Spring 2021 Newsletter
People connect to the world by their facial expressions. The ability to express emotions through a smile is a uniquely human response that evolved to enhance social interaction and connectedness. A smile can show a myriad of emotions from happiness to love that bond friends, family, and even strangers together. Individuals who experience facial paralysis have difficulty expressing their emotions through their face because they are unable to move their mouth, eyelids, or forehead due to congenital conditions or acquired causes, including cancer, trauma, and infectious disease.
Children younger than age one rarely have liver transplant surgery, which can be especially complex and risky in infants. But the parents of four-month-old Noah Mann knew that this was his only option. Born with a rare metabolic disorder that affects the liver and leads to the accumulation of ammonia in the body, Noah was at risk for developmental delays, brain damage, and death unless he had a liver transplant as soon as possible.
In the midst of the pandemic, Duke University Hospital completed its 1,500th heart transplant in October 2020, a milestone achieved by only five other transplant centers nationwide. Surgeons performed the first heart transplant at Duke in 1985, and the hospital recorded its 1,000th heart transplant in 2014. "It’s taken us six years to accomplish the next milestone, which we think is of significance," says Dr. Chet Patel, Duke's medical director for heart transplants.
It’s Valentine’s Day 1985, and Kent Weinhold, PhD, is in the lab of his mentor Dani Bolognesi, PhD, cycling a series of pharmaceutical compounds through a scintillation counter to measure their effect on retrovirus counts. The research team had just discovered the world’s first treatment for HIV. By July of 1985, just 5 months later after a rapid clinical trial, the first patients at Duke and at the clinical center of the National Institutes of Health (NIH) were receiving HIV treatment. For any research facility, this scientific discovery is monumental; for it to happen within a Department of Surgery, is remarkable.
The COVID-19 vaccines are one of the greatest discoveries of the past 100 years. Their success has set new standards for how future vaccines should be designed and manufactured: a well-documented safety record, an excellent efficacy rate (up to 95%), and an accelerated production timeline compared with traditional vaccines. The novel mRNA technology that brought about this success was based on decades of research, including seminal work in the Division of Surgical Sciences.
Established in 2015, the Master Surgeon title “establishes a living memory of an individual who has exemplified the ideals of Duke Surgery." In mid-2020, a cohort of 15 Section of Surgical Disciplines faculty members began a coordinated effort to evaluate how the Master Surgeon designation could be more inclusive of women and other underrepresented minorities in surgery.
A certain group in this nation eagerly looks forward to March—medical students. To them, March is the start of a long, challenging, but rewarding journey. The ticket they need to begin will be revealed on Match Day. Match Day is when a national system decides the path of these future doctors. In a time of awareness for the need for diversity within institutions to fully meet medical needs of patients from all walks of life, how can medical institutions use the same system to recruit a strong, diverse group of residents?
The U.S. News & World Report has ranked the Duke University School of Medicine 2nd in surgery among the best medical schools in the country. Specialty rankings for participating schools are determined by medical school deans and senior faculty from the 122 schools surveyed.
Congratulations to Debra L. Sudan, MD, Professor and Chief, Division of Abdominal Transplant Surgery, on her recognition as the 2020 Master Surgeon. “I’m honored to have received the award; it has been unbelievable to be recognized in this way. The outpouring of support and kind words, both here at Duke and outside of Duke, has really been very touching,” says Dr. Sudan.
The Duke Section of Surgical Disciplines is pleased to announce the appointment of Edward P. Chen, MD, as the new Chief of the Division of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery. Dr. Chen comes to Duke from Emory University where he has served as the Section Head of Adult Cardiac Surgery and Director of Thoracic Aortic Surgery. His other roles at Emory have included Associate Program Director for the Thoracic Surgery Residency, Site Director for Resident Education at Emory St. Joseph’s Hospital and Executive Director of the Emory Healthcare Aortic Center Planning Steering Committee.
Richard Lucas McCann, MD, Professor of Surgery, passed away on Friday, February 5. Dr. McCann began his nearly five-decade career at Duke University in the 1970s as an intern under the direction of Dr. David C. Sabiston Jr. During his surgical training at Duke, he spent three years as a cardiovascular research fellow in addition to his general surgery training. His reputation as a talented surgeon led to his hiring as Assistant Professor at Duke after completion of his general surgery training in 1983.
The banner image reflects the dual nature of a Duke surgeon's role: that of the healer and the scientist, which when combined can positively impact the lives of patients. In the Department of Surgery, the desire to heal and prevent disease spreads far from the operating rooms and the laboratories at Duke out onto the global stage. Illustration by Megan Llewellyn, CMI.
On behalf of the Section of Surgical Disciplines, the communications team would like to thank Brooke Walker, Communications Associate, for her many years of expertise in crafting and sharing the Duke Surgery story. We wish her the best of luck in her next venture!