Letter from the Chair

Gilbert R. Upchurch Jr., MD, Edward M. Copeland III and Ann & Ira Horowitz Department Chair of the University of Florida Department of Surgery, College of Medicine, Department of Surgery

More than a year ago, the COVID-19 pandemic changed how we live and work in ways we are still dealing with today. The manner in which the members of our department responded continues to inspire me, and I am grateful to be a part of such an amazing group.

As UF Health came together to fight COVID-19, we rolled up our sleeves.

In addition to adapting to new protocols throughout the year, many of our own volunteered to help with vaccination sites. If you haven’t already done so, visit reflections.coronavirus.UFHealth.org to view an interactive timeline of our response to the virus. Videos, stories and more come together to show what the pandemic was like from physicians to staff and patients alike across our health care system. 

Our team’s continued dedication to research—including COVID-19-focused clinical trials—while still providing unparalleled clinical care has been inspiring. We performed lung transplants on front-line workers ravaged by COVID-19, saving their lives after they’d saved many others, and documenting the process in a landmark research paper in the Lancet. Our faculty received grants to research ways in which artificial intelligence can help promote equity in medicine and clinical research, charting new processes forward. And, as always, our research prioritized patient outcomes, as exemplified by faculty members who performed critical research documenting that dysphagia negatively impacts outcomes and is associated with silent aspiration in patients following cardiovascular surgery.

Despite the pandemic, our abdominal transplant program continued to grow, surpassing 2,000 liver transplants and performing the first triple-organ transplant of its kind in the state, featuring a new heart, liver and kidney for a patient whose life was forever changed. Finally, Match Day brought new additions to our department of surgery, with medical students from all over the United States choosing to train at UF. We are all incredibly excited to welcome our new class of trainees as they begin their journey to becoming leaders in American surgery. Our residents are some of the best, and it is a privilege to work alongside them.

In spite of all the challenges from COVID-19, we remain a positive force in the medical center and in the UF College of Medicine. To get a firsthand look at some of our remarkable accomplishments, enjoy this edition of The Stitch. 

As always, Go Gators!