Researcher to discuss importance of collaboration, perseverance

Melina R. Kibbe, MD
Melina R. Kibbe, MD, FACS, FAHA

Melina R. Kibbe, MD, FACS, FAHA, has dedicated her career to developing novel therapies for patients with vascular disease. In the 2021 I. S. Ravdin Lecture in the Basic and Surgical Sciences, she will review one of her lab’s areas of focus for the past decade and the lessons their work has provided on how surgeon scientists approach research. Targeted Nanotherapeutics for Vascular Diseases and Beyond begins at 1:00 pm Central Time on Monday, October 25.

“It’s the lab’s journey into developing a suite of targeted nanotherapies for various diseases and what we’ve learned through the process and how critical multidisciplinary collaborations are to really advancing science like this,” said Dr. Kibbe, the James Carroll Flippin Professor of Medical Science and dean of the University of Virginia (UVA) School of Medicine, and chief health affairs officer, UVA Health, Charlottesville.

In 2017, Dr. Kibbe was elected to the National Academy of Medicine, and President Barack Obama recognized Dr. Kibbe’s contributions to medicine in 2009 with the Presidential Early Career Award for Scientists and Engineers. Her research has received funding from the National Institutes of Health, the American Heart Association, the Department of Veterans Affairs, the American Medical Association, and other organizations. She is the editor-in-chief of JAMA Surgery.

About 10 years ago, Dr. Kibbe collaborated with a material scientist to explore how to best harness the latest tools and technologies in the pursuit of better therapies for vascular disease. At the same time, targeted therapies for cancer were being developed, and Dr. Kibbe saw great potential in using a person’s own blood flow as a conduit for such therapy.

“I figured there was no better disease for true targeted therapies than vascular disease,” she said. “You can use your circulation as the route of delivery. Think of it as a boat sailing along the ocean, and instead you’re sailing through your arteries to get to your end destination where you want your payload—your drug—to be delivered.”

Dr. Kibbe encourages the next generation of surgeons to pursue bench research to improve the delivery of medical care to patients through similar innovations.

“I do fear that surgeon scientists, especially basic research surgeon scientists, are a dying breed,” she said. “I want my talk to hopefully serve as an inspiration to others that surgeons can do this, and surgeons can do this well.”

Perseverance and collaboration are both keys to success in a research lab, Dr. Kibbe noted.

“Conducting research is a much slower process than being a surgeon in the operating room,” she said. “Being a surgeon, you can fix what is wrong with a patient, sometimes right there on the spot, within a few hours. So, it’s a different type of gratification than one gets versus research.”

If an experiment fails in the lab, it may take months or years to troubleshoot and correct. “When you do, the payoff can be incredibly rewarding,” Dr. Kibbe said. “Perseverance pays off.”

Her research into targeted nanotherapies has involved a multidisciplinary, collaborative approach. “It wouldn’t be possible without my collaborators and the team of investigators that I have in my lab,” Dr. Kibbe said. “It’s the core definition of collaborating.”

This lecture has been sponsored by the I.S. Ravdin Surgical Society since 1964 to honor Dr. Ravdin by promoting knowledge in basic sciences with application to surgery.

This and other Clinical Congress 2021 sessions are available to registered attendees for on-demand viewing for a full year following Congress on the virtual meeting platform.

For a detailed discussion of this session, view an interview with Dr. Kibbe and Amy L. Halverson, MD, FACS, FASCRS, vice-chair of education, department of surgery, and professor of surgery and medical education, Northwestern University, Feinberg School of Medicine, Chicago, IL. Conducting the Clinical Congress Daily Highlights interview is Ronald J. Weigel, MD, PhD, FACS, Chair, ACS Board of Governors.