IDEAL: Advancing Surgical Innovation

Advances in health care happen in a variety of ways.

Sometimes they occur as a matter of necessity – the desperate attempt to save a life.

Sometimes they occur as a matter of luck – the “eureka” moment of discovery.

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Robotic kidney surgery at Henry Ford Hospital.

Most of the time they occur as a result of thoughtful innovation, development and assessment, and then tested for reliability and safety.

When you take a prescription or an over-the-counter drug, you probably don’t give very much thought as to how that particular medication came to be; you know what it does, potential side-effects and why you’re taking it.

But there’s a strong process in place for developing new drugs and making them available to the masses, to ensure quality, safety and effectiveness:

  • The drug manufacturer tests it and submits evidence through a “new drug application” to the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research (CDER).
  • A team of CDER physicians, statisticians, chemists, pharmacologists, and other scientists then review the data provided in the application and propose labeling, should it be approved for use.
  • After that a clinical research process continues to test the validity of the studies and role of the medication in the treatment process.

Clear. Effective. Tested.

Ever wonder how the tracheostomy came to be a surgical method of treating an obstruction in the trachea?

The technique was clearly an innovation at the time. But it was not required to go through a randomized controlled trial or other strictures required of new prescription drugs and medical procedures.

You can take a drug “off label” for other uses – there’s a clear method for researching alternative uses and effectiveness as such.

Shouldn’t we have something similar in place for new surgical techniques? For surgical and procedural cases, the “off label” uses are not as clearly understood or often as rigorously scrutinized.

Once the “off label” procedure is proven to work, how do we ensure that it is safely performed by other surgeons and proceduralists? Continue reading

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My Gift, My Hero

“How do you thank somebody who has saved your life?”

It is a question often contemplated among organ donor recipients.

Many recipients devote their lives to giving back and taking care of their health. Some reach out to the donor family.

While others proudly (and bravely) share their stories, experiences, feelings and even fears as a transplant recipient with their communities to bring about awareness and to honor the individuals and families who made the decision to give the gift of life.

That’s just what members of our Transplant Living Community (TLC) Group at Henry Ford Hospital did recently in the above video shared at our annual Donor Memorial Ceremony which honors the families of organ donors.

TLC is a community comprised of transplant recipients and families who have known and experienced the tribulations of living with life-threatening illness prior to transplant, and have experienced success in the healing period that follows. Their experiences, reflections, and practical tips are helpful and comforting to those just beginning the transplant process.

The group also encourages recipients to make health their No. 1 priority. Something that, frankly, we could all learn from. Continue reading

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Dr. Abouljoud Named Arab American of the Year

This past weekend, I attended the 42nd ACCESS (Arab Community Center for Economic and Social Services) Anniversary Dinner, honoring Marwan Abouljoud, M.D., director of the Transplant Institute at Henry Ford Hospital, as Arab American of the Year.

ACCESS presents the Arab American of the Year Award to individuals or groups that exemplify the organization’s mission to empower and engage Arab Americans. This year’s other awardee was National Public Radio journalist Diane Rehm.

ACCESS – an organization that focuses on empowering and enabling individuals, families and communities to lead informed, productive, culturally sensitive and fulfilling lives – has a long-standing partnership with Henry Ford. We’ve worked together to provide free health screenings and education, and so much more, in the community. And, its executive director, Hassan Jaber, is a member of the Henry Ford Hospital and Health Network Board of Trustees.

As Arab American of the Year, Dr. Abouljoud will take his place among a distinguished group of past honorees that includes former White House correspondent Helen Thomas; U.S. Sen. Spencer Abraham; entertainers Casey Kasem and Tony Shalhoub; U.A.W. International President Stephen Yokich; U.S. Congressman Nick Rahall; the Arab American Anti-Discrimination Committee; and St. Jude Hospital.

Dr. Abouljoud has led transplant surgery at Henry Ford to national and international recognition. He performed the first split liver transplant in Michigan in 1996, and in 2000 developed the first adult-to-adult living donor liver transplant program in Michigan. Continue reading

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Waiting to Live Campaign

Did you know that roughly one-third of the more than 3,000 Michigan residents waiting for organ transplants live in Wayne County, yet only 25 percent of the county’s adults are registered organ, tissue and eye donors?

(By comparison, more than 37 percent of adults statewide and about 43 percent nationally are registered as donors.)

That’s a tremendous gap, one that our partner in organ donation, Gift of Life Michigan, hopes to close through its new ad campaign, “Waiting to Live – Wayne County.”

The campaign features five Wayne County residents – two of whom are Henry Ford Transplant Institute patients – all waiting for life-saving organ transplants.

Henry Ford Hospital has pledged our support to this campaign and our community by asking residents to consider adding their names to the Michigan Organ Donor Registry, a confidential database of people who want to give the gift of life.

I should also note that the Henry Ford Transplant Institute has joined Gift of Life Michigan, the Michigan Eye-Bank, the Michigan Health & Hospital Association and the Donate Life Coalition of Michigan to add one million names to the Michigan organ donor registry too.

As I’ve said before, transplantation of human organs is one of the great accomplishments of modern medical science.

Although still requiring lifelong care with medications and oversight, the transformation of patients, from failing organs to full of life, is truly remarkable. Continue reading

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Perfect Match

At Henry Ford, we stress the importance of our employees treating patients like family.

But this week, I heard a story about two Henry Ford Hospital employees that reminded me of the equal importance of treating our colleagues as such.

Kim Alexander and Erika Bomar

And these amazing women not only treat each other like family, but will do anything – and I mean anything – to support each other.

After working together for five years in the Neuroscience Department at Henry Ford Hospital, Kim Alexander and Erika Bomar are both friends and colleagues.

When Erika’s husband, Damon, was diagnosed with kidney failure in January 2010, the Neuroscience team gave Erika immense amounts of prayers, love and support; Kim took it one step further.

Kim was tested to learn her blood type and found that she was a match for Damon, Erika’s husband of 16 years.

Without hesitation, Kim decided to donate her kidney, the ultimate gift of life

But the giving doesn’t end there.

After hearing about Kim’s decision, our Neuroscience team and several other departments rallied behind the two women, and donated more than 300 hours of their vacation time to the pair, so they would have enough time to recover and care for loved ones.

Continue reading

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Tragedies and Miracles In Medicine

Years ago, our head of trauma surgery developed explosive hepatitis. As a result, he developed failure of his liver and required a liver transplant. 

This was before we had a liver transplantation program at Henry Ford Hospital. 

One of the surgeon’s best friends ran one of the most successful transplantation programs in the country at a large Midwestern university. He was accepted there for urgent consideration of liver transplantation. 

We stabilized him in our medical intensive care unit and prepped him to be flown by aircraft to the center. 

As he was wheeled out of the ICU, I stopped the gurney and took his hand in mine.  I said, “I’ll see you when you get back.” 

Even with jaundiced eyes, his gaze pierced through me. “We’ll see,” he said. 

He died within a few days. No organs were available.

Flash forward a few years.  Continue reading

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