Justin Chambers to depart 'Grey's Anatomy' after 16 seasons

When a show that's been around for a whopping 16 seasons sees an original cast member and fan-favorite leave, it can feel like a devastating blow to fans.

Through Grey's Anatomy's 15 years on the air, the cast members and their tangled storylines have felt like family members to loyal viewers, which makes Friday's shocking news that one main actor will be departing the show all the more heartbreaking.

Justin Chambers, who plays Dr. Alex Karev on the show, will be departing from the series.

He was most recently seen on screen during the episode aired on November 14 and was the 350th episode of the series.   

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Justin Chambers as Dr. Alex Karev on 'Grey's Anatomy'
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Justin Chambers as Dr. Alex Karev on 'Grey's Anatomy'
GREY'S ANATOMY - "My Shot" - Meredith faces the medical board as her future as a doctor remains uncertain, and she's forced to reckon with her past in some challenging ways. Meanwhile, the interns are put to the test as they are each vying to be the most successful on their respective cases in the absence of some of the attendings on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, NOV. 14 (8:00-9:01 p.m. EST), on ABC. (Kelsey McNeal/ABC via Getty Images) JUSTIN CHAMBERS
GREY'S ANATOMY - "It's Raining Men" - After Meredith inadvertently stirs up negative press for Grey Sloan, she tries to make things right with her former colleagues, jeopardizing her community service hours. Station 19's Ben and Vic bring a young woman into the hospital, and Jackson stands up to Koracick when he goes too far with a patient's family. Meanwhile, Bailey receives unexpected news; and Owen finds himself at Pac-Gen North, which Alex sees as a recruiting opportunity on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, OCT. 17 (8:00-9:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (Kelsey McNeal via Getty Images) TIMOTHY E. GOODWIN, ANDY COHEN, JUSTIN CHAMBERS
GREY'S ANATOMY - "It's Raining Men" - After Meredith inadvertently stirs up negative press for Grey Sloan, she tries to make things right with her former colleagues, jeopardizing her community service hours. Station 19's Ben and Vic bring a young woman into the hospital, and Jackson stands up to Koracick when he goes too far with a patient's family. Meanwhile, Bailey receives unexpected news; and Owen finds himself at Pac-Gen North, which Alex sees as a recruiting opportunity on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, OCT. 17 (8:00-9:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (Kelsey McNeal via Getty Images) KEVIN MCKIDD, JUSTIN CHAMBERS, ANDY COHEN
GREY'S ANATOMY - "Whistlin' Past the Graveyard" - Alex is hoping to impress investors at Pac-Gen North, but when he hears disturbing news about skeletons on the construction site grounds, he enlists Richard to help with distraction tactics. Teddy feels the pressure to be super-mom after tasking herself with creating original Halloween costumes for Allison and Leo, while Meredith fears she won't make it home in time for trick-or-treating with her kids. Elsewhere, Jackson tends to a pediatric patient who is upset she is spending her Halloween in a hospital on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, OCT. 31 (8:00-9:01 p.m. EDT), on ABC. (Kelsey McNeal via Getty Images) JAMES PICKENS JR., JUSTIN CHAMBERS
GREY'S ANATOMY - "Jump into the Fog" - As fog begins to cover Seattle, the doctors of Grey Sloan navigate through personal complications. Meredith and Alex attempt to save Gus, while Levi talks some sense into a struggling Nico, on the season finale of "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, MAY 16 (8:00-9:01 p.m. EDT), on The Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Jessica Brooks via Getty Images) JAMES PICKENS JR., ELLEN POMPEO, JUSTIN CHAMBERS, DEBBIE ALLEN
GREY'S ANATOMY - "The Bed's Too Big Without You" - April stays optimistic as Arizona begins testing on her baby; Dr. Herman plans out a crash course in fetal surgery; and Owen and Callie encourage each other to get back into the dating scene. Meanwhile, Meredith, Maggie and Bailey use the 3D printer to gain a better understanding of their patient's tumor, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 5 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Ron Tom/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - "One Flight Down" - A small plane crash in Seattle causes multiple casualties and brings back horrible memories for the doctors, especially Meredith and Arizona. Meanwhile, friction between Owen and Amelia makes for an uncomfortable working situation for Stephanie, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, APRIL 16 (8:00-9:00 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Mitchell Haaseth/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)
GREY'S ANATOMY - "Take It Back" - The doctors face the consequences of the events that took place at April's wedding. Meredith feels betrayed when Derek goes back on a promise, Alex is furious after returning to the hospital and hearing the news about his father, and Arizona and Callie decide whether or not to move forward together. Meanwhile, Bailey realizes she was wrong about the motive behind Ben's decision to move back to Seattle, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Eric McCandless/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) SANDRA OH, GAIUS CHARLES, JUSTIN CHAMBERS, ELLEN POMPEO
GREY'S ANATOMY - "Take It Back" - The doctors face the consequences of the events that took place at April's wedding. Meredith feels betrayed when Derek goes back on a promise, Alex is furious after returning to the hospital and hearing the news about his father, and Arizona and Callie decide whether or not to move forward together. Meanwhile, Bailey realizes she was wrong about the motive behind Ben's decision to move back to Seattle, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 27 (9:00-10:00 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Eric McCandless/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) JUSTIN CHAMBERS, JAMES REMAR
