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Terhune to direct General Surgery residency program

Dec. 11, 2014, 10:07 AM

The General Surgery residency program at Vanderbilt School of Medicine is getting a new program director, but it won’t be a new face.

Kyla Terhune, M.D.

Kyla Terhune, M.D., associate professor of Surgery, is taking over the residency program, which is one of the largest on campus. She replaces John Tarpley, M.D., who has served in that role for nearly two decades.

Tarpley, a professor of Surgery and Anesthesiology, who will continue his other clinical and academic duties, highlighted Terhune’s experience that makes her ideal for the job — including her time as a high school basketball player.

“She is a point guard, a teacher, a coach — great attributes and skills to lead our Surgical Residency program,” he said. “She coaches folks up rather than judges or puts them down.”

John Tarpley, M.D.

In the role, Terhune will be charged with coordinating all aspects of the General Surgery residency, including the medical student interview and selection process, mentoring the 75 residents going through the program and assuring that all accreditation requirements for the residency are met.

While the transition was official on Nov. 20, Terhune, who is also an assistant professor of Anesthesiology, has been playing a key role in the residency program role for several years.

“She and I have been sharing this job for a while,” Tarpley said. “Every year she has done more and more.”

During that time, Terhune has served as a driving force to improve the residency, Tarpley said.

“Our residency is on a positive trajectory currently, largely because Dr. Terhune has been a thought leader and implementer here for the last six-and-a-half years,” he said.

Tarpley has been planning to step down from the role for a while.

Five years ago, he told the department chair that when he reached the age of 70 he would hand the reins of the residency to someone else. His birthday was Nov. 19.

“I plan to stay in surgical education as long as my mind is still working,” Tarpley said. “But I just think it’s better for the program to have someone closer age-wise to the residents.”

Terhune spent three years as a high school chemistry and biology teacher before starting medical school at the University of Pennsylvania.

“I was not planning on being in surgical education long-term,” she said. “But I’m a teacher, and I liked the combination of teaching, coaching and surgery.”

In addition to her work at the Medical Center, Terhune serves as the head of Hank Ingram House residence hall for first-year students on the Martha Rivers Ingram Commons.

She emphasized that she and Tarpley have long shared the same vision for the residency, and the change will be seamless.

“I have been certainly very lucky to be able to learn from and work closely with Dr. Tarpley over the past decade,” she said. “We both value and support residents, their education and their well-being and see the idea of working for the residents as one of the most rewarding jobs in the world.”

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