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The Maryland Dissector Newsletter

Winter 2021

Vol. 1 Issue 2

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Letter from Chair | Promoted Faculty | Research Spotlight | Clinical Spotlight | Culture/Diversity | Welcome New Faculty | Grants | Service Excellence | Six Degrees of Surgery | Archive

Letter from the Chair

Christine Lau

Christine Lau, MD, MBA

Happy New Year, and welcome to the second edition of the Department of Surgery's Newsletter, The Maryland Dissector. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted everyone throughout 2020, and divisiveness and social and racial inequalities came to a head in our great country. However, I draw your attention to the great multitude of accomplishments that occurred during these trying times. Despite the challenges we gained a strength that allows for even more remarkable achievements in the future.

Our faculty, residents, and staff demonstrated a grit this past year that facilitated continued delivery of excellent patient care, all while enduring persistent change. Many members of the Department flexed to assist in response to COVID-19 during the first surge. Our residents accepted additional responsibilities as hospital staff members were pulled to cover the respective COVID units. Yet, while clinical roles evolved for everyone, multiple research initiatives focused on the response to COVID-19, demonstrating the level of innovation and excellence common to the Department of Surgery.

As we approach the midway point of the academic year, it is essential to reflect on the continued growth of the department's research portfolio and its impact on achieving the department’s mission. Multiple faculty members achieved new National Institute of Health funding, VA I01 Merit Grants, and a Patient-Centered Outcomes Research Institute (PCORI) award. The continued increase in research funding truly demonstrates our faculty, residents, and staff’s drive for excellence.

We also reflect on other critical aspects of academic medicine, including the continued growth and expansion of the services offered by the department throughout the surrounding geographic area. Recruiting multiple new faculty members to the department encouraged continued development and extension of clinical services, even expanding the departments' practices into previously inaccessible areas. This expansion into areas that once did not have access to the excellent and innovative care offered by the University of Maryland, enables patients’ receipt of state-of-the-art treatments, all while remaining closer to home for a majority of their initial evaluations, post-operative visits, and long-term follow-up.

For many, the constant sense of change rendered the last year some of the most arduous times in their personal and professional lives. Yet, the Department of Surgery emerged even stronger. Please continue to take care of yourselves, your families, and your colleagues. Better days are on the horizon.

Best wishes,

Christine Lau, MD, MBA


Dr. Lau Celebrates Recently Promoted Faculty


 Left to Right: Dr. Christine Lau, Dr. Doug Turner, Dr. John Lamattina and Dr. Andrea Bafford

Additional promoted faculty:

            

       Dr. Kerry Latham                    Dr. Joseph Scalea                Dr. Silke Niederhaus          Dr. Shahab Toursavadkohi


Clinical Spotlight

Valeria Mas, MS, PhD, FAST
Chief, Surgical Science Division

New Surgical Science Division

In FY20, the Department of Surgery added a new division under the leadership of Valeria Mas, MS, PhD, FAST, Professor of Surgery, Chief Surgical Science Division.

Dr. Mas is a cellular and molecular transplant researcher with expertise in high-throughput molecular applications and big data analyses aimed to evaluate epigenetics modifications and regulation of gene expression in conditions associated with kidney, liver, and lung transplantation. She was the Director and Founder of the Transplant Research Institute at University of Tennessee Health Science Center. She is the former Director of the Molecular Transplant Research Laboratory at University of Virginia, and previously, she was the Director of the Transplant Genomics Laboratory at Virginia Commonwealth University. She has extensive experience with NIH and industry-funded, investigator-initiated studies. During the last 18 years, she conducted studies in genomics and proteomics related to kidney and liver transplant recipients. Dr. Mas’ resume further includes more than 120 peer review publications and extensive experience as grant reviewer for federal and non-federal funding agencies. She is currently a member of the PBKD study section at NIDDK-NIH.

Dr. Mas’ lab research projects mainly focus on evaluating the molecular pathways that associate with graft fibrosis development and loss of function post-kidney transplantation, test the effects of organ donor biology in short-and long-term outcomes post-transplantation, and identify early biomarkers that distinguish those organs at high risk of post-transplant dysfunction.

The overarching mission of the division is based on the integration of basic, translational, and clinical research at the Department of Surgery to improve patient outcomes by studying the mechanisms involved in several diseases. Their mechanistic research currently includes efforts to understand barriers in solid organ transplantation, by exploration of cellular and molecular pathways affecting the graft post-transplantation. They also explore immunologic aspects of chronic diseases leading to transplantation. Important efforts aim to expand the available donor organ pool for transplantation by improving evaluation of donor organ quality and exploring strategies for revitalization of organs ex vivo. The long-term aim is to expand and align their ongoing studies with active research at the different divisions that form our Department and expand the overall research portfolio in the Department of Surgery.


