Vanderbilt Institute for Global Health

Contact Information
Section of Surgical Sciences
D-4311 Medical Center North
Nashville, Tennessee 37232-2730


M.D., Vanderbilt University School of Medicine

Link to Website

John Tarpley M.D.

Professor, Department of Surgery, Section of Surgical Sciences

Dr. Tarpley completed his undergraduate education at Vanderbilt University and attended the Vanderbilt University School of Medicine before training in surgery at the Johns Hopkins Hospital beginning in 1970. He spent two years at the National Cancer Institute, Surgery Branch during residency. After completing general surgery residency, Dr. Tarpley committed himself to surgical education for an underserved population. He spent 15 years in southwest Nigeria directing house-officer training at the Baptist Medical Centre, Ogbomoso. He continues to visit Nigeria annually to teach and cultivate long-time relationships and remains an active member of the West African College of Surgeons. 

He returned to the Nashville VA hospital and the Vanderbilt faculty in 1993. He has taught medical school electives in Spirituality in Medicine, History of Medicine, and Topics in International Medicine. He has received teaching awards locally and nationally and has been designated a Master Clinical Teacher at Vanderbilt. The Society for Black Academic Surgeons elected him an honorary member in 2005 in recognition of his service for underrepresented minorities. 

Dr. Tarpley is a Professor of Surgery and Anesthesiology and the Program Director of General Surgery at Vanderbilt. His clinical practice is at the Nashville VA hospital, where he is Chief of General Surgery, Nashville campus. Surgical education, esophageal cancer, international health, history of medicine, and the role of spirituality in surgical practice are areas of particular interest.

Dr. Tarpley was the President of the Association of VA Surgeons in 2009. He completed a term as President of the Association of Program Directors in Surgery in 2008.

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