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Kemp Kernstine, M.D., Ph.D., trained for 24 years to become the subspecialty surgeon he is today. He leads the only specialty-focused general thoracic surgery team associated with a major academic medical center in North Texas. The expertise he offers is crucial for patients with conditions involving the lungs, esophagus, mediastinum, or chest wall.

Dr. Kernstine is a Professor in the Department of Thoracic Surgery at UT Southwestern Medical Center and holds the Robert Tucker Hayes Foundation Distinguished Chair in Cardiothoracic Surgery. He completed his undergraduate and medical studies at Duke University. His internship and general surgery residency training were at the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis where he completed his Ph.D. as well. He pursued further training in heart and lung surgery at The Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Harvard Medical School, as a general thoracic track resident.

Board certified in surgery and thoracic surgery, Dr. Kernstine has numerous professional affiliations that include the American Medical Association, the American College of Surgeons, the American College of Chest Physicians, the American Thoracic Society, the American Association of Thoracic Surgeons, the Society of Thoracic Surgeons, the Society of Surgical Oncologists, the Western Thoracic Society, and the International Society of Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgeons. He has served in numerous leadership roles of many of these societies.

In addition to his clinical work, which involves the surgical management of a wide spectrum of benign and malignant diseases of the chest often treated with robotic surgery, Dr. Kernstine has strong research interests in minimally invasive and robotic surgery procedures, as well as the surgical evaluation and treatment of lung and esophageal cancer, mesothelioma, and thymic cancers. He has also studied the treatment of benign esophageal disease such as esophageal masses, achalasia, hiatal hernia, and gastro-esophageal reflux disease and is interested in the study of thymectomy in the treatment of myasthenia gravis.

Dr. Kernstine has received funding from the National Cancer Institute and various regional and national grants and has published numerous articles, abstracts, and books on lung and esophageal cancer and chest surgery. He is both nationally and internationally recognized for his work.

Dr. Kernstine was included in D Magazine's Best Doctors list for 2018 and 2020.

Meet Dr. Kernstine

Thoracic Surgeon and Robotic Surgery Pioneer

When abnormalities in the lungs or chest (thoracic region) are diagnosed and can be treated with surgery, having a specially trained, dedicated thoracic surgeon like Kemp Kernstine, M.D., Ph.D., on your team is highly recommended.

"From what we see thus far, robotic surgery appears less painful than traditional surgery, particularly for surgeries in the chest area. The chest is an incredibly sensitive area. Less invasive surgery means less pain, less inflammation, and less time in the hospital.”

Dr. Kernstine specializes in minimally invasive and robotic surgery including dozens of robotic thoracic procedures since he started his practice at UT Southwestern and nearly 1,000 robotic chest surgeries. He is credited with performing several of the first robotic chest procedures and techniques, including the first published complete robotic oncologic esophagectomy in the world. Since his first surgery, he has become one of the highest volume robotic thoracic surgeons in the country with outstanding results. Patient after patient undergoing lung lobectomies, thymectomies, or esophagectomies appear to experience less pain, faster recovery, and the opportunity to get back to normal activities sooner because of the unique robotic skills offered by Dr. Kernstine. He has lectured worldwide on the different robotic chest techniques and serves as instructor internationally to surgeons and new surgical programs. He has published over 300 articles, book chapters, books and abstracts on a variety of chest surgery topics.

Dr. Kernstine has been named one of America’s Top Doctors by Castle Connolly every year since 2008 and one of America’s Top Doctors for Cancer since 2005. He made Pasadena Magazine’s Top Docs list in 2007-2010 and D Magazine's Top Doctors list since 2012.

As a Professor in the Department of Thoracic Surgery and a leader on the lung cancer treatment team, Dr. Kernstine focuses on the surgical management of a wide spectrum of benign and malignant diseases of the chest and coordinates care with other physicians and team members throughout Simmons Cancer Center and UT Southwestern.

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Education & Training
  • Graduate School - University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (1985-1996)
  • Fellowship - V A Medical Center - West Roxbury (1994-1995), Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Residency - Brigham and Women's Hospital (1993-1994), Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Residency - Brigham and Women's Hospital (1992-1993), Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • Residency - University of Minnesota Medical School (1988-1990), Surgery
  • Fellowship - University of Minnesota Medical School (1985-1988), Research
  • Residency - University of Minnesota Medical School (1982-1985), General Surgery
  • Medical School - Duke University School of Medicine (1978-1982)
  • Other Post Graduate Training - University of Minnesota, Minneapolis (1985-1996)
Professional Associations & Affiliations
  • Society of Thoracic Surgeons
  • International Society of Minimally Invasive Cardiothoracic Surgery
  • International Association for the Study of Lung Cancer
  • American College of Surgeons, Fellow
  • American Association of Thoracic Surgery
Honors & Awards
  • D Magazine Best Doctor 2020
  • Castle Connolly Americas Top Doctors for Cancer 2012, 2005 - 2012
  • Castle Connolly Americas Top Doctors 2012, 2008 - 2012
  • Brigham and Women's Hospital Thoracic Alumnus of the Year 2003
  • Willem J. Kolff Young Investigators Award 1988, American Society for Artificially Implantable Organs
  • Howard Hughes Medical Research Fellow 1980, Duke University
Books & Publications
  • Sarcoma
  • Molecular Early Diagnosis, Staging and Evaluation of Thoracic Malignancies
  • Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgical Approaches
  • Mesothelioma
  • Lung Cancer and Esophageal Cancer

Clinical Focus

  • Lung & Esophageal Cancer
  • Lung Cancer
  • Pulmonary/Lung-Chest Wall-Mediastinal-Pleural Nodules
  • Esophageal Perforation
  • Esophageal Cancer
  • Hiatal Hernia
  • Tracheal and Bronchial Tumors
  • Pleural Cancer
  • Pericardial Cancer
  • Pleural and Pericardial Effusions
  • Chest Wall Deformity
  • Airway Cancer
  • Chest Cancers
  • Lung (Pulmonary) Disorders
  • Mesothelioma
  • Pancoast Cancer
  • Surgery for Thoracic Cancer & Other Disorders
  • Intracardiac Cancer
  • Minimally Invasive Surgery
  • Axillary Hyperhidrosis

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Q&A by Dr. Kernstine

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