Research Spotlight

Dr. Krupnick and his Team Preparing for Clinical Trials of New Drug

Left to right front row: Dr.Dong Ge Li,  Dr. Bayan Mahgoub, Dr. Sasha Krupnick, Dr. Anirban Banerjee
Left to right back row: Dr. Alex Mei, Dr. Yizhan Guo, Dr. Atsushi Hata 

Alexander Sasha Krupnick, MD
Professor of Surgery 
Division of Thoracic Surgery

Alexander Sasha Krupnick, MD, Professor of Surgery, Division of Thoracic Surgery, and his team have developed a drug especially designed to improve natural killer cell function that is expected to begin human clinical trials as early as this year.

Over the last several years, Dr. Krupnick’s laboratory developed an interest in lung cancer immunotherapy. He made the discovery that immunologic control of lung cancer depends on the inherent function of a cell population known as the natural killer cell. His laboratory went on to describe biologic reasons why individuals with poor natural killer cell function are susceptible and those with robust natural killer cell function are resistant to the development of lung cancer.

Dr. Krupnick specializes in the treatment of lung cancer, esophageal cancer, lung transplantation as well as benign thoracic disorders. He dedicated his career to advancing the field of lung transplantation and was recruited as the Surgical Director of the University of Maryland Lung Transplant Program. His laboratory focuses on the development of new and novel mechanisms of immunosuppression for the lung allograft. “Maryland is a wonderful place with great scientific depth of immunologic and non-immunologic knowledge and that is what makes the ability to translate research here so exciting. So, not only are we making new discoveries we develop clinical applications” stated Dr. Krupnick.

Currently Dr. Krupnick and his core team focus on two main areas, lung transplant and lung cancer. Yizhan Guo, MD, Alex Mei, MD and Amir Minafi, MD are looking at lung transplantation and how the immune system breaks lungs. The focus is on acceptance and tolerance. Anirban Banerjee, MD and Dong Ge Li, MD are researching lung cancer and asking the question why lung cancer is not rejected by the immune system.

Dr. Krupnick and his colleagues developed the world’s first mouse model of vascularized lung transplantation that mirrors human physiology. This model allows for multiple avenues of investigation into both tolerance induction and rejection and facilitated the development of novel immunosuppression therapies. His laboratory made several seminal discoveries regarding the role of the gut microbiome in chronic rejection, the role of previously unrecognized cell types (such as the eosinophil) in tolerance induction as well as mechanisms of early immunologic intervention that can induce long-term graft survival.


Culture/Diversity

The Powerful Combination of Medicine and Business


    Kim Lumpkins, MD, MBA             Michael Naslund, MD, MBA            Christine Lau, MD MBA

Thinking about getting your Masters in Business Administration (MBA)? Kimberly Lumpkins, MD, MBA, FACS, FRCS (ENG), Associate Professor of Surgery, Division of Pediatric Surgery & Urology, UMSOM, recently completed her Executive MBA at the University of Maryland. “Taking stock of my skills as I became midcareer faculty, I felt that I needed to gain more exposure to business and finance,” said Dr. Lumpkins, adding, “I went straight to medical school from college and had no corporate experience. Although, I understand that business savvy is critical for leadership in medicine.” She initially applied to the Robert H. Smith School of Business online program, but the director of admissions highly recommended their Executive MBA Program instead. The benefits of the Executive MBA Program include a strong cohort of senior executives for networking as well as a personal executive coach. The program is 18-months long and is all-day, every other Friday and Saturday. “It was intense; the workload is quite high. Particularly in corporate finance and accounting, there is a lot of homework and group projects which can be hard to balance on top of call” she stated. Nevertheless, she enjoyed the experience. “My classmates are an amazing cross-section of people from every industry. These connections will last a lifetime. My executive coach was a former White House official and is highly sought by senior government officials and CEOs. His perspective and advice were invaluable” Dr. Lumpkins explained.

Michael Naslund, MD, MBA, Professor of Surgery, Urology Surgeon-in-Chief, also has his MBA. He went to the Wharton MBA Program at the University of Philadelphia. The program was every other Friday and Saturday for two years. Dr. Naslund said “what helped me most is what I learned about managing people. The finance I learned allowed me to get involved in the cost/benefit analysis of research as well as projects which require basic finance knowledge. We also had a course on negotiation. This has been very helpful a handful of times when trying to get something from the hospital.”

Christine Lau, MD, MBA, Dr. Robert W. Buxton Professor and Chair Department of Surgery, UMSOM received her MBA from University of Virginia, Darden. She honed her skills in accounting and finance and felt the leadership classes taught her unique pearls that she still uses daily. Dr. Lau made several contacts that she continues to call on to this day for advice and guidance.

The economic factors that shape our society and our healthcare require increasing understanding of the business of medicine. Visit https://www.rhsmith.umd.edu/programs/executive-mba for more information on Maryland’s Executive MBA.


