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Department of Surgery News - 2019

Guiding Lights: UC San Diego Launches Center for Fluorescence-Guided Surgery

December 5, 2019–In the 1990’s, Nobel Laureate Roger Tsien, PhD, took some of the first dramatic steps to revolutionize the field of surgery by introducing the concept of using fluorescence to light up cells for easy identification. What had started with bioluminescent jellyfish had moved through labs and Petri dishes to become a lifesaving imaging tool for surgeons — now in everyday practice at UC San Diego Heath.

Orloffs Remembered at Dinner and Lecture on “Surgical Leadership: Lessons Learned”

November 30, 2019–Oftentimes, leaders are thought to be lone warriors who depend on an innate sense of heroism to pave the way. But according to Layton “Bing” Rikkers, MD, FACS, that’s not how a true leader behaves. Dr. Rikkers is Professor Emeritus of Surgery at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, where he served as the A.R. Curreri Professor of Surgery and Chairman from 1996-2009. He has, in addition, led a long-time leadership training through the American College of Surgeons. Late last month Dr. Rikkers presented the UC San Diego Department of Surgery Marshall J. Orloff Lecture on “Surgical Leadership: Lessons Learned,” which deconstructed the qualities of a good leader as reflected in two books Dr. Rikkers considers to be personally influential: “Primal Leadership” by Daniel Goleman and “Leadership Secrets of Attila the Hun” by Wess Roberts.

Field Excursion to Mozambique: ‘The Best Version of Healthcare is Somewhere in Between’

November 30, 2019–If you live in the East African country of Mozambique and you get hurt or sick, you can't rely on the 911 emergency infrastructure, because there isn't one. There are no ambulances, either, and if you somehow make it to the main hospital, there is no trauma bay. Factor in a major physician shortage (estimated at one per 37,000 residents), a lack of clinical equipment and a disease burden that includes HIV, tuberculosis, malaria and advanced-stage cancers, and you have a health system that is truly struggling – but not one without hope.

UC San Diego Department of Surgery Well Represented at American College of Surgeons Clinical Congress

October 30, 2019–The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Clinical Congress is a premier annual surgical meeting for surgeons, surgery residents, medical students, and members of surgical teams. The UC San Diego Department of Surgery was well represented at this year’s Clinical Congress, which was held from Oct. 27-31 in San Francisco.

Dr. Kristin Mekeel Appointed Division Chief of Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery

October 30, 2019–We are pleased to announce the appointment of Dr. Kristin Mekeel to the role of Chief of the Division of Transplantation and Hepatobiliary Surgery in the Department of Surgery.

Dr. Mekeel holds the rank of Professor of Clinical Surgery and has served since October of 2017 as the Interim Chief of the Division. In this capacity, she has performed admirably in bringing the clinical and academic programs forward to a level of excellence not previously seen at UC San Diego. Under her direction and in concert with multidisciplinary partners, the programs in liver and kidney transplantation are busier than in all prior years and as a result are positively impacting the lives of many more patients throughout the region. The quality of liver and kidney transplantation outcomes performed at UC San Diego have continued to improve and are now among the best in the country.

Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery Dominates Western Vascular Society Annual Meeting

October 30, 2019–From Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, academic affiliates of the UC San Diego Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery participated in the Western Vascular Society Annual Meeting in Hawaii. Of the 64 plenary presentations, five were from UC San Diego, which was more presentations than any other academic institution in the western United States. Dr. Andrew Barleban and Asma Mathlouthi presented the remarkable long-term outcomes of the Ovation Endograft, a unique solution for difficult Abdominal Aortic Aneurysm (AAA) repair. Dr. Dakour Aridi shared the outcomes of balloon angioplasty of carotid artery stenting and Dr. Satinderjit Locham presented the impact of volume on outcomes of complex thoracoabdominal aortic aneurysm repair. Dr. Mahmoud Malas presented his work on the outcomes of TransCarotid Artery Revascularization (TCAR) with dynamic cerebral blood flow reversal.

UC San Diego Health Successfully Completes Joint Commission Survey

October 30, 2019–I am pleased to announce that we have successfully completed The Joint Commission's (TJC) triennial survey of UC San Diego Health. Surveyors spent five days thoroughly evaluating our locations using the Survey Analysis For Evaluating Risk (SAFER) methodology. The SAFER method measured our performance against advanced requirements for mitigating harm. Key elements of the survey included enhanced medical record reviews along with reviews of our data management, infection control, medication management, environment of care, emergency management, and credentialing and privileging.

