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Brunt Named Pruett Family Professor of Surgery

Graphic: Chrystie Tyler

Section Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery L. Michael Brunt, MD, received the Pruett Family Professorship in Surgery this July. The Pruett Family Professorship was initiated in 1999 with a gift from the late Burchard S. Pruett to honor the Pruett family.

“I am incredibly honored to have been named the next Pruett Family Professor of Surgery,” says Brunt. “Rather than an individual achievement, I consider this much more a recognition of the entire Section of Minimally Invasive Surgery faculty and the increasing role of the Section as a clinical and educational leader in the Department of Surgery.”

Brunt has served as Section Chief of Minimally Invasive Surgery since 2014. His clinical focus is in the areas of laparoscopic foregut, solid organ and biliary surgery. Brunt specializes in technically difficult procedures, such as repair of complex hiatal hernias including paraesophageal hernias and reoperative foregut surgery, incisional hernias, and cholecystectomy. In addition, he has established a referral practice for sports hernias, with recreational, collegiate and professional athletes referred from throughout the United States. He has been listed in Best Doctors of America since 1996, in “Best Doctors in St. Louis” by St. Louis Magazine since 2002 and in the Guide to America’s Top Surgeons since 2006.

This year, Brunt received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Barnes-Jewish Hospital Medical Staff Association. This award recognizes a surgeon who has made significant contributions over a long and accomplished career at Barnes-Jewish Hospital and Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

After earning his medical degree from John’s Hopkins University School of Medicine, Brunt joined the Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine as an intern in 1980. He completed his general surgery residency and an immunology fellowship, both at the School of Medicine.

Brunt is a leading researcher in the field of minimally invasive surgery. His research, funded by the National Institutes of Health and Society of American Gastrointestinal and Endoscopic Surgeons (SAGES), has produced significant advances in patient outcomes. Recently, Brunt led a three-year effort to develop evidence-based recommendations for safe cholecystectomy and prevention of bile duct injuries. He has also been Principal Investigator on research projects to reduce opioid prescriptions following surgery.

“Dr. Brunt is one of the most respected and accomplished minimally invasive surgeons in the nation,” says Timothy Eberlein, MD, the William K. Bixby Professor and chair of the Department of Surgery. “His commitment to clinical, research and educational excellence has shaped the field of laparoscopic surgery over the past four decades. He has long been a leader in his field. He has improved the lives of countless patients in St. Louis and around the world, both through his clinical care and by advancing outcomes-related research. Dr. Brunt is loved and respected by trainees, patients, and colleagues alike.”

Among his numerous national leadership positions, Brunt served as President of SAGES from 2014-2015. He has been on the SAGES Board of Governors since 2006, and he is Chair of the SAGES Safety on Cholecystectomy Task Force, which he formed in 2014. He is also President of the Central Surgical Association and President-Elect of the Fellowship Council.

Brunt, who is the Minimally Invasive Surgery Fellowship Program Director, is a dedicated and accomplished educator. He has taught the Capstone Preparation for Internship Course for 4th year medical students, which he helped establish, since its inception in 2012. Brunt has received the Clinical Teacher of the Year Award from Washington University School of Medicine seven times.

“His mentorship as fellowship director has shaped the careers of a new generation of leaders in minimally invasive surgery,” says Eberlein.

The Pruett Family Professorship was previously held by Steven Strasberg, MD, who retired from the Department of Surgery this year. Strasberg joined the Department of Surgery in 1992 as the first section chief of hepato-biliary pancreatic and GI (HPB-GI) surgery.

“There are few individuals in the world who have done more to advance the cause of surgery and enhance the quality of surgical care than Steven Strasberg,” Brunt says. “When Dr. Strasberg came to Washington University in 1992, he not only developed HPB surgery as a specialty here, he also implemented the Refresher Course and Update in General Surgery which continues today, and it was here in 1995 that he described the critical view of safety which was the first among many of his sentinel contributions to enhancing safety around cholecystectomy. Dr. Strasberg has been an invaluable mentor to me personally and, in particular, in the quest to diminish bile duct injuries in cholecystectomy. More importantly, Dr. Strasberg has taught us all how to think critically about surgical problems and ways in which to improve care, and how to elevate the quality of what is published in the surgical literature. It is, consequently, even more meaningful to me to have inherited the Pruett Professorship from such a valued friend and mentor.”