David Dries, MSE, MD, FACS, FCCP, MCCM

What is your clinical/professional background?

While in medical school at the University of Chicago Pritzker School of Medicine, they allowed me to finish my master’s degree in engineering at Purdue University.

I went to Duke University Medical Center for surgery training and then, by grace, went to the University of Utah where they were getting ready to do the first pneumatic artificial heart transplantation. Because I had a background in engineering and surgery, I was a logical person to fit into the group. So that was a very exciting time to be in Utah. The people I worked with there included the guy who started dialysis and was called by some the father of the artificial heart.

After I finished my surgical training I was in Chicago for a few years, where I ran critical care units and helicopter programs. I was fortunate to work with some incredibly good researchers and teachers. I still have some of the slides and physicnumic principles they taught me.

I stayed in Chicago until the late 90s and spent a short time at the University of Michigan where I met some very stimulating people, but then was recruited here [to Regions Hospital] where again I worked with some world-class people.

Can you describe your role?

At Regions Hospital I’m the division head for surgery. Within HealthPartners Medical Group I’m also a division leader for surgery. At the University of Minnesota I am a professor in three disciplines: I have an endowed chair in surgery, but I’m also a professor of emergency medicine and anesthesiology. Again, I am fortunate I can straddle many disciplines. There are a lot of lessons that they have to teach each other, and that has been very simulating and enjoyable.

With respect to education at Regions Hospital, Dr. Felix Ankel is one of the first people I met and bonded with as I got engaged here. We found we had a similar view of managing clinical problems and training younger physicians and surgeons not only to care for patients but to work together as effective teams. I think at times because the Emergency Medicine Program is willing to expose its residents to other disciplines, our program has been immeasurably strengthened. For example, our residents will have the knowledge of emergency medicine but also the knowledge of surgeons in the management of trauma. Trauma traditionally is a surgical problem, but our team is very sophisticated in part because of the interdisciplinary way that we do the work.

Can you tell us about working with trainees?

It’s collaborative and stimulating. Working with trainees for me is a given; they are the future. I am selfishly counting on this generation to take care of me. Anything we can do to invest in the younger generations is a huge plus. Students who aren’t framed by their historical biases tend to ask great questions and they bring fresh insight to the new problems they face.

What do you enjoy the most about the work you do within this program?

One of the things I say with great joy is that no two days are alike. From administering board exams in Chicago to covering trauma in the intensive care unit, to writing a critical care curriculum, to traveling to South America to present an interdisciplinary critical care curriculum – it keeps you on your toes and is very stimulating.

What is one innovative idea that you think could improve your program?

The more we can do to build interdisciplinary and personal contact with people will be the biggest single thing. To the extent that we can find within our various duties to make ourselves available to each other so that we can have conversations about whatever the person sitting in the other chair wants to talk about, we come out ahead.

What has been successful in your program that you think would be helpful for others to know?

The multidisciplinary aspect. Here’s an example: I work with complex abdominal wall problems. Sometimes after surgery the abdominal wall breaks down and the intestines are spilling things onto the abdominal wall. That’s a difficult problem and a lot of people either don’t feel comfortable treating it or don’t have the resources to treat it. I work with a nurse who does wonders crafting individualized wound care dressings. Her husband happens to be an engineer. Together, we patented a technology this year which is sold in every state and internationally to help control this spillage of bowel contents. And we have a second patent that should go in this week or next. The engineer husband couldn’t do it by himself, his wife couldn’t do it by herself and I couldn’t make it happen without them. It’s allowed us to provide a unique service to our patients because of the skills each of us brings to the table.

How does the work you do positively impact patient care?

Continuous learning improves the outcomes of the people we operate on. We learn from one another and we figure out what is going on.

What are you top 3 tips for others with your similar responsibilities?

  1. I couldn’t do something I wasn’t passionate about. I won’t say I don’t get up and feel stressed some days, but I’d rather have a healthy degree of stress than be drowned in boredom.
  2. Variety, multidisciplinary stimulation and wide collaboration are a recipe for an enjoyable work environment. Everyone has something so contribute.
  3. Be willing to look outside one’s silo to see possibilities. With crisis comes opportunity; with change comes information … and sometimes self-realization.

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