Lecture focuses on recognizing medical innovation

Photo from iStock.

Photo illustration from iStock.

Thomas Krummel, MD, leads Stanford University’s Department of Surgery and loves the fresh perspective of medical students. He spoke about this connection, linking it to discovery, invention, innovation and entrepreneurship when he delivered the annual Pickett Lecture in Pediatric Surgery at Upstate this week.

Krummel, who directs Stanford’s Surgical Innovation Program, made the point that university laboratories, such as those at Upstate, are equipped to stimulate creative thinking.

Students who are new to the medical profession often share ideas that challenge the medical standards of the day. Such standards are relative, Krummel said, citing an example from the early 1800s, when doctors believed that the abdomen, chest and brain would never be accessible to surgeons.

grossKrummel pointed out that as a medical student, Robert E. Gross, MD – who became known as the father of pediatric surgery  – was not selected for residency training in surgery. His backup plan became a two-year pathology residency, during which time he dissected infants. He studied a birth defect in the heart that was killing babies and developed a surgical way to fix it.

Krummel also told of a scrub technician from the 1960s who routinely worked in operating rooms with top surgeons who would make incisions the length of a patient’s leg in order to remove blood clots – often followed by amputations. The scrub tech came up with a better way to remove clots, using a balloon catheter. Krummel said the idea was vilified at the time but wound up revolutionizing that type of therapy.

He spoke at the annual lecture named in honor of Lawrence Pickett, MD, the first pediatric surgeon in Syracuse. It honors the historical contributions of Pickett’s mentor, Dr. Gross, who wrote the textbook, “Surgery of Infancy and Childhood.”

Krummel concluded with this quote from the innovative surgeon who was a founding professor of John’s Hopkins Hospital: “The art of surgery is not yet perfect, and advancements now unimaginable are still to come. May we have the wisdom to live with this with grace and humility.”

“It’s as true today as when William Stewart Halstead said it 100 years ago,” he added.

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