I knew very early in life that I wanted to go to medical school. Though no one in my family was a physician, I was confident that medicine was the career for me. I even imagined myself in private practice but, during my first surgery rotation as a medical student in Vermont, I fell in love with the operating room. I later came to realize that pediatric surgery, specifically, was where I needed to chart my course.
Over time, I’ve narrowed my interests even further. My clinical and research work centers around the treatment of neuroblastoma and complex esophageal disorders.
I’ve participated in the Children’s Oncology Group — a National Institutes of Health-funded consortium of hospitals across the country devoted to pediatric cancers.
In 2011, I developed the Esophageal Center at Cincinnati Children’s. With team members from across a range of specialties — including ENT, general surgery, pulmonology, GI and genetics — this center epitomizes the spirit of collaboration at our institution.
As surgeon-in-chief at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center, I oversee 100 surgeons across nine divisions with the Department of Surgery. I’m also responsible for operations of the perioperative area of the hospital.
The surgeon-in-chief role at Cincinnati Children’s is unique compared to other children’s hospitals. Here, the surgeon-in-chief serves as an institutional leader, participating at the executive leadership level of our organization.
In addition to my role as a practicing surgeon and surgery leader, I have a strong interest in program growth and development. Because of this, I was asked to lead business development for the hospital.
On a national level, I’ve served as treasurer of the American Pediatric Surgical Association — a group representing 90% of pediatric surgeons across the country. I’ve also served as an oral examiner for the American Board of Pediatric Surgery.
My long-standing fascination with innovation and robotics led me — in conjunction with Ben Gurion University engineering professor Hugo Guterman — to develop an ultrasound-guided robotic needle delivery system. The technology, called Fast Intelligent Needle Delivery (FIND), formed the foundation of Xact Medical LLC, a company co-founded in 2018 by Cincinnati Children’s and Ben Gurion.
I’ve been fortunate in my career to have learned from many incredible mentors. Two in particular have guided me as a physician and leader.
Former surgeon-in-chief at Cincinnati Children’s, Mory Ziegler, MD, was very academic, but he was just as likely to ask me about my family as he was about my charting. Dr. Ziegler showed me how important it was as a leader to make people a priority.
I completed my ECMO training fellowship here at Cincinnati Children’s under the direction of pediatric transplant surgeon Fred Ryckman, MD. Dr. Ryckman taught me so much about the technical aspects of surgery, and also about the responsibility pediatric surgeons have to their patients and families.
Dr. Ryckman would frequently say that parents bring you (the surgeon) their very most prized possession. That responsibility is huge and so is the reward. But when it doesn’t go well, the accountability is painful.
The sense of being entrusted by people to care for their most prized possession — their children — is awesome.
It’s the mentorship I’ve received that spurred my own interest in teaching. After returning to Cincinnati Children’s in 2009 to lead the pediatric general and thoracic surgery division, I was named program director for that division’s fellowship program. Ultimately, I became secretary/treasurer and then president of the national Association of Pediatric Surgery Training Program Directors (APSTPD) group.
For my clinical, research and teaching work, I’ve been recognized with several honors and awards. But I’m most proud of the University of North Carolina (UNC) Resident Advocate Award I received in 2006, and the Anthony A. Meyer Resident Mentor Award presented to me in 2007. I know how greatly I benefited from wonderful mentors early in my career and was honored to think that I may have had a similar impact on others.
I consider it a privilege to care for children and families at Cincinnati Children’s. And I’m proud of the elite training environment we’ve created for the next generation of pediatric surgeons. I know that the work we do here can impact lives for many years to come.