Welcome New Faculty

Yizhan Guo, BM
Assistant Profefssor, Division of Thoracic Surgery

Yinin Hu, MD
Assistant Professor, Division of General and Oncologic Surgery

Charles Fox, MD
Associate Professor, Division of Vascular Surgery

Joel Linden, PhD
Professor, Division of Thoracic Surgery

Joseph Forbess, MD
Professor, Division of Cardiac Surgery
Surgical Director, Children’s Heart Program at the University of Maryland Children’s Hospital


Grants

The Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research have just published the Ranking Tables of NIH Funding to US Medical Research for 2020. Under the Clinical Science Department, Surgery, the University of Maryland Baltimore (UMB) has moved in its ranking to 12, with a total 2020 NIH award dollars recorded as $12,328,770. The Department ranking in 2019 was 18 and recorded NIH award dollars as $8,052,916. In comparison to surrounding institutions, JHU ranked 15 and Columbia 13 in 2020.

Three new faculty members either transferred or received new NIH funding in 2020, Dr. Christine Lau, Dr. Alexander Krupnick and Dr. Valeria Mas. In addition several other faculty within the Department received new awards and competitive renewals to the increasing award totals, Dr. Jonathan Bromberg, Dr. Areck Ucuzian, Dr. JY Wang and the faculty of IHV who have academic appointments in Surgery, Pan Zheng, Yin Wang and Yang Liu.

Blue Ridge Institute for Medical Research NIH Funding - SOM Surgery Ranking 13 Year History

YearRankNIH Award Dollars
2020 12 $12,328,770
2019 18 $8,052,916
2018 24 $5,361,931
2017 23 $5,144,784
2016 20 $4,405,093
2015 22 $4,575,010
2014 21 $4,380,754
2013 24 $3,844,771
2012 23 $4,300,787
2011 8 $7,103,672
2010 9 $8,459,942
2009 11 $8,404,738
2008 10 $8,254,332

The Department of Surgery received $2,130,804 for the period 9/1/2020 through 12/31/2020, Second Quarter 2021. The new awards are comprised of four Clinical Trials for $769,265, seven Research Agreements for $1,341,539 and one Training award for $20,000.

Cardiac received four awards, three awards to General Surgery appointed faculty who perform research at IHV, two awards to Thoracic Surgery, and one award each to Transplant, Urology and Vascular. There were three NIH awards, one NIH subaward, one Foundation award, and seven industry sponsored awards. Dr. Raphael Meier, Assistant Professor, Transplant Surgery received his first award from The Diabetes Research Connection for $25,234.

NIH- Pan Zheng, MD - $415,499.00- “A Mouse Model to Assess Long Term Immunotherapy-related Adverse Effects in Children”

NIH- Alexander Krupnick, MD- $358,261.00 - “The Role of Eosinophils in the Lung Allograft”

W.L. Gore & Associates, Inc. - Shahab Toursavadkohi, MD- $20,000.00- Educational Clinical Research Training Program

Abbott Vascular- James Gammie, MD - $93,763.54- “Clinical Trial to Evaluate the Safety and Effectiveness of Using the Tendyne Mitral Valve System for the Treatment of Symptomatic Mitral Regurgitation (SUMMIT)”

AbbVie, Inc. - Murtaza Dawood, MD- $330,709.99- “A Phase 2, Multi-Center, Randomized, Double-Blind, Placebo-Controlled, Dose-Ranging Study to Evaluate the Efficacy and Safety of Botulinum Toxin Type A (AGN-151607) Injections into the Epicardial Fat”

Diabetes Research Connection - Raphael Meier, MD-$25,234.00- “Genetic determinants of glucose homeostasis in pancreas donors for islet transplantation for type 1 diabetes”

NIH - Yang Liu, MD-$7,643.00- “Targeting Novel DAMP Mediated Signaling Pathways to Mitigate GVHD”

Edwards Lifesciences LLC - James Gammie, MD- $37,639.52-“Edwards Transcatheter Valve Tricuspid Replacement: Investigation of Safety and Clinical Efficacy using a Novel Device. TRISCEND Study”

Incyte Corporation - Alexander Krupnick, MD-$20,943.00-“JAK inhibition in animal models of lung allograft transplant”

NIH-Yin Wang, MD - $335,747.00-“Anticancer peptide therapeutics”

Merck & Co., Inc (NJ) - Mohummad Siddiqui, MD-$307,152.46- “A Phase 3, Randomized, Double-blind, Placebo-controlled Clinical Trial to Study the Efficacy and Safety of Pembrolizumab (MK-3475) in Combination With Chemoradiotherapy (CRT) versus CRT Alone in Parti”

Breethe, Inc. - Zhongjun Wu, MD-$178,212.00-“In-vivo animal evaluation of the Pump-Lung Unit (PLU) of the Breethe Portable ECMO system in sheep”


Service Excellence

Below are a few best practices to help you create a positive experience for your patients:

  • Be an active participant in Service Excellence Recovery as required
  • Avoid interruptions during the patient encounter
  • Elicit the patient (and family) expectations and concerns, and the information they are seeking
  • Explain the clinical assessment as it proceeds
  • Explain the tests/procedures to be ordered and why
  • Engage the patients in the decision making process
  • Summarize the assessment, next steps and follow-up
  • Ask if questions have been answered and if any other information is needed
  • Encourage sign up for MyPortfolio

Six Degrees of Surgery

By Stephen Kavic, MD