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New chief of congenital heart surgery named at Health Science Center (11/12/98)

John P. Kupferschmid, MD, will become chief of the section of congenital heart surgery, division of thoracic surgery, at The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio effective January 1, according to John Calhoon, MD, professor and head of thoracic surgery.

"I will have been head of congenital heart surgery at the Health Science Center for 10 years on January 1, 1999," Dr. Calhoon said. "We're proud to have Dr. Kupferschmid here and ready to take over that role for our division. I'm sure congenital heart surgery, under his leadership, will continue to grow and thrive with the help of our colleagues in pediatric critical care medicine at the Children's Heart Network."

Prior to joining the Health Science Center faculty as assistant professor in August, Dr. Kupferschmid was co-director of the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit at Penn State University's Milton S. Hershey Medical Center, Hershey, Pa., and a staff consultant in the department of thoracic surgery at the Veterans Administration Medical Center, Lebanon, PA.

"As head of the division at Penn State, it was impossible to leave on weekends or to take a vacation without feeling guilty because of the babies," Dr. Kupferschmid said. "At the Health Science Center, the training of Drs. Calhoon and Johnson, combined with mine, affords an opportunity for two surgeons to remain with the patients while the third takes some time off." Dr. Kupferschmid is referring to Dr. Scott Johnson, assistant professor and the third member of the team. All members of the cardiothoracic team routinely correct heart defects, using the minimally invasive (keyhole) surgical technique.

"The way thoracic surgery was formerly performed was quite traumatic for the patient. When the breastbone is opened the sternum becomes unstable for a while, especially in adults," Dr. Kupferschmid said. "Although it's tougher for the surgeon to work in a smaller opening, the minimally invasive technique drastically reduces the patient's healing time. In addition, there is a cosmetic benefit.

"The smaller incision is made close to the operating theater," he continued. "If the surgeon needs a larger field, he simply extends the incision. Over the years the procedure has been perfected; the incisions keep getting smaller and smaller."

All three surgeons in the division use the Ross Procedure in combination with keyhole surgery. With the Ross Procedure, according to Dr. Calhoon, the patient's pulmonary valve is used to replace the faulty heart valve, making surgery technically more difficult but allowing most patients to recover and leave the hospital within three or four days.

Asked about plans for the future of the division, Dr. Kupferschmid said he would like to consolidate children's care so they could receive medical care in a central location. "All their maladies could be taken care of in one spot," he said. "This would be better for both patients and the surgeons who care for them."

Dr. Kupferschmid, a native of Illinois, is a graduate of Purdue University. He earned his MD at Indiana University School of Medicine. He has been a thoracic surgeon in the U.S. Army Reserves since 1991.

Contact: Jan Elkins