September 16, 2008

BioMed SA Honors Three Texas Pediatric Surgeons for Groundbreaking Work Impacting Children Worldwide

Three internationally known pediatric surgeons from The University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio and its academic children's hospital, CHRISTUS Santa Rosa Children's Hospital, are this year's recipients of the prestigious Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and the Biosciences. Robert M. Campbell, Jr., M.D., Melvin D. Smith, M.D. (deceased) and Kaye E. Wilkins, D.V.M., M.D. are each being honored for devising innovative ideas that have had tangible, life-saving results around the world.

Last year's award went to Karen Davis Ph.D., president of The Commonwealth Fund. Julio Palmaz, M.D., world-renowned inventor of the PALMAZ(R) Stent, was the inaugural recipient in 2006 and namesake of the industry award. The Palmaz Award was launched in San Antonio by BioMed SA, a non-profit corporation founded in 2005 to help grow and promote the area's thriving healthcare and bioscience sector.

"The biomedical innovations that come out of San Antonio continue to have a profound impact on people across the globe," said BioMed SA Chair Henry Cisneros, a former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and four-term mayor of San Antonio. "These honorees clearly demonstrate how the science of San Antonio is saving lives around the world, in this case, the lives of young children who were either born with orthopaedic deformities or developed them as a result of trauma. Not only have these remarkable San Antonio physicians saved the lives of their own patients, they have taught other physicians and health professionals throughout the world how to perform life saving procedures."


The Titanium Rib Project

What Dr. Robert Campbell and colleague Dr. Melvin Smith set out to do in the late 1980's was create an artificial chest wall for a 6-month-old child born with a debilitating deformity, severe scoliosis and seven missing ribs -- a child who otherwise faced almost certain death by suffocation. In saving the young boy's life, they went on to pioneer the first new growth-sparing treatment for spinal deformities to be approved in four decades. They also characterized a previously unrecognized condition and developed six new surgical procedures, which they have trained orthopaedic surgeons around the world to perform.

Today, through the efforts of Dr. Campbell and Dr. Smith, the condition has a name, Thoracic Insufficiency Syndrome, and the break-through medical device developed in San Antonio, the Vertical Expandable Prosthetic Titanium Rib, has now been introduced in more than 30 countries and is considered the gold standard for treating the most fragile of pediatric patients.

Along the way, the San Antonio physicians exposed a conspicuous gap in the nation's pediatric device development system that resulted in recent federal legislation that will revolutionize the way the Food and Drug Administration goes about approving pediatric medical devices.

According to Dr. Campbell, the approval of new medical devices developed specifically for children's smaller and growing bodies can take five to 10 years longer than those for adults, leaving doctors no choice in the meantime but to use equipment which is not designed or sized for children.

Senator Chris Dodd (D-CT), who spearheaded new legislation to ensure that the safety of children is not compromised by medical devices developed with adult patients in mind, credited Dr. Campbell's and Dr. Smith's work on the Titanium Rib Project as the genesis for this important legislation.

Dodd said, Dr. Campbell's "compelling testimony before the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions in March 2007 illustrated for members of Congress and the public the need for legislation that would improve the quality and increase the number of medical devices suitable for children. I am proud to say that the legislation, the Pediatric Medical Device Safety and Improvement Act, is now law."

Renee R. Jenkins, MD, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, said, "Dr. Campbell's leadership in pediatric orthopaedics is known the world over. In spite of his demanding patient and travel schedule, he made time to advocate for child health in Washington, D.C. where his efforts were instrumental in passing the Pediatric Medical Device Safety and Improvement Act of 2007. Bob's work on this law will benefit children far beyond his practice."

Dr. Campbell also cited the significant contributions of the late Dr. Smith, whose persistence in seeking a solution for the 6-month-old boy's chest wall defect led to the Titanium Rib project. Dr. Smith died earlier this year after a valiant battle with cancer.

Continuing Medical Education in Countries with Limited Resources

"Surgery in a closet by candlelight." That is how Dr. Kaye E. Wilkins describes conditions in some of the countries where he has taught surgical techniques to local physicians and other health professionals. "For them, every day is about survival."

Dr. Wilkins is recognized for organizing Continuing Medical Education programs in children's orthopaedics in 22 countries with limited resources through an outreach program he initiated for the Pediatric Orthopaedic Society of North America.

Dr. Wilkins' work is based on the Chinese proverb, "Give a man a fish and you have fed him for today. Teach a man to fish and you have fed him for a lifetime.""It's about leaving behind a skill that will improve humanity long term," he says. To that end Dr. Wilkins has visited 37 countries, participated in 96 different teaching sessions, and provided 32 outreach continuing education courses in 22 countries. He has taught and organized pediatric orthopaedic courses for healthcare workers and physicians in Shanghai, China, Mexico, Honduras, Nicaragua, Dominican Republic, Africa, Haiti, India, Iraq, Cuba, Ecuador, Malaysia and many more. He is also the co-author, with Dr. Charles Rockwood, of a textbook on children's fractures which has become widely accepted throughout the world.

Earlier this year, Dr. Wilkins received the ninth annual Humanitarian Award from the American Association of Orthopaedic Surgeons. Among the many lives he has touched is that of Dr. Georges Beauvoir, a leading orthopaedic physician and educator from Port-au-Prince, Haiti, who worked closely with Dr. Wilkins to establish the Haitian Clubfoot Project.

According to Dr. Beauvoir, "For decades, visiting physicians have honored us with their presence. Many have, as did Dr. Wilkins, given lectures, operated with the residents, and donated teaching material and surgical instruments. Dr. Wilkins is the only one to have created a lasting program that has been running successfully for several years now. Thanks to his training programs, hundreds of children are being taken care of with better decision making and improved skills, by younger surgeons, not only in the capital city of Port-au-Prince, but in remote places of the country, where not long ago, the population was treated almost exclusively by 'tradipractitioners.'"


The Julio Palmaz Award for Innovation in Healthcare and the Biosciences honors individuals or organizations that have made significant contributions to advances in the healthcare and bioscience fields Julio Palmaz, M.D., world-renowned inventor of the PALMAZ(R) Stent, became the inaugural recipient and namesake of the industry award in 2006. Dr. Palmaz is widely recognized for inventing the first commercially successful intravascular stent, which gained a U.S. patent in 1988 and received FDA approval for use in cardiac arteries in 1994. The PALMAZ(R) Stent revolutionized cardiac care, with more than a million people a year undergoing coronary artery stenting to repair clogged arteries.


BioMed SA is a non-profit, membership-based organization, supported in part by Bexar County and the City of San Antonio. The mission of BioMed SA is to organize and promote San Antonio's healthcare and biosciences assets to accelerate growth of the sector and enhance San Antonio's reputation as a city of science and health. The city's Healthcare and Bioscience industry has added approximately 22,000 net new jobs over the past decade, significantly fueling San Antonio's growth and employing 1 out of every 7 members of the city's workforce. As America's seventh largest city, San Antonio is a community that embraces science and medicine. Its vibrant health care and bioscience industry, a dominant force in the city's economy with an annual economic impact exceeding $15 billion, combines unique assets and a diversity of resources with a collaborative spirit that is making a global impact on science and health.

NOTE: Photos available upon request.

Recipient bios available at