The American College of Surgeons (ACS) Foundation is proud to feature three Fellows who have received an ACS Faculty Research Fellowship or Resident Research Scholarship, supported by the generous contributions from members of the ACS Foundation’s Mayne Heritage Society (MHS). The MHS recognizes Fellows who have provided a bequest or other planned gift to the College through their estate plan.
Many Fellows who have made planned gifts to the College have done so with no restrictions on the use of the donations. Therefore, these gifts are directed to the ACS Foundation’s Greatest Needs Fund. Each year, this fund supports ACS fellowships and scholarships, which makes it possible for young surgeons to perform potentially lifesaving surgical research.
Finding treatment for adolescent liver cancer
Kimberly Riehle, MD, FACS, is a skilled surgeon at Seattle Children’s Hospital, Washington and an amateur artist using a unique medium—bandages. She cuts shapes, like flowers and stars, out of gauze to place on the incision site, much to the delight of her young patients during recovery.1
Another facet of Dr. Riehle’s dedication to pediatric care is her work as a surgical investigator. Her current research is focused on liver cancer in children and determining why otherwise healthy children and young adults develop a deadly form of the disease.2
Dr. Riehle is quick to credit the ACS Foundation with helping to make her research possible. In a letter to the ACS, she expressed her appreciation for two ACS scholarships that helped set her on a successful research career path, saying, “The ACS Foundation Faculty Fellowship gave me the time and freedom to transition my laboratory’s focus from basic investigations on liver regeneration to a subject more relevant to my clinical practice as a pediatric surgeon: fibrolamellar hepatocellular carcinoma (FL-HCC). FL-HCC is a subtype of liver cancer that occurs in otherwise healthy children, but for which there are currently no effective nonsurgical therapies. My lab now focuses on understanding the molecular biology of this deadly pediatric cancer, with the goal of developing curative therapies for these patients.” (Personal communication with the author, August 30, 2016.)
Dr. Riehle also recently was named a recipient of National Institutes of Health funding for her research project titled Neurotensin in Fibrolamellar Hepatocellular Carcinoma.
Providing expertise in craniofacial disorders
As a surgical expert in craniofacial disorders, Chad Perlyn, MD, FACS, is a one of the most sought-after pediatric plastic surgeons in Florida. He is an attending plastic surgeon, division of plastic and reconstructive surgery, Nicklaus Children’s Hospital, and assistant professor and chief, division of plastic surgery, Florida International University’s Herbert Wertheim College of Medicine, Miami. As the recipient of an ACS fellowship, he was accepted at the University of Oxford in England and completed a doctorate degree in craniofacial molecular biology in three years. While at Oxford, Dr. Perlyn studied why children are born with particular facial birth defects; as a result of his efforts, he received several national and international research awards, including the Cassio M. Raposo do Amaral Award, which is presented for the best resident presentation by the International Society of Craniofacial Surgery at its annual meeting.3
“As a surgical resident interested in research, it was very important to me to obtain formal scientific training,” Dr. Perlyn noted in his fellowship outcomes report. “When the opportunity for me to do a PhD in craniofacial development at Oxford arose, I was honored and delighted, but was also concerned that I may not be able to attend the program due to funding issues. However, the ACS scholarship allowed me to pursue this training and begin a surgical career in rare and complicated craniofacial disorders.”4
One of Dr. Perlyn’s most remarkable cases was a child born with a tongue the size of a full-grown adult’s because of a rare genetic condition called Beckwith-Wiedemann syndrome. He struggled constantly to eat and breathe, but many surgeons were unwilling to operate due to his age. However, with Dr. Perlyn’s specialized training in craniofacial development, he felt confident performing the operation, which was a success. The child was then able to breathe, eat, and speak normally.5
Improving outcomes in emergency general surgery
Kathleen B. To, MD, FACS, assistant professor of surgery, division of acute care surgery (trauma, burns, critical care and emergency surgery), University of Michigan Hospital and Health System, Ann Arbor, was the inaugural recipient of the Thomas R. Russell, MD, FACS, Faculty Research Fellowship, in 2015.6 Dr. To’s clinical practice and research interests are in emergency general surgery, trauma, critical care, wound care, patient outcomes, and quality improvement. She has been a principal investigator or co-investigator for a number of research studies in these areas.
