Dr. Kitipan Visudharom can be best described as a dedicated and untiring cardiovascular surgeon, scientist, humanitarian, advisor, teacher, and innovator, who truly loved releasing his patients from their suffering. He passed away on Sunday 30th May, 2010 at Bangkok Hospital, Bangkok, Thailand after a 20 month battle with pancreatic cancer. He was 72 years old.
He was born on 28th May, 1939 in Thailand. His father, Mr. Kong Visudharom, was a director-general of the Department of Physical Education of Thailand and a pioneer of the worldwide scout movement in Thailand.
Dr. Kitipan started his elementary education at Rajini Elementary School - a place where he started learning embroidery, decorating the edges of a handkerchief with lovely stitching. The apparently insignificant needlework of that 10 year old boy can be seen in a different, almost miraculous light, when we consider what he was destined to become, a successful cardiothoracic surgeon.
The primary medical education of Dr. Kitipan began at Siriraj Medical School, Bangkok. With the fervent desire to achieve the Doctor of Philosophy degree, he decided to do his internship at the University of Kentucky and completed residencies in General Surgery and Cardiovascular Surgery at the University of Minnesota. After 10 years in the United States of America, he accomplished not only his PhD in surgery from the University of Minnesota but also became a Diplomate of the American Board of Surgery and the American Board of Thoracic Surgery. Up until now, he was the first and only Thai doctor to have achieved a doctoral degree in thoracic surgery from the United States. During his long stay in the U.S, Dr. Kitipan Visudharom decided to shorten his name to Dr. Kit Arom. “No one could pronounce it otherwise”, was his wry comment on this decision.
In 1964, Dr. Kit began his medical career in Minnesota. Following his tenure at the University of Minnesota, he went to the University of Texas Health Sciences Center in San Antonio and helped develop a strong Thoracic Surgery Residency Program. In 1979, he returned to Minnesota. During this time, he was the Chair of Cardiothoracic Surgery and a co-founder of the Minneapolis Heart Institute, Chair of Cardiovascular Surgery at United Hospital, Chair of Cardiovascular Surgery at St. Joseph’s Hospital Health East Care System and Head of Cardiovascular Surgery at the John Nasseff Heart Hospital. This made him the busiest heart surgeon in the state of Minnesota. A prime recognition of his dedication was being the recipient of the Humanitarian Award, the public acknowledgement that Minnesota City bestows on people who have contributed valuable benefits to Minnesota City.
The primary factor that influenced Dr. Kitipan’s return to Thailand was to join the “72 heart valves replacement program” that was dedicated to honoring the 72nd birthday of His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej. Bangkok Hospital sponsored all medical expenses incurred for the treatment of selected outreach patients who lived in rural areas and suffered from valvular heart disease. Dr. Prasert Prasartthong-Osoth, his former medical student and Senior Resident at Siriraj Medical School, invited him to join Bangkok Hospital, with the intention that Dr. Kit would help develop the heart clinic to become a premier hospital dedicated to curing heart disease.
Finally, in the year 2000, he returned to Bangkok and established the Bangkok Heart Hospital, which is the first specialized heart hospital in Thailand. He was appointed as the Chief Cardiothoracic Surgeon, Cardiothoracic Director, and worked as Hospital Director of Bangkok Heart Hospital until the end of his life. He also served on several boards and took various leadership positions in Bangkok Hospital and Thailand.
With an impressive work ethic that showed him consistently demonstrating his best efforts, Dr. Kitipan helped turn Bangkok Heart Hospital into an institute of advanced technology and innovative techniques for relieving patients from heart disease. Bangkok Heart Hospital’s innovations include the minimally invasive cardiac surgery technique which reduces pain in patients having heart valve replacement, the bypass surgery with off pump technique, da Vinci Robotic Surgery and stem cell technique which treated end-state heart failure patients. More than 150 patients were given stem cell treatments, the results of which have been presented to over 25 scientific conferences including prestigious surgical conferences in USA and Europe such as The American Heart Association, The American Association for Thoracic Surgery (AATS), The Society of Thoracic Surgeons (STS), USA and The European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery (EACTS). Moreover, Dr. Kitipan led the Bangkok Heart Hospital to be accredited by the Joint Commission International’s Disease- Specific Care Certification Program for BHH’s Acute Coronary Syndrome and Heart Failure Program. In addition, he also extended his attention towards charity.
He created a health project for Buddhist monks, which included outdoor health education, a mobile check up service, and cardiovascular risk calculation for 585 monks from 40 temples in Bangkok.
Dr. Kitipan was known and loved for his outstanding ability, his affability and tireless work ethic by friends and colleagues from all over the world during his years of practice and work. The satisfaction and enjoyment of his life was enhanced by his beloved family. He was married to Khunying Sumonda Veravaidhaya and had two sons, Mr. Kan Mach Visudharom and Mr. Dan Monte Visudharom. His family also rejoiced in the 3 sweet grandchildren, Luke Kit Visudh Arom, Ava Pimalai Visudh Arom, and Olivia Juil Visudh Arom.
Dr. Kitipan truly enjoyed American football, especially the Vikings team from Minnesota. He also loved music, traveling, Joan Miro paintings, and cars. Collecting exotic cars was his favorite hobby; he was extremely fascinated with speed. Despite cars bringing much happiness to him and his family, they were also the cause of grievous sorrow, since his father, mother, and cousin died in a car accident. This painful misery was repeated, when his son, Mr. Kan Mach Visudharom, also died in Rwanda.
Dr. Kitipan is sincerely mourned, and his loss is regretted by all his family members, friends, patients and colleagues in Bangkok Hospital, and other medical organizations with which he was associated. Everyone however, takes great comfort in remembering the valuable contributions he made in the cardiology field during his lifetime, both in his home country and abroad. His memory remains an inspiring example for the next generation of Cardiothoracic surgeons and specialists at Bangkok Heart Hospital.