Leading the Way in Salivary Surgery

September 23, 2019–The UC San Diego Health Head & Neck Center is at the forefront of clinical practice and research in several aspects of the management of salivary gland disorders. Dr. Charley Coffey has developed a wide referral base for the use of salivary endoscopy and extended gland-preserving techniques for the management of inflammatory salivary diseases, and serves on the faculty of courses which seek to foster expertise in these techniques amongst head & neck surgeons.

Predicting Overall Survival in Patients with Metastatic Rectal Cancer: A Machine-Learning Approach

September 23, 2019–Colon and rectal cancer is now the fourth most common cancer diagnosis in the United States. Although scientific advances in recent years have improved overall survival rates for metastatic disease, overall survival remains highly variable. A study led by Beiqun "Mark" Zhao, MD and co-authored by Bryan Clary, MD, recently published in the Journal of Gastrointestinal Surgery, analyzed how machine learning can more accurately predict survival of patients with colorectal cancer.

UC San Diego Faculty Named Top Docs in San Diego Magazine Survey

September 23, 2019–More than 120 UC San Diego Health physicians in 47 specialties were named "Top Docs" in the annual San Diego Magazine "Physicians of Exceptional Excellence" survey. These outstanding physicians were recognized among San Diego County's best doctors by their peers.

U.S. Surgeon General Jerome Adams Shares “Priorities of the Nation’s Doctor”

July 28, 2019–He likes to joke that he's not a surgeon, and he's certainly not a general. But Surgeon General Jerome Adams, MD, MPH, is, in fact, "the nation's doctor," and he paid a visit to several departments within the UC San Diego School of Medicine at combined Grand Rounds earlier this month to share his priorities for the country as it moves into a new era of healthcare challenges.

UC San Diego Heart Transplant Program Boasts Nation’s Best Survival Rates

July 28, 2019–The heart transplant program at UC San Diego Health has demonstrated the best one-year survival rate for patients in the United States among health care providers with a volume of more than 50 heart transplants per year, according to the Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients (SRTR).

Honor Walks for Our Organ Donors

July 28, 2019–Earlier this month, UC San Diego Health, in partnership with Lifesharing, will begin conducting "Honor Walks" to acknowledge and express our deep gratitude for our organ donors.

These special events will occur inside our hospitals, both at Hillcrest and La Jolla, as a demonstration of respect and tribute to patients who, at the end of their lives, chose to selflessly donate organs with the intention of saving lives.

Dr. Sharona Ben-Haim Performs First-In-Kind Procedure to Treat Refractory Epilepsy

July 28, 2019–With the aid of new upgraded technology in the Jacobs Medical Center Neurosurgery suites, UC San Diego Neurosurgeon Sharona Ben-Haim, MD, recently was able to perform what is thought to be a first-in-kind procedure on a patient suffering from refractory epilepsy, a type of epilepsy that can't be treated with medication.

Dr. Kristin Mekeel Takes On Role as Medical Director of Surgical Quality

July 28, 2019–We are pleased to announce that Dr. Kristin L. Mekeel has accepted the role of Medical Director of Surgical Quality for UC San Diego Health. Dr. Mekeel was among the many qualified candidates who underwent a two-round interview process with a panel that included UC San Diego Health leadership, including CEO Patty Maysent, Financial Analyst Lisa Rhodes, Dr. Ruth Waterman, Chief of Quality and Patient Safety Chad VanDenBerg, Dr. Mike McHale and Dr. Joseph Califano. Please join us in congratulating Dr. Mekeel in her new role.

General Surgery Residents Take a Fond Look Back Before Graduation

June 27, 2019–Residency can be one of the most stressful and busy times in a surgeon’s fledgling career. Surgery residents learn the ins and outs of the field by becoming fully immersed in the life of a surgeon. Fresh out of medical school, surgery residents are put on the front lines of the field. They work long hours in order to gain exposure to the complex surgical procedures they one day hope to lead. Subsequently, they deal with tremendous stress and pressure. Despite its immense difficulty, it is a time of self discovery and maturation, both professionally and personally.

Undergraduates Delve into Library Collections to Develop Award-Winning Research

June 27, 2019–This year’s students– including first-prize winner Jaideep Chakladar, who was mentored by Department of Surgery Associate Professor Weg Ongkeko – explored theories about the microbiome and its connection to cancer progression.

2019 Research Symposium in Surgical Sciences: “Sparking Partnerships, Potentials and Inspiration”

May 30, 2019–The UC San Diego Department of Surgery held its annual Research Symposium in Surgical Sciences earlier this month, with a record-breaking 91 abstracts submitted from researchers working in both basic and clinical and outcomes research from nearly every division within the department.

