First-Person Perspective

20 Years in Fetal Surgery

Laurie Scudder, DNP, NP; N. Scott Adzick, MD


June 20, 2015

Editorial Collaboration

Medscape &

Editor's Note:
As part of Medscape's 20th anniversary, we asked clinicians representing fields of medicine that have radically changed over the past 20 years, or perhaps didn't even exist when Medscape launched, to share with us their perspectives on the advances in medicine that led them to where they are now.

Scott Adzick, MD, at the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia (CHOP), is a pioneer in the field of fetal surgery. Dr Adzick spoke with Medscape recently about the state of his changing profession, and he also shared his advice for aspiring surgeons.

First-Person Perspective

Medscape: Can you share with us the experiences that led to your interest in the previously unknown field of fetal surgery?

N. Scott Adzick, MD

Dr Adzick: This year marks Medscape's 20th anniversary, and by coincidence this year also is the 20th anniversary of our Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment at CHOP, now the largest such fetal surgery program in the world.

When I was 11, my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a radical mastectomy and cobalt radiation therapy, and she survived. I decided right then and there that I wanted to be a surgeon because I was grateful to the surgeon who had cared for her. During medical school at Harvard in the late '70s, there were two huge influences on me. Isn't it funny how role models can influence you so much? One was Dr Judah Folkman, who was the surgeon-in-chief at Boston Children's Hospital, and the other was Dr W. Hardy Hendren, who was the chief of pediatric surgery at the Massachusetts General Hospital. I worked with both of these incredible pediatric surgeons when I was a mere medical student, and I figured out that this is what I wanted to do—become a pediatric surgeon. I love the field, I love the children, and I love the broad spectrum of problems that pediatric surgeons treat. It was apparent to me that birth defects were a crucial part of pediatric surgery and that the essence of birth defects, of course, is what occurs before birth. I thought it would be interesting to learn about that to better help those children before, during, and after birth.

Dr Folkman was a genius. He discovered tumor angiogenesis, the fact that tumor cells produce angiogenic factors that attract blood vessels from the host that leads to explosive tumor growth. In my view, he would have won a Nobel Prize if he hadn't died prematurely. This quote from Dr Folkman is particularly apropos for pediatric surgery and the importance of research to future advances:

As long as there is an unconquered disease, an injury that cannot be repaired or a method of prevention that remains beyond reach, we have an obligation to conduct research. Research represents hope, and for many patients and families, hope is the best thing we have to offer. We pursue our investigations so that one day we can offer more than hope; we can offer health. [Personal communication]


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