By Chris Motola
Vascular surgeon is Highland Hospital’s new chief of surgery — he talks about his new position, his field of expertise and how he wants his team ‘to be rowing in the same direction’
Q: You’re the new chief of surgery at Highland Hospital. Can you give us a sense of what that position is? How administrative vs. clinical is it?
A: I’m a practicing vascular surgeon here at Highland, so I see patients in clinic several days a week. I see inpatients, and patients in the emergency room and all that type of thing. That’s not going to change; I plan to continue all of that. The chief job involves a number of tasks and responsibilities. You are in charge of credentialing surgeons in the hospital and making sure surgeons who work here have all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed. It’s making sure the patients in the hospital who are under the care of surgeons are all getting the best possible care. And it’s allocating resources within the operating room, interacting and working with colleagues in all the different fields. The anesthesia colleagues, the nursing colleagues, colleagues in the emergency room, on the floor. It’s making sure everything’s working as smoothly as it possibly can.
Q: Has it been a goal of yours to assume this position, or did it open up and you were available and willing?
A: I’ve been working at Highland for around eight years now. It’s not necessarily a job that I had identified years ago as a future goal for myself, but it is an opportunity that I’m very much looking forward to. One of things I like most about my job as a vascular surgeon is that I get to interact with all different types of people around the hospital. I see patients in the emergency room. I have inpatients on the floor. I do outpatient work. I collaborate with different colleagues from other specialties. So I think that will serve me well in this role, since I’m already interacting with all these people, as we move forward on all these fronts. It’s something I’m looking
Q: Is it difficult to switch gears from clinical to administrative, or do they flow together easily?
A: I don’t know if I’d define it as a gear shift. I still consider my clinical work and taking care of patients as my primary work. But
I think it’s an opportunity to work on the bigger picture stuff. It’s not just seeing a single patient, it’s working with all these other people to affect and improve the care of patients all over the hospital and throughout our health system. That’s something I’m excited about.
Q: You’re also involved in the administration as treasurer, correct?
A: I’m the secretary treasurer of the Highland Hospital medical staff, yes.
Q: What kind of insight does that give you into how resources are allocated?
A: Yeah, I think that’s another example of a position where you get to interact with all kinds of people from all over the hospital. That committee is made up of doctors, nurses and APPs [advanced practice providers] from all over the hospital who deal in some way with the day-to-day functioning of the hospital and how to best optimized the flow and care of patients, but also what we in the hospital are doing for the community as a whole. One of the things I’m most pleased with as far as the medical executive committee goes are our efforts like scholarships for nursing students. It’s an opportunity for us in the hospital to recognize the people we work with and work around us and to help them as well.
Q: What’s an issue you’ve identified that you want to address on an administrative level?
A: Well, I think the pandemic and the last two years have taught us a lot, and we’d be really silly not to change anything in our practice and got back to business as usual. One thing it’s highlighted is how interconnected everything is and how important each link in the chain is. And things you may not have thought were weak links can be. If you’d told me before COVID that I wouldn’t be able to do surgeries because we didn’t have enough gloves or contrast dye, or enough staff in the hospital to take care of patients, I would have said that’s crazy. But here we are, and those are all challenges we’ve faced. So making sure we’re working collaboratively and making sure everyone has what they need to succeed is what we need to concentrate on moving forward. We all need to be rowing in the same direction. I’m not sure that’s something we appreciated before the pandemic.
Q: Can you talk a bit about what vascular surgery is?
A: A lot of the patients I see had never heard of vascular surgery. It’s not a very well-known specialty, and is one of the smaller ones nationally. We deal with the diseases and disorders of the arteries, veins and lymphatics. On the artery side that can be things like aneurism disease. We also deal with occlusive disease, which are diseases that cause narrowing of the arteries, which can lead to heart attacks or problems elsewhere in the body like strokes and lower extremity problems. On the vein side we deal with blood clots and venous insufficiency, which can lead to swollen legs and varicose veins. Also, one of the nice things about this discipline is it brings us in contact with other specialties: traumatic injuries, cancer surgeries, other types of orthopedic or reconstructive pathologies where they need our help to either protect an artery from damage during another type of surgery, or they need our help to reconstruct an artery that’s near or running through something like a cancer that needs to be removed. So the multidisciplinary work is really fun.
Q: For lack of a better word, how “hackable” is the vascular system? How easy is it to reroute and reconstruct things?
A: Well, it’s like real estate. It’s location, location, location. It depends on the patient, the pathology, what arteries you’re working with. But vascular surgery is a pretty unique specialty in that some of the operations I do are some of the most tried and true, old school operations that haven’t changed much over time. But there’s also a lot of technology and research that have moved the ball forward and made things more minimally invasive, allowing us to do operations with smaller incisions. Just yesterday I did what’s called an endovascular aneurism repair with a patient with an aneurism in their abdomen, who is at risk of rupturing and causing a life-threatening problem. So, we treat that proactively to avoid a bad outcome. A generation ago that would have been treated with a large incision on the abdomen, cutting out that aneurism and sewing in a cloth tube in its place. That operation has at least a five-to-seven day hospital stay, some time in the ICU and a relatively long list of potential complications. Nowadays we’re able to go in through the groin through very small incisions, build a configuration of stents in the aorta itself that keep bloodflow going where it needs to without it flowing towards the aneurism. So we eliminate the rupture in a minimally invasive way. I did that surgery two days ago; that patient went home the next morning.
Name: Roan J. Glocker, M.D., M.P.H.
Position: Chief of surgery at Highland Hospital; serves as the secretary and treasurer of the Highland Hospital medical staff; is an associate professor of surgery at the University of Rochester.
Education: Bachelor’s degree in cell and molecular biology from Tulane University; Master of Public Health degree from Dartmouth College; medical degree from SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse; residency in general surgery at the University of Rochester Medical Center; fellowship in vascular surgery and endovascular therapy at the University of Alabama in Birmingham
Affiliations: Highland Hospital, Strong Memorial, F.F. Thompson
Organizations: American College of Surgeons; Society of Vascular Surgery; Vascular and Endovascular Surgical Society
Family: Wife; three children
Hobbies: Golf, skiing, driving his kids to activities