Brent Matthews,MD is a professor in the Division of General Surgery, Section of Hepatobiliary Pancreatic Surgery. His special interest is minimally invasive surgery of the liver, pancreas and GI track.
He sees patients at the Center for Advanced Medicine located at the main medical campus.
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What happened in the course of schooling to make you choose your specialty?
It is probably not that unique to hear this from a physician, but I had faculty mentors in the Department of Surgery at Indiana University School of Medicine that I admired and I saw myself modeling my career after them.
As I completed my surgery training program in 1998, the field of general surgery was undergoing a revolutionary change because of the development of minimally invasive surgery (laparoscopy). I was in a surgery training program that focused on many basic minimally invasive surgery procedures. After attending national meetings and hearing invited lecturers that came to our institution to talk about what they were doing laporscopically, I realized this was the future of surgery, and hopefully my future. I became interested in minimally invasive surgery instantly.
I was drawn to the technology, better patient outcomes and the potential to advance the field of surgery by being involved personally at its early stages. I decided to do two additional fellowships in minimally invasive surgery upon completion of my general surgery training.
|Dr. Matthews and family
Which aspect of your practice is most interesting?
Maintaining a balance between clinical medicine and research. It is extremely rewarding to take an idea and incorporate it into patient care through clinical outcome studies. This formula can ultimately make a difference in the overall treatment of many patients.
What made you choose Washington University?
I was fortunate enough to be recruited by Washington University. I was a faculty member for four years at the Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte North Carolina, with an academic appointment at the University of North Carolina School of Medicine. Dr. Tim Eberlein and Dr. Steven Strasburg contacted me about coming to Washington University.
Once I came here and saw the great infrastructure, the quality of patient care, the research facilities and the common goal that people have here to balance clinical medicine with research and education, it was a very easy decision to make.
Where are you from originally?
I am from a small community named Zionsville on the north side of Indianapolis, Indiana. There were about 3500 people in the community when I lived there. My whole family still lives in the area.
What award/achievement are you most proud of?
I had the honor of receiving the Young Investigators Award from the Society of American Gastrointestinal Endoscopic Surgeons in March, 2003. It is given to someone who is within five years of graduating from a surgery training program that does clinical and/or basic science research in minimally invasive surgery and actively participates in resident and physician education.
What interests you most about surgery?
When I started my surgical training, I was most interested in the technical aspect of surgery. The evolution in technology and its application toward safer and more efficient surgery is still the driving force behind my interest in clinical medicine.
However, as time has evolved, I have become more fascinated and respectful in the strong relationships built with patients in such a short period of time. The immediate trust patients give you is unique to medicine. Patients give up control of themselves and permit you to take them to the operating room to perform some type of surgical procedure.
It is humbling to me that most people are willing to do that and place their trust in a surgeon.
If a patient compliments me about the care they received I always remind myself that they are the real heroes - they are the ones who looked to someone else to help them and went through the pain and suffering to get better. We surgeons are only here to facilitate it.
What leadership roles or outside activities do you participate in beyond the School of Medicine?
I have only been here a short time, but when I was in North Carolina, I was very active in our church community outreach for local missions. Through our Sunday school, I was involved in a program called a Room at the Inn. We would host people from a homeless mission once a week, over a five month period. We organized it so that every night of the week there was a different Sunday school class that would cover it, so essentially it was a shelter during the winter months.
I have also been active in Habitat for Humanity.
One of the most rewarding experiences I had was participating in Global Medical Missions in Haiti, where we performed surgery during an eight day period. It was a very enlightening experience. Another surgeon, a nurse anesthetist and I participated, doing mostly abdominal surgery. It was organized through the Methodist church and set up like a MASH unit. It was a completely different experience from my daily responsibilities. These people truly survive in terrible conditions, yet they have so much hope that things are going to get better.
What’s the best advice you’ve ever received?
I had a mentor in my general surgery training who told me that the greatest opportunity to make a difference is often based on persistence. I have used that thought a lot in my clinical practice and research. Occasionally, I will have a patient with a difficult problem or critical illness and it’s not really clear what is going on with the patient despite all of the advanced diagnostic equipment. Sometimes it is just a matter of sticking with it and the picture becomes clear.
What makes you happy?
Spending time with my wife and daughter makes me the happiest. It is a challenge during the week, but I try to make it home by the time my daughter is eating dinner so afterwards I can play with her, give her a bath and help my wife get her ready for bed. It is difficult to protect your family time, but it should be a priority for all of us.
What lifestyle change could most benefit our health?
Exercise. I think that people, who exercise regularly are generally people that take responsibility for their health. There is a trickle-down effect that they probably eat better, sleep better and care more about their overall well being.
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