BSW 2020 Faculty: John Alverdy

John C. Alverdy, MD, FACS

Sarah and Harold Lincoln Thompson Professor of Surgery,

University of Chicago, USA

 
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John Alverdy, MD, FACS, is a leading surgeon-scientist with a focus on the molecular basis of surgical infections and the gut microbiome. Dr. Alverdy is the Sarah and Harold Lincoln Thompson Professor of Surgery and executive vice-chair, department of surgery, University of Chicago, IL. He has served in leadership positions at many national organizations. He was the 2016 president of the Surgical Infection Society. He received the American Surgical Association’s Flance-Karl Award in 2018 for his groundbreaking work in surgical infection pathogenesis and microbiome research.

Dr. Alverdy has for sure traveled a non-conventional - out of the box -  path to become  the renowed scientist he is now . He was a Spanish major as an undergraduate with a minor in biology. His love of language and travel sent him on a path to foreign affairs schools with the intention of becoming a diplomat. He had little interest in becoming a physician except for the fact that his father, a dentist and son of an immigrant, insisted he would go to medical school. In an interview with the ACS bulletin, he recalls the day he spoke with his advisor, who felt that graduate school in biology would be his best bet to successfully compete for admission to an American medical school. Ironically, he had a strong distaste for biology, so being relatively fluent in Spanish, without applying to any American medical schools, he headed off to medical school in Guadalajara, Mexico where he graduated from. After having  spent one year at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, Maywood, IL he completed a surgical residency at Michael Reese Hospital, an aliate of the University of Chicago at the time. He completed a surgical research fellowship at the University of California-San Francisco (UCSF).

His first big discovery was to demonstrate, for the first time, that intestinal bacteria sense host stress, such as what occurs following injury, and then respond with enhanced virulence. At a time when everyone was studying how the host immune system responds to bacteria, he asked, “How do bacteria respond to the host?” and thought that pathogens are present in our patients all the time, so something about surgical injury must trigger them to express virulence, not accepting that serious infections were just a random encounter with a very bad pathogen. He showed that bacteria sense the physiologic stress of surgery by binding soluble compounds released by host tissues that transduce their quorum sensing resulting in virulence activation.

He is a clinician as well, of course. He performs a wide variety of complex minimally invasive and open gastrointestinal surgical procedures with decades of experience in the field. Dr. Alverdy is nationally recognized for introducing several new operations into the field, including minimally invasive pancreatic surgery, bariatric surgery, and surgery for disorders of the foregut including the esophagus and stomach. He is one of the University of Chicago Hospitals’ most accomplished critical care surgeons and serves as the director for the Surgical Treatment of Obesity Program.

Dr. Alverdy accepted to give two lectures at the BSW, both in line with the congress’ theme :

-      Manipulating the microbiome to prevent surgical complications: leaks, wound infections and cancer recurrence. on the plenary session of Thursday May 7th.

-       “Surgery, music, Science, it is all just improvisational jazz ... “ on Friday’s May 8th plenary session.