August 2, 2008

Shadyside Surgeon Promoted Lung Disease Awareness

By Michael Hasch, The Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Aug. 2--Dr. Brack G. Hattler, a well-known lung transplant surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, died while on vacation in New Jersey.

Dr. Hattler, an active septuagenarian who took part in a cross-country bicycle ride last summer to raise awareness about lung disease, was stricken while vacationing with his family on the Jersey Shore. He was taken to the Community Medical Center in Toms River, where he died Thursday.

He was the Katherine DuRoss Ford Chair of Cardiothoracic Transplantation and Professor of Surgery, Division of Cardiac Surgery, at UPMC.

Dr. Hattler of Shadyside was director of the medical devices and artificial organs research program at the McGowan Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Prior to his arrival at UPMC, Dr. Hattler developed and patented an intravenous membrane oxygenator, a lifesaving lung catheter he saw as a new form of therapy in the treatment of reversible lung injury.

"(His death) is a terrible loss. It's really a terrible loss," said Alan Russell, executive director of the McGowan Institute.

"He was an incredible man. He was the consummate gentleman, a scholar, always kindhearted and smiling. He had an unusually rich spirit of giving. He was so kind to so many people," Russell said.

Last summer, Dr. Hattler embarked on a 3,300-mile bicycle journey from Seattle to the nation's capital to help raise funds for the American Lung Association of Washington's "Bike Ride Across America."

"I don't know of many people at the ripe old age of 71 who just try to ride across the country for their patients," Russell said.

Before he began his journey, Dr. Hattler told the Tribune-Review that he was motivated by his desire to find better treatments for lung diseases such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis.

"My daytime work is doing lung transplants. ... In essence, I'm trying to put myself out of business," Dr. Hattler joked at the time.

Dr. Hattler was injured in South Dakota, and he and his wife, Jean Anne, who rode with him on parts of the journey, left the ride. Jean Anne Hattler is director of short-term study abroad programs at Duquesne University.

Dr. Hattler and his research partner, Dr. William Federspiel, developed the Hattler Catheter, which they hope will enable patients to talk, eat and breathe on their own for up to 10 days after surgery, allowing the patient's lungs to heal and avoid complications associated with mechanical ventilators.

"I think it's worth saying he really took this whole field of artificial lungs from a dream he had, a gem of an idea, and took it all the way," Russell said.

Dr. Hattler earned his undergraduate and doctorate degrees at Duke University and received his medical degree from Cornell University Medical School.

He was chief of Army organ transplant service at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington, tenured as an associate professor of surgery at the University of Arizona and established his own private practice for cardiothoracic and vascular surgery at Porter Memorial Hospital in Denver before moving to the University of Pittsburgh in 1989.

Funeral arrangements, which are incomplete, are being handled by John A. Freyvogel Sons Inc., 4900 Centre Ave., Oakland.


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