Friday, July 20, 2001

UC chief of surgery thinks big

New boss: Chance for 'world-class'

By Tim Bonfield
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Restarting a heart transplant program and adding lung transplant capability. Improving relations with community surgeons. And building a “classroom of tomorrow” for surgeons to practice new techniques on high-tech simulators.

        These are some of the many changes envisioned by Dr. Jeffrey Matthews, the new chairman of surgery at the University of Cincinnati.

        Dr. Matthews, who started July 1, is the first of a new generation of medical leaders expected to take high-ranking posts in the next few years at Greater Cincinnati's only academic medical center. These new leaders will reshape how medical students are taught, how research is conducted and how high-tech care is provided, not just at University Hospital, but throughout the Tristate.

        “Historically, UC has had one of the most important departments of surgery in the country,” Dr. Matthews said. “But there is an opportunity here to go from being great to being world-class.”

        For patients, Dr. Matthews said some of the fastest changes will involve cardiac care. University Hospital has not performed a heart transplant since February, after the program lost its top transplant surgeon, Dr. Tom Ivey, and wrestled with a potentially harmful fungus that was detected during renovations on an intensive care unit.

        Dr. Matthews plans to recruit a new chief of cardio- thoracic surgery, who would do heart transplants. The revamped program may also start performing lung transplants — a service that has not been available in Cincinnati.

        The cardiac program also is expected to become more involved in new technology, from minimally invasive heart surgery to robotics to testing artificial hearts.

        For doctors, Dr. Matthews said many will notice better communications from the university than in years past. “We're trying to build bridges, not walls,” he said.

        Many doctors, in Cincinnati and elsewhere, also may benefit from a new surgical education center planned to be built by early 2003. In this “classroom of tomorrow,” Dr. Matthews said, surgical residents and community surgeons seeking continuing education would be able to try new equipment and techniques on high-tech simulators before attempting procedures on patients.

        “We're looking at the equivalent of a flight simulator that pilots use before they fly with real passengers,” Dr. Matthews said.

        Dr. Matthews replaces Dr. Josef Fischer, a nationally known figure in surgery. UC also has begun searching for a new dean for the entire College of Medicine to replace the retiring Dr. John Hutton.


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