GREY'S ANATOMY - "Sleeping Monster" - Bailey finds herself at the center of a CDC investigation surrounding the death of several of her patients, as Jackson and the rest of the board members argue over how to address the crisis with the public. Meanwhile, Cristina teases Alex about his unspoken feelings for Jo, and Owen continues to take special care of Ethan as the condition of his parents remains uncertain, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, APRIL 25 (9:00-10:02 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Richard Cartwright/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) JUSTIN CHAMBERS
GREY'S ANATOMY - "I Was Made for Lovin' You" - Cristina and Owen continue to figure out their relationship amidst the pending lawsuit; and Bailey argues with Ben over plans for their upcoming nuptials. Meanwhile, Callie recruits Jackson to help find a solution to Derek's hand, but he is preoccupied by a shocking situation with April, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 29 (9:00-10:02 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Kelsey McNeal/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) JUSTIN CHAMBERS, JESSICA CAPSHAW
GREY'S ANATOMY - "Migration" - The residents determine their future as they make their final decisions regarding post residency positions; Mark admits to Derek that he is torn between his love for Lexie and the fact that Julia can give him everything he's ever wanted; Ben plans something extra special for Bailey, but she is preoccupied with her work; and Arizona encourages her childhood friend, Nick, to have surgery. Meanwhile a couple on their third honeymoon come to the hospital complaining of mysterious symptoms, on Grey's Anatomy, THURSDAY, MAY 10 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Richard Cartwright / Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) JUSTIN CHAMBERS, JESSE WILLIAMS
GREY'S ANATOMY - "Take the Lead" - The Chief makes a career-changing decision that shocks Seattle Grace Hospital; Cristina and Owen try to find normalcy in their relationship; April continues to struggle in her new role; and the 5th year residents are given their first solo surgeries, only to find out that even the most routine procedures aren't always easy, on Grey's Anatomy, THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 29 (9:00-10:02 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Jordin Althaus/ Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)ELLEN POMPEO, SANDRA OH, JESSE WILLIAMS, JUSTIN CHAMBERS
GREY'S ANATOMY - "This Is How We Do It" - Richard is desperate for Derek and Meredith to accept Adele into their Alzheimer's trial, but will Adele stand in her own way? Meanwhile Mark and Arizona have conflicting ideas of the kind of baby shower Callie wants, Teddy is freaked out when Henry has another health complication -- leaving them both a little exposed -- and the competitiveness amongst the residents for the Chief Resident position is amplified when Richard receives the green light for his diabetes clinical trial, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, MARCH 24 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Ron Tom/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)JUSTIN CHAMBERS, SARAH DREW
GREY'S ANATOMY - "I Will Survive" - Personal and work pressures are adding up and have Meredith visibly on edge, Owen conducts formal interviews for the Chief Resident position, Cristina grows increasingly defiant, Alex and Lucy's undefined relationship gets tested, and Jackson suddenly backs out of the Webber's diabetes trial, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, MAY 12 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Adam Taylor/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images)JUSTIN CHAMBERS
GREY'S ANATOMY - "Sympathy for the Parents" - When Alex's younger brother, Aaron, shows up at Seattle Grace-Mercy West with a hernia, it's up to Alex to get Bailey's approval for his pro bono surgery. Matters are further complicated when Aaron discloses that his family has not heard from Alex since he arrived in Seattle, and parts of Alex's past long kept secret are revealed to his friends and fellow doctors, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, APRIL 1 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Ron Tom/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) ELLEN POMPEO, JUSTIN CHAMBERS, CHANDRA WILSON, JAKE MCLAUGHLIN
GREY'S ANATOMY - "I Saw What I Saw" - After a burn victim unexpectedly dies in the midst of a chaotic ER, the Chief and board member Jennings interrogate the residents to find the culprit, as all the Mercy West and Seattle Grace resident defends their actions in an effort to save their jobs, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, OCTOBER 22 (9:00-10:01 p.m., ET) on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Ron Tom/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) SANDRA OH, CHYLER LEIGH, JUSTIN CHAMBERS
GREY'S ANATOMY - "At Last" - Owen and Amelia take their relationship to the next level; Alex gains some clarity on his future with Jo; and Callie and Arizona continue to struggle with the current custody arrangement, on "Grey's Anatomy," THURSDAY, MAY 12 (8:00-9:00 p.m. EDT), on the Walt Disney Television via Getty Images Television Network. (Photo by Kelsey McNeal/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images) JUSTIN CHAMBERS
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Chambers announced his decision in an exclusive statement to Deadline:

“There’s no good time to say goodbye to a show and character that’s defined so much of my life for the past 15 years. For some time now, however, I have hoped to diversify my acting roles and career choices. And, as I turn 50 and am blessed with my remarkable, supportive wife and five wonderful children, now is that time. As I move on from Grey’s Anatomy, I want to thank the ABC family, Shonda Rimes, original cast members Ellen Pompeo, Chandra Wilson and James Pickens, and the rest of the amazing cast and crew, both past and present, and, of course, the fans for an extraordinary ride."

Chambers has been on the show since its premiere in 2005 where his character was introduced to viewers as a surgical intern at Seattle Grace Hospital.

He ended the series as Chief of Staff and Surgery at Pacific Northwest General Hospital.

Karev was notoriously married to Izzie Stevens (played by Katherine Heigl) and later married again to Jo Wilson (played by Camilla Luddington).

Fans were heartbroken upon hearing the news, taking it to social media to express their frustrations:

Grey's Anatomy will return on Thursday, January 23, 2020 at 9:00 p.m. ET on ABC. 

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