Janie is seven and her life was saved by the research of two surgeons, one of who never met Janie (Dr. Stanley Dudrick) and one who we’re glad did (Dr. Mark Puder). She was born with intestinal atresia and underwent several operations and small bowel resections, which ultimately left her with a nonfunctional GI tract and intestinal failure. She has been on TPN for almost her entire life. Dr. Dudrick’s contribution to science is profound and well chronicled. For anyone who is not familiar with his story, take a moment to appreciate his work. It saved Janie’s life.
For most of us, TPN is an often used adjunct to surgical care, and usually temporary. For a small community of people, TPN is life long and many people live independent, full lives on parenteral nutrition. Janie may be one of those people, but not without Dr. Mark Puder’s contribution to science. You see, while TPN kept Janie alive, it also damaged her liver to the point where she developed parenteral nutrition associated liver disease with fibrosis and portal hypertension by 6 months of age. As Janie’s condition worsened, we were given two options – proceeding with a small bowel/multi-visceral organ transplant, or allowing her to die. Thankfully, Dr. Mark Puder’s research gave us a better option (Omegaven). He also gave us hope.
Mark completed 2 years of a pediatrics residency before deciding that pediatric surgery was his true calling. Ten years later, after completing a general surgery residency (he was my senior resident), a PhD in Virology (Biochemistry) at Harvard, and a pediatric surgery fellowship at Boston Children’s Hospital, he was on his way. He stayed on faculty at Boston Children’s with a focus on research, under the mentorship of Dr. Judah Folkman, another great surgeon-scientist. Mark was researching the effects of omega-3 fatty acids on parenteral nutrition associated liver disease, work that began in mice and was later used in children like my daughter Janie. Mark’s research has made a profound impact on what we know about lipid metabolism and parenteral nutrition. And his research saved my daughter’s life. I think I speak for all families whose children were saved by TPN and Omegaven, thank you Drs. Dudrick and Puder, for the work that you do. Thank goodness for surgeon-scientists.