Pediatric Surgeon Thomas M. Krummel, MD, FACS, FAAP, Honored with Jacobson Innovation Award

American College of Surgeons award honors Dr. Krummel’s groundbreaking research in pediatric surgery and surgical technology

CHICAGO: Thomas M. Krummel, MD, FACS, FAAP, a pediatric surgeon who pioneered life-saving advances in newborn life support and championed simulation and virtual reality in surgical education, is the recipient of this year’s American College of Surgeons (ACS) Jacobson Innovation Award.

Dr. Krummel, the Emile Holman Professor Emeritus of Surgery and co-director for 15 years of Stanford Biodesign at Stanford University, will receive the award at a banquet this evening in Chicago, Illinois.

“Dr. Tom Krummel is a pioneer and trailblazer in simulation-based surgical education, development of novel techniques in neonatal life support, and the creation of innovation fellowships for the next generation of surgeons and scientists,” said E. Christopher Ellison, MD, FACS, President of the ACS. “His receiving of the Jacobson Innovation Award is a well-deserved recognition for his unrivaled career characterized by passion and dedication to discovery.”

The international surgical award from the ACS honors living surgeons who are innovators of a new development or technique in any field of surgery. It is made possible through a gift from Julius H. Jacobson II, MD, FACS, a general vascular surgeon known for his pioneering work in the development of microsurgery, and his wife, Joan.

In becoming the 29th recipient of the award, Dr. Krummel noted that he is humbled to join a long list of innovators.

“To join a group of remarkable innovators is an awesome career capstone,” he said. “There are many recognitions of basic science advancements, but I think recognition of clinical innovation is responsible for most of the way surgeons practice today. It’s a real tribute to the Jacobson Family that they thought it was worthy to recognize surgeon innovators with this award.”

Career highlights

Dr. Krummel’s career-long focus on innovation began in residency when he formed the world’s second-ever program focused on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO), a then-novel form of advanced life support designed to keep blood moving through the body in newborns with life-threatening cardiac or respiratory conditions. The team’s research in infants helped establish ECMO as an effective intervention, and the approach has since saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of patients worldwide.

Following his residency, Dr. Krummel completed a fellowship in fetal surgery at the University of California in San Francisco. In a subsequent faculty position at the Medical College of Virginia, he received funding from the ACS and other entities for research in fetal tissue repair — a pioneering effort.

“Mother Nature is an incredible tissue engineer,” Dr. Krummel said. “She starts with a fertilized egg and makes a person out of a blueprint. As pediatric surgeons, we are privileged to witness and harness the compelling ability of the body to regenerate and grow new tissue. When we take care of children, our expectation is that they will live until 80 or longer, so our long-term follow-up is a lifetime. The demands and expectations of what we do have to withstand the test of decades.”

Dr. Krummel continued his research on understanding the biochemical and cellular mechanisms of scarring and tissue damage for more than two decades, first while serving as a professor of surgery and pediatrics and the chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery at the Penn State Health Milton S. Hershey Medical Center; then as the John A. and Marian T. Waldhausen Professor and chair of the Department of Surgery at Penn State College of Medicine, and finally at Stanford University, during part of his tenure as the Emile Holman Professor and chair of the Department of Surgery.

In 2004, recognizing a need to bridge gaps between surgery, innovation, and clinical adoption, Dr. Krummel founded the Stanford Surgical Innovation Program, and a year later merged with the Stanford Byers Center for Biodesign. He served as co-director of Stanford Biodesign until 2021. Graduates and participants of these programs (195 Innovation Fellows and 2,500+ Stanford students) have made significant contributions to the field of surgery. The program estimates that more than 7 million patients have been treated with technologies developed by graduates of this program — and the impact continues to grow exponentially.

“This comprehensive approach to teaching innovation is unmatched and has produced a large number of graduates prepared to advance the practice of surgery by thinking differently,” wrote Gerald M. Fried, MD, FACS, in a nomination letter for Dr. Krummel.

Throughout his career, Dr. Krummel held numerous leadership positions at the ACS, including serving on the Research and Development Committee of the ACS Consortium of Accredited Education Institutes and the ACS Committee on Emerging Surgical Technology & Education.

Advice to young surgeon-scientists

Dr. Krummel currently divides his time between Stanford and Austin, Texas, where he continues to mentor young scientists and helps fund promising technologies with Santé Ventures. He advises that perseverance and patience are vital attributes to innovation in surgery.

“You solve problems by first recognizing that there is a major problem, not just an inconvenience, and secondly, by spending a lot of time talking to other physicians about their perceptions on the state of care as we know it. Finding a receptive group of physicians who acknowledge there is a problem and are willing to explore new solutions is key,” he said. “It can be lonely and often frustrating, but if you can get past that, suddenly a whole new set of therapies or technology can emerge. The field needs an ongoing source of disruptors as Dr. Julius Jacobson recognized in his founding gift. If a small-town Wisconsin kid can make a dent, so can anyone.”

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