William C. Chapman, MD, FACS, is professor of surgery in the Division of General Surgery, and chief of the Abdominal Transplantation Section. His specialty is liver disease, liver transplant, and surgical imaging.
|Dr. Chapman and family on a recent skiing trip to Montana
"We’ve performed our 1000th liver transplant in the last year and have gone from doing 40 – 50 liver transplants per year to 114 this past year", he says. "We are now able to help many more individuals than in the past, and we’ve been able to maintain excellent results treating very sick individuals."
Dr. Chapman sees patients at the GI Center in the Center for Advanced Medicine, 4921 Parkview Place, Suite C, Floor 8, St. Louis, MO 63110.
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Dr Chapman, where did you grow up?
I am from Charlotte, North Carolina, and my wife and I both attended UNC. Charlotte is not that different from St. Louis – it’s a medium-sized city with access to a lot of outdoor activities. I have always enjoyed duck hunting, fishing, skiing, and water sports. Like Missouri, North Carolina is a great place to live.
Why did you decide to join the faculty at Washington University?
I trained at Vanderbilt in Tennessee, took a Fellowship in London, and went back to Vanderbilt as a full-time hepatobiliary and transplant surgeon. The move to Washington University Medical School two and a half years ago was an opportunity to head up a program, set priorities and work with an outstanding team of liver medical and surgical specialists.
Successful liver transplants rely on the skills of many people. I don’t think there is another field of medicine that requires the full efforts of such a large multidisciplinary group. Our hepatologists, interventional radiologists, surgeons, oncologists, diagnostic radiologists and the full team of pre- and post-operative nurses and other transplant specialists all work hard. They are a great group of individuals dedicated to excellent clinical results while advancing the field (ie, through research) whenever possible.
What occurred in your life that made you choose surgery, especially liver surgery, as your specialty?
I was always interested in science as a kid. My father was an anesthesiologist and when I was in high school and indicated a strong interest in medicine, he took me into the operating room to observe several surgical procedures. I thought what he did was interesting, but not nearly as interesting as what was going on at the other side of the table.
I was first drawn to veterinary medicine, but ultimately decided a career in human surgery would provide a wider experience. After my surgical residency at Vanderbilt, I did two years of research focused on liver/gall bladder diseases and from then on, liver surgery seemed the natural choice for me.
Which aspect of your practice is most interesting?
Although it is also true for other medical specialties, the diverse spectrum of patients we see and care for in our field of medicine is very interesting. We take care of some relatively simple liver problems in patients with liver disease, as well as care for those with chronic liver disease or those with liver malignancies.
Liver transplant is now an option for people with early stage hepatobiliary cancer (HCC). This is relatively new, but has been shown to be highly effective. Liver transplant is beginning to be used under other special conditions, such as for cholangiocarcinoma (cancer of the bile duct).
What I like about this institution, particularly, is the research opportunity. We have a very active basic research program here as well as strong clinical research. Currently we are developing new techniques for liver surgery, such as image-guided liver surgery, that will help with resectional procedures for liver cancer as well as with live-donor transplant surgery.
Which particular award or achievement has been the most gratifying to you?
Helping to coordinate the liver transplant group here has been very gratifying. We have a big group of people working together from both Barnes-Jewish Hospital and the School of Medicine. We are developing new procedures all the time and are helping people live longer.
What do you do when not working?
I play golf and tennis, and run. My boys and I like to hunt, particularly duck hunting, which makes being here especially nice. The Missouri River Bottoms is a unique part of the country. It’s only 25 miles away and has some of the best duck hunting in the world. Everyone in our family enjoys snow skiing, so we try to arrange a ski trip at least every year or so.
What is the best advice you have ever received? One of my surgical colleagues, who is both a mentor and a friend, told me, “Don’t let others set your priorities, make your own goals and stick to them.” So I try to pick the things that are the most important and stay the course. It’s not always easy, because day-to-day you can lose sight of what is important, unless you keep to the priorities you have chosen.
What lifestyle change could most benefit our health?
One of the biggest problems we now face in this country is obesity. It is starting to affect us in the field of liver disease as more patients present with fatty liver disease, and progress to cirrhosis, which may require liver transplantation.
The relationship between obesity and liver disease is yet unclear, but we know it is a continuum: obese patients have a higher risk of developing diabetes; many patients with diabetes will develop fatty liver disease. We are currently studying the phenomenon so we will be able to predict which patients are at greater risk for liver disease.
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