgery, resuscitative endovascular balloon occlusion of the aorta (REBOA) for trauma, and robotic cancer surgery, to name a few. We were the first hospital in the Western U.S. to have procured the latest generation of the da Vinci robot, and have performed over 250 robotic cases spanning colorectal, thoracic, surgical oncology, urology, and hepatobiliary disciplines. We were the first hospital in the western U.S. to perform a robotic kidney transplant.

Our department places a premium on education and wellness. We have a robust and innovative educational program. Harbor-UCLA is one of the primary teaching sites for the UCLA medical students. Our surgical faculty hold prominent and active roles in the UCLA School of Medicine, and are involved in the design and implementation of the medical school curriculum. Our faculty have developed a Residents and Fellows as Teachers program for trainees to help them develop as successful educators. We have also embarked on a Surgical Trainee Assessment of Readiness exam for our junior residents, to test their knowledge and basic skills prior to progressing onto the next year of training. Our Department has spearheaded a hospital-wide Faculty and Residents as Educators Symposium, which is now in its 4th year. Our faculty actively engage residents and students in weekly skills and didactic teaching sessions. Our educational program’s success is evidenced by numerous teaching accolades, including two National Golden Apple Teaching Awards from the American Medical Student Association, the ACGME Parker Palmer Courage to Teach Award, the UCLA School of Medicine Excellence in Education Award, a commendation from the ACGME for the general surgery residency program, and several Teaching with Humanism  awards given to our surgical residents by the UCLA medical students Additionally, we created a wellness program, and appointed a Director of Wellness for our faculty and trainees, including annual retreats and regular programming which includes such topics as fitness, stress management, nutrition, and mindful awareness.

Research has always been on the forefront of our department. The research conducted by the faculty and trainees is generously supported by the on-campus Los Angeles BioMedical Research Institute (LABiomed), a nonprofit organization that is funded at a level of approximately $60 million per year by the NIH and other federal and private sources. Harbor-UCLA surgical faculty have a renowned record of scientific achievement and research productivity and have held leadership positions in many national and regional academic societies encompassing a wide array of surgical disciplines. The academic year culminates in our Annual Research Day, which showcases our most significant research contributions and is attended by Harbor-UCLA alumni and faculty from our collaborating institutions. Last year, our residents and faculty were co-authors on more than 60 publications in peer-reviewed journals.

The Department of Surgery has an exciting future ahead as plans are underway to further expand the Harbor-UCLA campus, with a new hospital, outpatient clinic facilities, and a modern pavilion. We invite you to fully explore this website to learn more about our clinical and training programs. We are proud of our clinical, educational, and research legacies.

Christian de Virgilio, M.D., FACS
Chairman, Department of Surgery
Professor of Surgery
Harbor-UCLA Medical Center