It’s no surprise that pediatric surgeon Jeffrey Lukish’s favorite operation is video-assisted thoracoscopic ligation of a patent ductus arteriosus in low-birth-weight infants using a novel retractor, so much so that he wrote a paper on the approach (Journal of Pediatric Surgery, May 2009). After all, the surgery is innovative, minimally invasive and technically challenging, and the patient an extremely small infant. Using innovation to make the impossible possible in pediatric cases – and with the least amount of pain, discomfort and recovery time as possible – is what Lukish is all about.
“The one common denominator in the procedures I do is innovation,” says Lukish, “to reduce pain, hospitalization, drug usage, operative time and post-operative time. It’s a triple win – the child is happy, the family is happy, and I’m happy.”
Now a surgeon at Hopkins Children’s, the former chief of pediatric surgery at the National Naval Medical Center and Walter Reed Army Medical Center has developed and refined a number of minimally invasive surgical techniques in addition to thoracoscopic PDA ligation. Colorectal and thoracic anomalies, recurrent inguinal hernias, gastrocutaneous fistulas – you name the condition and Lukish will find a patient-friendlier approach.
“General pediatric surgeons typically have not been the ones to do these operations,” Lukish says, “but I love the breadth of cases.”
The son of an engineer, Lukish says innovation is in his DNA. But much of his motivation, he adds, dates back to his childhood years in Virginia watching Army surgeon Hawkeye Pierce operate on young wounded soldiers in the TV series “M*A*S*H.” So it was only natural that he’d later attend the Naval Academy, major in medicine, and find himself deployed as a family practitioner/general surgeon to places like Guantanamo Bay and Okinawa – austere environments where he had more autonomy than resources, where the concept of finding better ways to provide care kicked in.
“I very much enjoyed being a physician in the military, it broadened my experience,” Lukish says. “It allowed me to discuss problems and come up with solutions with a whole different set of people. Communication and teamwork, you realize, are more important than the environment.”
During his years in the Navy, Lukish envisioned himself as a transplant surgeon, until he rotated through pediatric surgery at the National Naval Medical Center. “Working with the pediatric surgeons, seeing the children they cared for and their problems, I realized I wanted to be a pediatric surgeon,” Lukish says. “Interfacing with the parents and the child really sealed the deal.”
Dr. Lukish sees patients at Greater Baltimore Medical Center in Towson, 6565 N Charles Street, Suite 313 and at Hopkins Children’s. For referrals and appointments at GBMC, call 410-324-5100; for appointments at Johns Hopkins, call 410-502-6649.