Get to know Dr. Inge: Q&A with Lurie Children’s new Surgeon-in-Chief
Surgeon and scientist Thomas Inge, MD, PhD, in November took the helm of Lurie Children’s Department of Surgery as its Surgeon-in-Chief.
Renowned for his expertise in pediatric bariatric surgery and research, Dr. Inge comes from University of Colorado and Children’s Hospital of Colorado, where he served as Pediatric Surgery Division Chief, Associate Surgeon-in-Chief and a member of the hospital’s Executive Leadership Team.
“Dr. Inge’s leadership skills, success in outcomes research and support of innovation will help the Lurie Children’s Surgery Department lead the way locally, regionally and nationally,” said Marleta Reynolds, MD, who is stepping down from the Surgeon-in-Chief role and will continue as a vital part of the Lurie Children’s surgical team.
In moving to Chicago, Dr. Inge will be joined by his wife, Julianna, PharmD, and their poodle, Ruby. The couple’s two daughters will continue their undergraduate studies in Colorado.
Learn more about Dr. Inge and his specialty below.
How do you describe what you do for a living?
I’m a surgeon who has the privilege of taking care of surgical problems in the tiniest of babies to the oldest of teenagers while always looking for ways to improve the art of surgery and the care I provide.
To me the best thing about what I do when I go to “work” is that my job doesn’t really feel like work.
My job includes research and pushing the boundaries of knowledge along with mentorship of other physicians, trainees and students. Having a role in teaching, training and developing people to be the future leaders in science, medicine and surgery – it really does add up to a very fulfilling career.
Why did you want to come to Lurie Children’s?
It is a great opportunity to join a top academic pediatric medical center partnered with a powerhouse university (Northwestern Feinberg School of Medicine) that are doing great things now and are well-positioned to do even better things in the future. It’s been very exciting so far to get to know some of the leaders at Lurie Children’s who are collectively all-in on promoting the best and most innovative patient care delivery, while advancing a research and discovery agenda that is unequaled in the country.
Why did you choose to work in pediatrics?
I made the decision to work in child health when I was a resident in surgery – right after I finished medical school. All of us do our rotations with all the various services at the hospital. When I was exposed to pediatric surgery, I was able to witness the innocence of the young patients. By and large, our patients do not bring on themselves the problems they encounter. When you’re able to take care of a problem in a young child and know that it will need to be an 80- or 90-year fix, there’s a real sense of responsibility and job satisfaction.
How did you choose your subspecialty, bariatric surgery?
When children develop severe obesity, the related health problems and challenges for their overall well-being can become quite serious. For the last 20 years, my clinical and academic research focus has been discovering these issues and learning how surgery can be used to reduce or eliminate the complications of pediatric severe obesity. When I first started this work, it was uncommon to see teens who were two or three times their ideal body weight. Sadly, it’s more common now. I have developed a special connection with this patient population and the disease processes that they have, what we are learning from the decades of research I have participated in is important, and is reassuring.
It is very rewarding to be able to offer a surgical solution to a young person who has not been able to experience weight loss through counseling or lifestyle interventions. With bariatric surgery, we sometimes reverse literally half a dozen medical diseases in a patient all at once.
What goals do you have as Surgeon-in-Chief at Lurie Children’s?
In joining the surgeons and surgical leaders at Lurie Children’s, my primary goal is to promote the safest and highest quality, most innovative, technically advanced surgical care possible in a pediatric medical center. At the same time, I strongly believe that we in academic healthcare have a responsibility to better understand the diseases we treat so we are the leading source of credible new knowledge and treatments related to childhood diseases. By improving treatments, we will improve lifetimes for our young patients.
As a leader in surgery, it is also important to connect dots and collaborate with others who have complementary expertise especially when we take on some of the most complex health problems imaginable. Teamwork is incredibly important for getting our best job done.
What else do you want the Lurie Children’s community to know about you?
I grew up on a farm in Virginia. Early in my life I realized the importance of goal setting and working hard to accomplish those goals. After graduating with a biology degree in 1987 from The College of William & Mary in Williamsburg, Virginia, I attended Virginia Commonwealth University and completed a physician scientist training program in 1993. I went on to train in general surgery at Stanford University and pediatric surgery at the University of Alabama. I spent the first 16 years of my career at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, where I became a tenured professor of surgery and pediatrics before moving on to the University of Colorado, where I led a large division of pediatric surgery for the past five years.
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