Published: Jan. 7, 2009
Updated: May 20, 2010
Duke's Peter K. Smith, MD, chief of cardiovascular and thoracic surgery, sees a bright future for his field and his patients.
Thoracic surgery is advancing more rapidly than at any time in my 20-year career.
We can perform surgery through smaller incisions, minimizing discomfort and returning patients to full health sooner. We have adopted new methods for stenting large blood vessels and for inserting new heart valves through catheters or very small incisions. We are improving apparently perfected operations like coronary bypass grafting every day, and are performing operations on older patients with more severe diseases with better results than ever before. And there is overwhelming evidence that coronary bypass grafting is prolonging lives as well as improving quality of life.
The most astonishing advances are occurring in the support of the failing heart. Patients whose hearts cannot be repaired through traditional surgery should know that a wide variety of new devices are now available that are safe, effective, and durable. These devices will save many lives.
But these remarkable advances are trumped by the field's commitment to evidence-based medicine and continuous self-improvement. The thoracic surgery community is engaged in learning from experience to create a brighter future.
First, the faculty are great surgeons, innovators, and leaders in every component of our specialty.
Second, the institution is completely devoted to patient care in all aspects, within an environment that accepts no less than the best.
Third, Duke is composed of leading physician and research groups that span all areas of medicine. It is in such an environment where surgeons, medical oncologists, cardiologists, geriatricians, pediatricians, primary care physicians, and basic researchers all work together and challenge each other to become better.
Almost every operation that I perform is intended to prolong a life. What could be more exciting than that? Plus, there is no better place than Duke to practice surgery and to advance the practice of surgery in America. Excellence is everyone's expectation.
But if there is one thing that keeps me at Duke, it is the ability to make a difference not just for one patient, but for all patients.
At Duke, a multidisciplinary team provides a personalized care plan for each heart patient, including the use of advanced medical, surgical, and device therapies.