ANAHEIM, Calif. – CHKD Surgeon-in-Chief Emeritus Donald Nuss, who developed a procedure at Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters to correct chest deformities that is used across the globe, was honored Saturday with the highest surgery award given by the American Academy of Pediatrics.

Dr. Nuss received the 2022 William E. Ladd Medal at the AAP National Conference & Exhibition in Anaheim, California. The Ladd Medal recognizes pediatric surgeons who have made significant contributions to the field and to the care of children.

In 1987, Dr. Nuss developed a minimally invasive technique to correct pectus excavatum, the most common chest wall deformity in children. Also known as funnel chest, the chest sinks in toward the spine, forming a depression. Patients often suffer heart and lung compression, difficulty exercising, and poor body image. 

Previously, children had to endure a highly invasive surgery that involved a large incision and fractures of the sternum and ribs. While performing this surgery, he was struck by an idea: Why break the cartilages when they are so flexible? 

He instead developed a procedure in which a curved metal bar is inserted through small incisions on either side of the chest and guided under the flexible ribs and sternum to press them into normal shape over time, just as braces correct crooked teeth. The bar remains in place two to three years until the correction is permanent.

Dr. Nuss, who is a professor emeritus of surgery at Eastern Virginia Medical School, gathered data from the first decade of using the procedure, which showed excellent results, and presented it to the American Pediatric Surgical Association in 1997. The operation quickly gained favor with pediatric surgeons, making "The Nuss Procedure," a standard practice across the globe. At least 100,000 patients have been treated with the procedure during the last 25 years.

Dr. Nuss has been a guest lecturer and visiting professor at many major medical centers in North America, South America, Europe, Asia, and Africa, and has been an invited guest speaker at numerous national and international surgical congresses.

Dr. Nuss was born in the Republic of South Africa and graduated with a medical degree from the University of Cape Town, South Africa, in 1963. He completed residency in general surgery at the Mayo Clinic, in Rochester, Minnesota, in 1971, and a fellowship in pediatric surgery at Red Cross War Memorial Children’s Hospital in Cape Town in 1973. 

He came to Norfolk, Virginia, in 1977, where he began performing surgery at CHKD. He served on the Medical Executive Committee of CHKD for 25 years and as Surgeon-in-Chief and Vice President for Surgical Affairs for 20 years. 

Dr. Nuss and his wife, Tessa, lived in Norfolk for more than 40 years but recently moved to Boise, Idaho, to be near family. 

  Donald Nuss - Professional Headshot

CHKD Surgeon-in-Chief Emeritus Dr. Donald Nuss

Dr. Donald Nuss and Colleagues Performing Pectus Surgery at CHKD

CHKD Surgeon-in-Chief Emeritus Dr. Donald Nuss performing surgery at CHKD.


CHKD is the only freestanding children’s hospital in Virginia and serves the medical and surgical needs of children throughout greater Hampton Roads, the Eastern Shore of Virginia, and northeastern North Carolina. The not-for-profit CHKD Health System operates primary care pediatric practices, surgical practices, multi-service health centers, urgent care centers, and satellite offices throughout its service region. In 2019, CHKD broke ground on a 60-bed, 14-story hospital and outpatient center on its campus to address the mental health crisis facing our youth. The new tower on CHKD’s campus in Norfolk opened to outpatient services in April 2022, with inpatient beds opening in October 2022. Visit the Nuss Center online.