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Dr. Robert Kelly CHKD Blocks

(757) 668-7703
Board Certifications

American Board of Surgery

Pediatric Surgery


Medical School: Johns Hopkins University

Residency: Vanderbilt University

Fellowship: UCLA School of Medicine

Fellowship: Children's Hospital of Buffalo


A surgeon, educator and researcher, Dr. Kelly has served as chief of the department of surgery at CHKD for the past 16 years. He is also chief of the division of pediatric surgery at EVMS, as well as professor of clinical surgery and pediatrics. He has been at CHKD for over 20 years.

An internationally recognized expert in treatment of chest wall abnormalities, Dr. Kelly’s large clinical expertise includes introduction of new surgical techniques for pectus excavatum and pectus carinatum. With Dr. Donald Nuss, developer of the Nuss procedure, Dr. Kelly pioneered development of a clinic devoted to chest wall repair. CHKD is a world leader in minimally invasive pectus excavatum surgery, but also offers the non-invasive vacuum bell treatment introduced to CHKD's pectus program by partner Dr. Robert Obermeyer.

Dr. Kelly led a multicenter, multiyear study of pectus excavatum, which compared surgical results and complications, effects on lung and heart function, changes in body image, and improvement in chest shape resulting from surgical treatment of pectus excavatum. The study, organized at CHKD/EVMS, led to multiple publications in leading journals.  Dr. Kelly has led the internationally attended Nuss Lecture Series at CHKD/EVMS for the past several years. He also introduced to CHKD the Argentine brace, which is now the favored treatment for pectus carinatum internationally.  Patients who do not achieve the desired results from brace treatment are offered the "reverse Nuss" procedure, introduced to the United States by Dr. Kelly, or the standard open operation. 

Since his arrival at CHKD, Dr. Kelly has pioneered many well-regarded collaborations, including ongoing work with Old Dominion University's engineering department to develop a simulator for teaching surgeons the Nuss procedure. Another collaboration with ODU's department of psychology has grown out of the multicenter study and examines body image effects following correction of pectus carinatum.  

Dr. Kelly, who completed fellowships in surgical research at UCLA and pediatric surgery at Children's Hospital of Buffalo, has published more than 55 research studies, along with a number of book chapters. A sought-after speaker, he has lectured at medical conferences around the world. He is a devoted educator, and has been recognized by the surgical residents at EVMS for outstanding service to teaching and education.

Dr. Kelly graduated from Spring Hill College in Mobile, Ala., before beginning his pursuit of a pediatric medicine career. His wife, Cynthia, practices pediatric allergy and immunology at CHKD. The couple has three children.

  • American College of Surgeons (fellow)
  • American Pediatric Surgical Association (fellow)
  • American Academy of Pediatrics Surgical Section
Special Interests
Honors & Awards
  • Coastal Virginia Magazine "Top Doc" 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2018, 2019, 2021
  • Health Care Hero, Inside Business 2017

Dr. Kelly's published research can be viewed at PubMed

Recent publications

A Note from Dr. Kelly

“It has been exciting to be part of CHKD’s transition from a good community hospital to a world leader over the last 20 years. On a daily basis, everyone seeks the best for the patient and works together to obtain it. Not in theory or on paper, but in reality.”

(757) 668-7703

Surgeon Robert Kelly explains Nuss Procedure