Through her ACS fellowship award, Dr. To is focused on improving surgical outcomes for trauma patients. Her project title is Emergency General Surgery—Catalyst for Change: Outcomes, Models of Care, and Performance Improvement. Her research will focus on identifying key factors and correlation of the variations with patient outcomes, and using this data to determine best practices in emergency surgical care. In her presentation at the ACS Foundation’s Donor Recognition Luncheon at Clinical Congress 2015, Dr. To explained that emergency general surgery patients are a unique cohort. “They only make up 10 percent of surgical cases but have a 32 percent mortality rate and make up 40 percent of complications, costs, and resource utilization.”7
Preparing surgical leaders
Drs. Riehle, Perlyn, and To are just three examples of surgeons who have benefited from the ACS fellowship and scholarship funding and are on the path to becoming surgeon leaders like other ACS awardees, including the following:
- ACS Regent Henri R. Ford, MD, MHA, FACS, vice-president and surgeon-in-chief, Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles; and vice-chair and vice-dean for medical education, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California; Los Angeles
- Barbara L. Bass, MD, FACS, ACS President-Elect; Past-Member, ACS Board of Regents; and recipient of the 2013 Distinguished Service Award, the John F. and Carolyn Bookout Distinguished and Endowed Chair of Surgery, Houston Methodist Hospital Research Institute, TX; and professor of surgery at Weill Cornell Medical College, New York, NY
- N. Scott Adzick, MD, MMM, FACS, FAAP, surgeon-in-chief, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, PA, and the founder and director of the Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment
ACS fellowship award recipients, bolstered by the generosity of others, have affected the lives of countless patients and shared their research and knowledge within the surgical field. Each MHS member is ensuring that support for the profession and optimal patient care will continue beyond his or her lifetime. A planned gift is a powerful legacy and can mean so much to the careers of the next generation of surgical researchers and leaders.
If you are interested in learning how you can join MHS members in planning for a future gift to the ACS, contact Shane Hollett, Executive Director, ACS Foundation, at 312-202-5506.
- Kinsey J. A doctor’s artistic touch eases the pain of surgery. February 6, 2015. Available at: www.king5.com/entertainment/television/programs/evening/a-doctors-artistic-touch-eases-the-pain-of-surgery/157504024. Accessed September 15, 2016.
- Seattle Children’s. Medical staff profile: Kimberly J. Riehle, MD. Available at: www.seattlechildrens.org/medical-staff/kimberly-j-riehle/. Accessed September 15, 2016.
- Nicklaus Children’s Hospital. Medical services. Physician details: Chad Adam Perlyn, MD. Available at: www.nicklauschildrens.org/find-a-physcian/physician-details/1063531010/chad-perlyn-plastic-surgery. Accessed September 15, 2016.
- Perlyn CA. ACS Resident Research Scholarship Report: “Second Year Activities.” Submitted to ACS Scholarships Committee, September 2005.
- Palmbeachpost.com. A $3 million grant brings Miami Children’s Hospital specialists to Palm Beach County. August 8, 2010. Available at: pbpo.st/2dGFDY6. Accessed September 15, 2016.
- University of Michigan Health System. Faculty: Kathleen B. To, MD. Available at: surgery.med.umich.edu/general/patient/faculty/kato.shtml. Accessed September 12, 2016.
- To KB. Emergency General Surgery—Catalyst for Change: Outcomes, Models of Care, and Performance Improvement. Presented at the 2015 ACS Foundation Donor Recognition Luncheon, ACS Clinical Congress; October 5, 2015, Chicago, IL.