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The Legacy: Rick Zollinger, MD, FACS

Updated: Feb 6

Dr. Rick Zollinger has more than three decades in general, cardiovascular and thoracic surgery as well as certification in Undersea and Hyperbaric Medicine. As a well-respected clinician, educator and organizational leader, Rick has been a member of and held appointments with The American College of Surgeons, North Carolina Surgical Association, The Southern Surgical Society, The Society for Thoracic Surgery and The International Surgical Society.

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In addition to many years of clinical experience, Rick has also succeeded in multiple practice settings as a single practitioner to larger multi-specialty clinics. As founder of The Charlotte Cardiothoracic Surgical Group, Rick is well-versed in the requirements for growth of a successful practice and professional career. He has been actively involved in education and leadership roles, serving as Assistant Clinical Professor of Surgery for the Department of Vascular Surgery at UNC/Chapel Hill, Medical Director for Carolina Wound Care Center, Physician Training Faculty member and Area Medical Director for Diversified Clinical Services.

Dr. Zollinger’s Prescription for Success:

Number 1: Don’t be freeze dried. Stay up-to-date with technology and the changing landscape of medicine.

Number 2: Don’t be a doorknob doctor who stands in the doorway talking to a patient. Go into the room, sit on the end of the bed, lay your hand on the patient even if it’s just 30-seconds, they’ll think you were there 10-minutes.

Number 3: Learn from your mistakes. Don’t go to sleep at night without knowing what you’d do differently.

Number 4: Never take away hope or empathy. It’s important. You won’t cure everything. Sometimes you have to put on a patient’s hat and shoes and help them get through life.

Number 5: Respect your elders, even as an elder. You don’t have the corner on good ideas.

Connect with Dr. Zollinger:


Twitter: @ZooDoc


Notable quotes from Dr. Zollinger’s interview:

My dad was a surgeon and even my maternal uncle’s were surgeons, so I just thought that’s what you did. I mean, I just kind of thought you grew up and that’s what you did for a living. It’s all I ever knew.
Surgical residency was five years and I’d say three quarters of it was every other night and most of it was every third night. And then thoracic surgery was every other night. So pretty much you saw your rear end coming in the door when you left in the morning.
I felt like I learned more between 9pm and 6am than any other time.
I learned as much from the, let’s just call them ‘battleaxes’, well worn nurses that took care of me as a young surgeon in the pediatric hospital the ICU. They had your back and I learned as much from them as anybody.
If you don’t lose a little bit of yourself with every patient, then you better get out of the business.
I would recommend people under high stress physicians have a sabbatical of three months every five years. That may be hard to do in private practice, but I would love to see that.
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