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The Future of Endocrine Surgery

Future of Endocrine Surgery

Experience with a high volume of cases is important to providing safe and effective treatment for patients with rare endocrine problems. Washington University endocrine surgeons in St. Louis operate at a major referral center for these conditions.

“We see many patients who are not candidates for surgery at other centers,” says endocrine surgeon William Gillanders, MD. “When a patient comes to us for endocrine surgery, they are seeing an experienced surgeon that performs a high volume of complex cases.”

Gillanders, MD, who has over 20 years of experience at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis, is the Mary Culver Professor of Surgery and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Surgery.

There are three endocrine surgeons on the Washington University endocrine surgery team. Gillanders is joined by endocrine surgeons Taylor C Brown, MD, MHS, and T.K. Pandian, MD, MPH. The team sees one of the highest volumes of endocrine surgery cases in the St. Louis area, giving them the knowledge and ability to care for even the most complex conditions while delivering excellent results.

“It is not very common to have three endocrine surgeons at one institution,” says Brown. “Each of us trained at different institutions. We have that diversity of training to bring to the care of our patients. It is a huge asset.”

The team is committed to providing the best quality care for all patients with endocrine conditions. This means helping patients every step of the way.

“We help patients navigate the system by scheduling imaging, other tests and appointments for the same day as their appointment with the endocrine surgeon whenever possible,” says Gillanders. “We work with referring physicians to coordinate care. We make sure our patients are taken care of, from imaging by international leaders in thyroid imaging at Mallinckrodt to adapting new tools for evaluation of thyroid fine needle aspiration biopsies that help prevent unnecessary surgeries.”

A Long, Storied History

“There has been a long, storied history of taking care of endocrine patients at WashU,” says Brown. In fact, Washington University is known around the world for its experience treating and researching rare endocrine conditions, such as medullary thyroid carcinoma and Multiple Endocrine Neoplasia (MEN) syndromes.

Much of this historical reputation centers around Samuel Wells, Jr., MD, former chairman of the Department of Surgery. At Washington University, Wells was a pioneer in researching and treating rare inherited syndromes that cause an aggressive form of thyroid cancer and other endocrine diseases. Wells led a team that identified the genetic mutations responsible for MEN syndromes. With the late Jeffrey Moley, MD, who was an expert endocrine surgeon and former chief of surgical oncology at the School of Medicine, Wells advanced a preventive procedure that includes surgical removal of the thyroid gland.

“WashU has had many pioneers in endocrine surgery,” says Pandian. “Doctors Moley, Wells and Gillanders championed endocrine surgery at the School of Medicine for years. Dr. Wells trained many endocrine surgeons who are now leaders across the country. Many of his trainees have gone on to leadership roles in surgical associations and departments of surgery. The history of endocrine surgery is engrained in our legacy at Washington University.”

This is What We Do

Building on the established legacy of excellence in endocrine surgery at Washington University is a shared goal for Brown and Pandian. Each fellowship-trained surgeon brings his own expertise, and both are committed to providing every patient the best possible outcome.

Brown, who completed general surgery residency and an endocrine surgery fellowship at Yale University School of Medicine, is leading innovative research in anaplastic thyroid cancer, the deadliest form of thyroid cancer. Brown is researching the evolution of this rare, aggressive cancer, as well as potential new therapies to treat it. In 2020, he received a grant from the American Association of Endocrine Surgeons for his research focused on anaplastic thyroid cancer.

“We hope to continue to grow our practice and implement new treatment options for future patients,” says Brown. “We work very closely with referring physicians, endocrinologists, radiologists and radiation oncologists. We take a team approach to come up with the right care for our patients, which is just not necessarily available elsewhere.”

Pandian completed his general surgery residency at the Mayo Clinic School of Graduate Medical Education, followed by an endocrine surgery fellowship at Harvard’s Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Massachusetts General Hospital. Pandian is also an important figure in the medical school’s surgical education curriculum, where he is working with other surgeons to revamp medical student experiences in the field of surgery.

“At the end of the day, we are a team,” says Pandian. “We are going to do whatever it takes for our patients. If you think about it, we have a very focused niche. Three glands may not seem like much in the grand scheme of the body, but this is what we do. We understand the nuances of the diagnosis and treatment for these overall rare conditions.”

For Patients

The endocrine system is a network of glands that make the hormones controlling how the body functions. These glands produce the hormones responsible for how the body uses energy, regulates blood calcium levels and performs other important functions that help cells talk to each other. Three main glands in the endocrine system—the thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal glands—can sometimes produce too much hormone, grow nodules or develop cancer.

For thyroid, parathyroid and adrenal diseases, surgery can often be the first line of treatment. Washington University endocrine surgeons at Siteman Cancer Center treat a high volume of patients with endocrine problems each year. These conditions include:

  • Thyroid nodules and cancers
  • Hyperparathyroidism
  • Adrenal tumors and cancers
  • Thyroid goiters
  • Graves’ disease and other types of hyperthyroidism
  • Medullary thyroid carcinoma
  • Multiple endocrine neoplasia (MEN) syndromes
  • Parathyroid cancers

Washington University endocrine surgeons see patients at the Center for Advanced Medicine and Barnes-Jewish West County Hospital.

To learn more about the Thyroid Cancer Program at Siteman Cancer Center, visit the Siteman Cancer Center website.

To learn more about endocrine conditions and treatments at Washington University, visit the Surgical Oncology website.

To make an appointment with a Washington University endocrine surgeon or refer a patient, please call (314) 362-2280.