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Q&A: Matthew Eagleton, MD, Chief of Vascular Surgery, on Innovation and Collaboration

In This Article

  • Matthew Eagleton, MD, is Mass General's new chief of Vascular Surgery and co-director of the Fireman Vascular Center
  • Here, he discusses what attracted him to Mass General and highlights his research initiatives
  • Dr. Eagleton also explains why being a surgeon-investigator is so rewarding

Matthew Eagleton, MD, is Mass General's new chief of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery and co-director of the Fireman Vascular Center. In this article, Dr. Eagleton discusses what attracted him to Mass General and why being a surgeon-investigator is so rewarding.

Q: What was it about Mass General that led you to Boston?

Eagleton: I've had the privilege of working at several great medical institutions. At each location, while the clinical care has been outstanding, the approach to providing care has differed—both clinically and administratively. Mass General has a legacy of providing cutting-edge clinical care to patients and leading in innovation to improve that care. I was drawn to this history. I saw an opportunity to apply what I have learned previously in other systems to the Mass General model in order to continue to foster the evolution of the program.

The health care industry is rapidly changing, and institutions and practitioners must do so as well in order to ensure the best care for our patients. This is an opportunity for me to be part of that process and help build a better system, both at the Mass General and within our society. We need to build programs based on the successful history of Mass General, and also provide innovative solutions to achieving that high level of clinical and research excellence. Mass General is positioned to be the leader in this process.

Q: What is your vision for innovation and collaboration for the Fireman Vascular Center and Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery?

Eagleton: The Fireman Vascular Center brings together clinicians and investigators from a variety of different backgrounds who have the common goal of improving care to patients with vascular disease. While this is its strength, it is also its biggest challenge: how to best coordinate thought leaders from different specialties in a program that leads in every facet of vascular care.

Our focus within the center is to help build clinical and research collaborations. We will continue to develop multi-specialty programs that will define clinical care for vascular patients. A centralized database system will assist individual specialties in participating in their specific national quality measures, but it will also allow reporting of center-wide outcomes to define the success of our combined clinical efforts.

We will provide an infrastructure to aid in the performance of clinical and translation research. The insights provided by multiple experts can better help to shape the direction of future research in order to maximize its impact. Our overriding goal, through the coordination of our superior individual specialty expertise, is to be the leader in providing innovative vascular care and research in the country.

Q: Can you speak about a specific research initiative that you are excited to bring to Mass General?

Eagleton: I have been involved in the development and assessment of fenestrated and branched endografting for the treatment of complex aortic disease. In the United States, the clinical application and assessment of its use can only be performed as part of an investigational device exemption (IDE) trial. I have transferred a sponsor/investigator-initiated IDE to Mass General in order to continue this clinical research program. We will be able to provide endovascular therapies for complex aortic disease from the aortic root through the iliac artery bifurcation. This will provide a less-invasive surgical option for high-risk disease states such as aortic aneurysms and dissections. We will help to shape the future of this technology and work towards a better understanding of who benefits from these procedures, and how can we improve its implementation to improve clinical outcomes and its long-term durability.

Q: Can you explain some interesting aspects of being both a surgeon and a researcher?

Eagleton: Being a surgeon-investigator is a rewarding opportunity. One of the key aspects of being a vascular surgeon is being able to troubleshoot a clinical problem. As a surgeon-investigator, I can extend this beyond the clinical realm and think about not just how to treat a single patient, but think about how to apply this to groups of patients. Doing so will benefit multiple patients, many of whom I may have no direct connection to. That is an exciting prospect and potentially larger impact.

Q: What are some of the most exciting developments on the horizon for your field of research?

Eagleton: The field of vascular surgery and the treatment of vascular disease is rapidly advancing. It is most acutely affected by rapid developments in endovascular technology. For instance, over the next decade, we will see a more widespread application of endovascular therapy to treat aortic disease. In research programs, we have begun treating disease in the ascending aorta and aortic arch, regions that historically have seemed out of reach.

The technology will improve and the procedures will be easier to perform with fewer perioperative and long-term complications. Improvements will be made that will allow for the incorporation of cardiac-based interventions (such as TAVR), and these procedures allow for the application of less invasive surgery in a number of high-risk clinical settings.

Our understanding of which patients to select for which specific treatment will continue to improve. We will dramatically evolve our knowledge regarding the interplay of genetics and environmental factors on specific patient outcomes, and we will be able to tailor that information to provide individualized care to maximize benefits and reduce complications and cost.

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Learn more about the Division of Vascular and Endovascular Surgery

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