Interventional Pulmonology Program Stands Out As One of Nation’s Best
[This feature also appears in the Spring 2014 Edition of Progress Notes, The Department of Internal Medicine's Quarterly Publication. Click here to view the publication.]
Spring 2014 -- The Interventional Pulmonology Program at VCU, started and led by Dr. Wes Shepherd, has been at the forefront of the subspecialty of Interventional Pulmonology since the program began. Most recently, it became home to the only Board Certified Interventional Pulmonologists in Virginia. The program is now participating in trials to test the effectiveness of lung valves for emphysema patients.
Wes Shepherd, MD, leads VCU Medical Center’s Interventional Pulmonology Program, which is among the nation’s strongest programs of this subspecialty. He recently served on the national team of 12 Interventional Pulmonologists who wrote the first Board Certification test for the subspecialty.
Interventional Pulmonology (IP) is a subspecialty of Pulmonology that uses advanced endoscopic techniques to treat issues in the airway and pleural space of the lungs. These techniques can be used to treat a variety of diseases and conditions by clearing airway obstructions from both malignant and nonmalignant tumors, diagnostic and therapeutic bronchoscopies, pleural procedures, and others as well.
[VCU’s] combination of experience and expertise is of enormous benefit to the patients treated at the program. As Dr. Shepherd explains, “Patients with complex airway diseases are best served in a center of expertise where they can be offered every available treatment option.”
Interventional Pulmonology is a young but rapidly growing subspecialty. Among the 20-25 programs that exist in the United States, VCU’s IP Program is notable on a number of levels: it was the first comprehensive program of its kind in Virginia, it holds the highest level of expertise and offers the full range of Interventional Pulmonology services.
In addition to being the most experienced program in the state, on a national level, the program holds one of the highest concentrations of expertise in the subspecialty. All three Interventional Pulmonologists in the program, Drs. Wes Shepherd, Samira Shojaee, and Rajiv Malhotra are fellowship trained and Board Certified Interventional Pulmonologists. Board Certification only became available in December 2013. Demonstrating the expertise of the program, Dr. Shepherd was on the national team of 12 Interventional Pulmonologists that wrote the first Board Certification test.
Furthermore, VCU’s IP Program serves one of the highest volumes of IP patients in the nation and is equipped to perform the widest range of procedures within the subspecialty. This combination of experience and expertise is of enormous benefit to the patients treated at the program. As Dr. Shepherd explains, “Patients with complex airway diseases are best served in a center of expertise where they can be offered every available treatment option.”
The Program also started training fellows four years ago. All three of the fellows who have graduated from the program have gone on to academic careers.
Looking ahead, the Interventional Pulmonology Program is working on techniques that allow for larger tissue biopsies to make it easier to diagnose lung diseases without invasive surgery. The IP Program was also chosen to take part in a multi-center trial to test the effectiveness of one-way lung valves to improve lung function in emphysema patients.
Dr. Shepherd and the Interventional Pulmonology team look forward to continuing their efforts to serve patients and progress the specialty. “We enjoy being on the cutting edge of this new field and being a part of its development,” says Dr. Shepherd. “It is something new everyday and I love seeing patients with very challenging disorders and developing creative ways to treat them.” | IM