An Interview with Giorgio Giatsidis, MD
Meet Giorgio Giatsidis, MD—the 2017 Stepping Strong Plastic Surgery Trauma Fellow, a finalist in the Stepping Strong Innovator Awards public voting competition, and a member of the 2016 and 2017 BWH Stepping Strong Marathon Teams.
Q: You completed your plastic surgery training with honors in Padova, Italy, with a strong interest in trauma care and reconstructive microsurgery. Can you explain why you chose to focus on trauma research and recovery, and what brought you to Brigham and Women’s Hospital (BWH)?
A: Trauma patients confront tremendous physical and psychological challenges. As a reconstructive surgeon, helping my patients overcome injuries and regain their lives is a most gratifying reward. This is why I wanted to pursue trauma research.
Here’s what brought me to BWH: There is simply no better place in the world where innovation in reconstructive surgery is nourished and effectively transferred from the bench to the bedside to improve quality of care for trauma patients. Brigham has been a leader in the field since WWII, when Nobel Laureate Joseph Murray’s experience as a reconstructive surgeon during the war—treating burn injuries with skin transplants—led him to pioneer the field of transplantation and perform the world’s first human organ transplant at the Peter Bent Brigham Hospital. Today, this legacy continues here through the outstanding research and clinical work done by Stepping Strong medical leaders like Drs. Dennis Orgill, Bo Pomahac, Matt Carty, Indi Sinha, and others. I am proud to be part of this incredible team.
"Here’s what brought me to BWH: There is simply no better place in the world where innovation in reconstructive surgery is nourished and effectively transferred from the bench to the bedside to improve quality of care for trauma patients."
Q: Talk about a day in your life as the 2016-17 Stepping Strong Plastic Surgery Trauma Fellow. Who do you collaborate with, and what are some of the high-priority projects?
A: Reconstructive surgeons of the future will be surgeon-scientists who are able to synergistically integrate preclinical research and patient care. For this reason, I devote my time to strengthening my laboratory skills, working side-by-side with a team of the brightest researchers from all over the world. My day is spent in a lab, passionately working side by side with a team of the brightest researchers from all over the world. We study cells and adopt in vivo models to optimize novel treatments that we hope to transfer soon to clinical care.
Our research focuses on the three most impactful areas of need in trauma care: 1) soft tissues reconstruction using fat grafts and scaffolds; 2) skeletal muscle repair using mechanical forces; and 3) peripheral nerve regeneration using stem cells. A side project addresses the use of tourniquets to “stop the bleed” after injury. Our priorities are dictated by our patient’s actual needs. For instance, today there is no method to repair volumetric muscle losses, or to induce complete nerve regeneration after injury. We aim to change this.
I have the privilege of interacting with multiple outstanding collaborators, both clinicians and researchers, to bring our diverse knowledge and skills together with the goal of designing better therapeutic approaches. The Plastic Surgery Division at BWH is the perfect example of such collaborative environment, and Stepping Strong has truly been an instrumental force in creating bridges among investigators.
Q: You were one of three finalists for the 2016 Stepping Strong Innovator Awards competition. That is quite an accomplishment. Tell us a little about your project, Stimulating Muscles to Accelerate Rehabilitation. What problem were you trying to solve?
A: Traumatic limb injuries often destroy muscle, reducing a patient’s mass and strength. As I mentioned, we can’t yet induce muscle regeneration or accelerate recovery following trauma. Our team sought to address the burden of prolonged trauma rehabilitation by developing a device that passively stimulates injured muscles to promote regeneration directly at the bedside. We are collaborating with leaders in the field from both academic and Department of Defense institutions. We hope to determine the exact conditions to effectively promote mechanically induced regeneration and to ultimately integrate the findings into the development of a portable device.
Q: With all of your research activities, you still found the time to run 21.6 miles to benefit The Gillian Reny Center for Trauma Innovation. Why is Stepping Strong such an important initiative?
A: I cannot emphasize enough how important it is that we elevate trauma research and care—an underrepresented medical discipline. The Stepping Strong initiative has been doing a remarkable and exemplary job of promoting research and innovation, educating the global community, and raising funds so physicians like me can provide the best possible care.
I’m grateful to be part of the Stepping Strong family, and happy to support it in any possible way—whether it’s by contributing to research, caring for trauma patients, or running to raise funds for the Stepping Strong Center.