Dr. Joseph Tector Presents Marshall J. Orloff Lecture – “Xenotransplantation: Moving Toward Clinical Implementation”

May 30, 2019–Dr. Joseph Tector, MD, PhD, FACS, a professor of surgery and director of the Xenotransplant Program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, delivered the UC San Diego School of Medicine’s annual Marshall J. Orloff Lecture last month on his work to determine the effectiveness of combining genetic modification with immune suppression to conduct kidney xenotransplantation, or transplantation from one species to another.

Humans of Surgery

March 26, 2019–Humans of Surgery, created by Lindsay Morgan (Communications Director for the Department of Surgery from 2017-2019), shares the stories of the people who strive every day to give quality care to patients.

2019 MATCH Results

March 15, 2019–The National Resident Matching Program announced the results of the 2019 Main Residency Match. The Department of Surgery is thrilled to welcome our 2019 class of interns—in general surgery, plastic surgery, otolaryngology, and neurosurgery—and to begin another year educating the best and brightest in academic surgery.

Rare Condition Results in Placing Patient’s Kidney in Pelvis

March 14, 2019–Julianne Bachman was in such debilitating pain a year ago that she had to take a leave of absence from her job as a science teacher and used a walker and abdominal brace to move around. She found herself in the emergency room just a few weeks later. An MRI determined Bachman had a rare condition called nutcracker syndrome. Kristin Mekeel, MD, a transplant and hepatobiliary surgeon at UC San Diego Health and her team performed an autotransplant.

FDA approves tumor localization device based on UC San Diego microparticle technology

March 1, 2019–Cancer screening is better than ever at identifying tumors, including very small ones. But small, nonpalpable tumors remain challenging for surgeons to identify (and thus eliminate completely, microscopically) in the operating room. Dr. Sarah Blair, Professor of Surgery in the Division of Breast Surgery, who specializes in breast cancer, was awarded an NIH grant in 2011 to continue research into the use of the stationary silica particles for tumor localization.

Joseph Califano Named Physician-In-Chief, Moores Cancer Center

February 26, 2019–Dr. Joseph Califano III has been named Physician-In-Chief for Moores Cancer Center at UC San Diego Health. Moores Cancer Center is the only NCI-designated Comprehensive Cancer Center in San Diego. Dr. Califano will retain his roles as Professor of Surgery and Director of the Head and Neck Cancer Center, as well as maintain an active clinical practice in head and neck surgery.

SPECIAL REPORT: Engineering the Future of Surgery

February 19, 2019–Collaborations between engineers and surgeons in the UC San Diego Institute of Engineering in Medicine are helping to drive the next generation of medical care. This story looks at three recent collaborations: one aimed at developing a treatment for pancreatic cancer; another focused on ensuring telesurgery can be done safely and efficiently; and a training course in which engineering students shadow physicians as they visit patients, perform surgeries and diagnose disease.

Expanding Surgical Services at Hillcrest Medical Center

February 18, 2019–When UC San Diego announced in 2005 its plan to consolidate its Hillcrest and La Jolla medical operations under one roof in La Jolla (more than 10 miles north of Hillcrest—and many more for San Diego's southern population), many worried that the Hillcrest Medical Center—and the community it serves—would be abandoned. But rather than being abandoned, Hillcrest is in the midst of what will be a major redevelopment, one that includes a significant expansion of surgical services.

Changing Lives Through Living Donor Kidney Transplant

February 5, 2019–There are more than 100,000 people on the waitlist for a kidney in the United States—20,000 in California alone—and only about 10,000 deceased donors per year. In California, a patient with blood type O or B will wait 10-15 years for a kidney transplant. Living donation reduces the time sick patients spend on the wait list in addition to other health benefits. Living donation is on the rise at UC San Diego, with a more than 100% increase in the number of living donor kidney transplants since 2014.

Jason Sicklick Reports from Canada and Europe

January 16, 2019–Dr. Jason Sicklick, a surgical oncologist and Associate Professor of Surgery, was in Toronto in October and Italy in November as part of his travels for the James IV Association of Surgeons Traveling Fellowship, which supports young, academic surgeons for a four-week period of travel, with the goal of promoting communication and collaboration in the surgical community. Here are the highlights of the Toronto and Italian legs of his James IV travels.

Q&A with Amanda Gosman

January 15, 2019–Dr. Amanda Gosman was recently named Chief of the Division of Plastic Surgery at UC San Diego. She also serves as Director of Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery; as the Chief of Plastic Surgery at Rady Children's Hospital; and as Director of the Plastic Surgery Residency Program. In this interview she discusses her hopes for the Division of Plastic Surgery in patient care, training and research; and shares the unlikely road that led her to medicine.