Physician Spotlight – Ian L. Valerio, MD, MS, MBA, FACS
In the most recent installment of our Physician Spotlight series, we learn more about our newest Associate Professor of Clinical Plastic Surgery, Dr. Ian L. Valerio. Check out his responses to our questions below.
Q: Who influenced you to become a physician?
My grandmother, who was a pediatric nurse in a small town in Ohio, was actually the one who initially inspired me to become a physician. The reason I chose to first serve as a surgeon in the military is because I have numerous family members who were veterans and military personnel in their past, and the military also helped with a health professional scholarship program that provided support during medical school and residency training, after which I was required to fulfill my service duty.
Q: What did you specifically do with the military, and how will that transition to OSU?
With the military, I was heavily involved in traumatic reconstruction as well as cancer reconstruction for beneficiaries, so it was a pretty diverse practice. I was known to be an innovative surgeon in that I integrated a number of different traditional reconstructive techniques with regenerative medicine principles in order to improve reconstructive algorithms. I also helped develop novel approaches for limb salvage to extremity reconstruction and craniofacial reconstruction, as well as complex reconstruction for various other types of traumatic injuries and defects.
With regard to my practice at OSU, it’s going to be very similar in that I’ll be taking my service to the nation and bringing it back to my home state of Ohio, hopefully applying many of those same types of strategies.
Q: What are your specialty and/or research interests?
I have a diverse number of research areas. By coming to OSU, I’ve been exposed now to the Center of Regenerative Medicine and Cell-Based Therapies, so I’ll be integrating some strategies and bringing in bench-to-clinical type of research from that. I’ve also been involved with stem cell therapies and regenerative medicine strategies to help reconstruct and use various types of biologic scaffolds and/or cell-based therapies to restore tissues damaged as a result of either injury or cancer. Additionally, I’m heavily involved in amputee care, looking at peripheral nerve strategies or targeted muscle reinnervation to allow for addressing such things as neuroma pain, but also allowing for better results for prosthetic use. In the military, I was involved in cleft missions as well as humanitarian missions throughout the world to provide additional care options to individuals in need.
Q: What brought you to OSU’s Department of Plastic Surgery?
First and foremost, it was Dr. Michael Miller who noticed some of the things I was doing in the military and hoped to potentially attract me to OSU to adapt some of those same strategies to help people here. The second reason was to come back home. My wife is from the Columbus area, and I’m from the Cleveland area, so it was a natural call to come back home after my service obligations with the military were finished. The third reason was for family. My family was expanding, and we wanted to give them a more midwestern type of upbringing.
Q: What makes the team at The Ohio State University unique?
An academic institution with the legacy Ohio State has is, of course, an attraction, as well as the sports teams and local events such as that. However, I think the bigger thing that sets OSU apart is the variety of individuals the plastic surgery team has been compiling here. There are a number of renowned experts within various areas of plastic surgery, which makes it a very strong, well-rounded and complementary-type team.
The burn wound and trauma division specifically has a very strong team with Dr. Jeffrey Janis, Dr. Gayle Gordillo, and Dr. Rajiv Chandwarkar, as well as myself. I would argue our core group is one of the more well known, strong, and confident teams within the area of burn wound and trauma in any center in the country.
Q: What do you most enjoy about your work, and what are you looking forward to doing at OSU?
Of course I’m very proud of my prior military service and hopefully being able to help future veterans as well as other military members that may be in need. I’m still maintaining an active reserve appointment, which OSU and the department of plastic surgery are supportive of. In addition to that, I still have arrangements where I’ll be helping wounded warriors through multiple clinical trials and research programs that I’m involved with at Ohio State. I’m also involved with [something Bethesda?] for projects helping military members in need.
After I finished my national service commitment to the military, I felt compelled to come home and help my fellow Ohioans with various areas of traumatic and/or oncologic injuries for which I may be able to provide a positive impact.
Q: What has been the biggest challenge you’ve faced in your career?
My biggest challenge was when I was the department head of trauma in Afghanistan – I was the trauma surgeon, plastic surgeon, and general surgeon for a number of casualties from war. I ran a center, and it was actually the busiest casualty receiving hospital in all of Afghanistan. Most proudly, we had over a 98% survival rate despite the devastating injuries from war. Some of the most trying times were also some of our proudest moments that really helped me practice the purest form of medicine – situations in which you have a man or woman in dire need for your services.
Q: What’s the most important advice you have for patients who are considering restorative surgery after some sort of injury or trauma?
Most importantly, you have to be comfortable with your surgeon and also confident in his or her ability. There are a number of tools in our armamentarium to help, and being comfortable and confident really can take you through all aspects of reconstructive care, especially those cases that may be complex in nature and require multiple staged procedures to achieve the desired results. You need to have the psychological strength and security to know the person whose operating well hopefully be making a difference in your life worthy of your trust.
Q: What moments in particular make you proud to be a physician?
I’ve been fortunate in my career to have developed lengthy relationships with people I’ve cared for that go beyond just a physician-patient relationship. I often get touching notes about what they’re doing and what they’re now able to accomplish after experiencing horrific injuries that may have limited them previously.
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