Horacio Asbun, MD, presented the 19th Annual Eugene M. Bricker Visiting Lecture in Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis on Wednesday, April 13, 2022. The Department of Surgery and general surgery residency program welcomed Asbun as the first in-person Bricker visiting professor since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. Asbun serves as chief of hepatobiliary and pancreas surgery at Miami Cancer Institute and professor of surgery at Mayo Clinic College of Medicine and Science.
“Dr. Asbun is a master surgeon,” Michael Brunt, MD, the Pruett Family Professor of Surgery, stated in his introduction. “He’s one of the most accomplished and technically brilliant MIS HPB surgeons in the world.”
Asbun has been a key figure in the worldwide development of minimally invasive HPB surgery. His lecture, entitled “Innovations in Surgery from the Laparoscopic Revolution to MIS HPB Surgery,” provided his unique account of the revolution and the future of robotics, technology and the vast potential of surgical innovations.
Asbun emphasized that the road to innovation does not always progress in a straight line. He recounted the stories of Dr. Eugène-Louis Doyen and Dr. Erich Mühe, two surgeons who were initially scorned for their innovations and are now lauded for their vital contributions to surgery. Doyen appalled the surgical community and public alike when he began filming and exhibiting his procedures in 1899, but the process of recording surgeries as didactic tools has become vital in modern medical education. Mühe performed the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy in 1985 with a tool of his own design – a “Galloscope” modeled after a bicycle tube. His methods were mocked by the scientific community and his name was lost to obscurity following a brutal defamation campaign, but today Mühe’s endeavors are recognized as some of the most innovative original achievements in modern German medicine. Asbun pointed out that innovation, though potentially met with resistance at first, perseveres.
As a first-hand witness to such innovation himself, Asbun shared his personal experiences in the early days of laparoscopic surgery. He was heavily involved at the epicenter of the laparoscopic revolution in the United States during his residency training in Nashville, Tennessee, in the early 1990s. Asbun trained with Eddie Joe Reddick, MD, and Douglas Olsen, MD, two pioneers of laparoscopic surgery who also served as mentors to William Chapman, MD, the Eugene M. Bricker Chair of Surgery at Washington University. Asbun then described recent advances in technology and exciting opportunities for the future of surgery, including augmented surgery, remote surgery and applications for artificial intelligence.
“Future applications may be limited only by surgeons’ imaginations and the development of equipment,” Asbun said.
Throughout the lecture, Asbun continually returned to the importance of upholding ethics above all. He advised his audience to keep the best interests of patients at the forefront of everything they do.
“Don’t underestimate your potential,” Asbun said. “Remember the empowerment of the individual. Be prepared for the negatives that I mentioned. And above all, do not ever forget that the best interest for the patient is the only interest to be considered.”
Asbun closed his lecture by recognizing the achievements of several surgical innovators at Washington University: Brunt, who is chief of minimally invasive surgery; Chapman, who is chief of abdominal transplant surgery; and Steven Strasberg, MD, who retired last year after a seminal 50-year career in HPB surgery.
The Annual Bricker Lecture was established in 2004 in memory of Eugene M. Bricker, MD, a graduate of Washington University School of Medicine, resident at Barnes Hospital and former faculty member of the Department of Surgery. Bricker was an accomplished surgeon and outstanding teacher who helped to develop standard procedures for wound closure and the treatment of hand injuries in World War II and helped develop and popularize the ileal conduit in patients requiring cystectomies. The lecture is sponsored by the Department of Surgery and Barnes-Jewish Hospital and supported by the Eugene M. Bricker, MD Endowment Fund.