Charles Whitten, M.D.

Charles Whitten, M.D.

  • Margaret Milam McDermott Distinguished Chair in Anesthesiology and Pain Management
  • Anesthesiology And Pain Mgmt
  • Pain Management

Biography

Charles Whitten, M.D., is Professor and Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Management at UT Southwestern Medical Center.

Dr. Whitten earned his medical degree at UT Southwestern, where he also completed a residency in anesthesiology. He then received fellowship training in transplant anesthesiology and cardiovascular anesthesiology through a collaboration between UT Southwestern and Baylor University Medical Center Dallas.

He joined the UT Southwestern faculty in 1988.

Prior to his current role, Dr. Whitten served as Chief of the Division of Anesthesia for Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery at UT Southwestern and, later, as Director of the Division of Anesthesia at Parkland, the largest and busiest division in the department. 

During his tenure, Dr. Whitten has also served as a senior research project advisor for undergraduate engineering students at Southern Methodist University, as the chief recruiting officer for UT Southwestern’s residency program, and as the Vice Chair for Educational Affairs.

On a national level, Dr. Whitten serves as an examiner for the American Board of Anesthesiology. His research interests include perioperative inflammatory responses, perioperative hemostatic alterations, and economic factors influencing academic anesthesiology.

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Meet Dr. Whitten

Charles Whitten, M.D., Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Management at UT Southwestern Medical Center, came to medical school by a different road than most. As an undergraduate, he trained in electrical and biomedical engineering at Southern Methodist University. 

Only about 5 percent of students enter medical school with an engineering major, but among that group, many end up in surgery or anesthesiology, both areas in which good decisions must be made quickly – a challenge engineers are quite familiar with.

"My family and I all receive our medical care at UT Southwestern,” Dr. Whitten says. “I cannot think of a better endorsement I could give. I know that if complications happen, they will be dealt with professionally by people who have dealt with them before.

“Providing patient care is a lot like dealing with the black box: You’ve got symptoms coming out of the box, and you’ve got to figure out what in the box is not working,” he adds. “The analytical skills I learned in engineering, asking why and knowing how to solve problems, all have served me well as an anesthesiologist, as a clinical researcher, and as an administrator.”

An Early Influence

Dr. Whitten’s early inspirations to study medicine began with regular visits to a dentist in his native Missouri. The dentist had a wonderful bedside manner and treated his young patient and father with the ultimate respect.
 
“In many ways, that dentist still influences what I look for in new faculty members: a common touch and a salt-of-the-earth foundation,” Dr. Whitten says. “I believe it’s important that we, as anesthesiologists, do as much as we can to develop a caring, trusting relationship with each person, so they know they are in good hands, even when they are asleep and have no control.” 

While training as a resident at Parkland Memorial Hospital, Dr. Whitten became interested in the coagulopathies associated with liver transplants and the use of the thromboelastogram as a monitor for clotting problems. He considers his most significant scientific contributions to be his studies of the coagulopathies in surgical and obstetrical patients and the effects of aprotinin and desmopressin.

Responding to a Growing Demand

Dr. Whitten became Chair of the Department of Anesthesiology and Pain Management in 2008, inheriting an extraordinary legacy of achievement in clinical research and discovery, physician training, and clinical care. Now, he is focused on building the department to meet the needs of patients in the 21st century. 

“We have team members in every operating room on campus, plus the VA Hospital and sites at Children’s–Legacy and Texas Scottish Rite Hospital,” he notes. “The department plays a major role in the coverage of acute and chronic pain services, as well as services in the intensive care units across our clinical footprint.”

Demand for the department’s clinical expertise has been growing, Dr. Whitten says, as more subspecialties adopt therapies that require anesthesia support outside the operating room.

“I want patients to know that we are dedicated to patient-centric practice, a fundamental principle underpinning all our efforts, no matter how much we grow,” he says.

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Education & Training
  • Medical School - UT Southwestern Medical Center (1980-1984)
  • Internship - Baylor University Medical Center (1984-1985), Anesthesiology
  • Fellowship - UT Southwestern Medical Center (1986-1987), Transplant Anesthesiology
  • Residency - UT Southwestern Medical Center (1985-1988), Anesthesiology
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • American Board of Anesthesiology
  • American Society of Anesthesiology
  • Association of University Anesthesiologists
  • International Anesthesia Research Society
  • Texas Society of Anesthesiologists
Honors & Awards
  • Alpha Omega Alpha Honor Medical Society 2000
  • Joe Billy Wood Award 1985, Competition for first year Anesthesiology Residents
  • Mortar Board 1979, Society honoring outstanding college students for scholarship/leadership/ethos
  • Technical Club Prize 1977, Award for Outstanding First Year Engineering Student-SMU
  • Valedictorian 1976, Boonville Missouri High School
Books & Publications
Research
  • Economics of Academic Anesthesia Practice
  • Peri-op coagulation abnormalities
  • Peri-op inflammatory responses

Clinical Focus

  • Pain Management

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