Devoted chief of vascular surgery passes away

Dr. James M. Seeger, professor and chief of vascular surgery and endovascular therapy, died Wednesday, Oct. 21. He was 62.

Dr. Seeger, an internationally recognized leader in the field of vascular surgery, devoted his career to advancing patient care, educating future surgeons, and conducting research to solve medical and surgical problems. Committed to the success of the UF College of Medicine, he dedicated all but one year of his medical practice to Shands at UF and the UF Health Science Center.

“The UF College of Medicine has lost a great leader, skilled surgeon, compassionate physician, gifted teacher, inquisitive scientist and good friend,” said Dr. Michael L. Good, interim dean. “Jim’s dedication and contributions to UF, his patients and students were unparalleled, spanning decades, touching and improving the lives of thousands.”

Though he was passionate about all aspects of vascular surgery, his brilliant analytical mind and his obsession for details were gifts that allowed him to be an innovative leader in the business practice of surgery, said Dr. Kevin Behrns, chairman of the department of surgery.

Dr. James M. Seeger, professor and chief of vascular surgery and endovascular therapy.

Dr. James M. Seeger, professor and chief of vascular surgery and endovascular therapy.

“His determined work behind the scenes led to many changes in surgical practice and improvements in the care of patients,” Behrns said.

Dr. Thomas S. Huber, professor of vascular surgery for the College of Medicine and acting division chief said Seeger’s colleagues admired him for his work ethic, honesty and commitment to patient care and education.

“Dr. Seeger was the consummate academic surgeon in all aspects,” Huber said.

Dr. Seeger joined the University of Florida in 1982 as an assistant professor of surgery and rose rapidly through the academic ranks, serving most recently as associate chairman of the department of surgery. In 1989 he established the division of vascular surgery, serving as its first and only chief, leading a dynamic team of surgeons and staff committed to improving patient care and advancing surgical science. In 2008 Dr. Seeger was appointed the Cracchiolo Professor, a professorship position endowed by the Cracchiolo Foundation.

He also served as chief of vascular surgery for the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center from 1982 to 1999. He contributed as a Research Career Development program specialist in surgery for the Veterans Administration Central Office in Washington, D.C. from 1989 to 1991.

Dr. Seeger contributed widely to advances in the field, including the areas of lower extremity disease, arterial occlusive disease and endovascular stent grafts. He performed the first endovascular stent graft repair of an abdominal aortic aneurysm at Shands at UF and through his leadership fostered a team of vascular and cardiovascular surgeons who currently rank in the top 10 nationally in performing minimally invasive repairs in both the abdominal and thoracic aorta.

His greatest passion was the vascular surgery fellowship program. Under his tutelage as director, more than 25 physicians went on to become accomplished vascular surgeons, many of whom are current leaders within the field. While devoting himself to training future surgeons graduating from UF programs, he also made an impact on the national level, maintaining an active presence in the Association of Program Directors in Vascular Surgery and most recently serving as chairman of the Clinical Curriculum Committee.

Dr. Seeger’s research interests included peripheral arterial disease and aortic surgery. He worked for several years on the postoperative inflammatory response associated with major aortic reconstruction, and the role of this inflammatory response in the development of single and multi-organ failure after aortic repair. Past investigations, in conjunction with the UF Center for Biomaterials in the College of Engineering, sought to develop new techniques for use of endovascular stents for drug delivery. Dr. Seeger held an adjunct professor position in the UF Department of Materials Science and Engineering.

He was a member of more than 20 professional organizations, including the American Surgical Association, Society of Vascular Surgery and the American College of Surgeons. His leadership roles within medical societies were extensive, serving as president of the Southern Association for Vascular Surgery, Florida Vascular Society, and the Association of Program Directors in Vascular Surgery. He served for six years on the Vascular Surgery Board of the American Board of Surgery. He was serving his second term on the Society for Vascular Surgery’s board of directors.

Dr. Seeger wrote numerous book chapters and published and presented extensively on his work. From 2002 to 2008 he served as co-editor of the Journal of Vascular Surgery. For more than 15 years, he served as Associate Editor of the Yearbook of Surgery, which provides a selection of published research articles that represent significant advances and statements of important clinical principles in surgery.

Dr. Seeger received his bachelor’s degree from Massachusetts Institute of Technology and his medical degree from the Medical College of Georgia. He completed his general surgery residency training at the University of Utah Affiliated Hospitals. Between completing his internship and general surgery residency, he served as a General Medical Officer in the United States Navy. Following his residency, he completed a Vascular Surgery Fellowship at the Eastern Virginia Graduate School of Medicine.

Dr. Seeger is survived by Carolyn, his wife of more than 36 years.