I continue to be very excited and honored to be the program director of the vascular surgery fellowship at the University of Texas Health Science Center San Antonio, or as we call it locally, UT Health San Antonio.
I am amazed at how quickly time passes – it has been over five years since our fellowship started. It has been my privilege to be a part of five outstanding trainees’ lives as I watched them transition from their general surgery foundation to a graduating fellow with a master vascular surgeon skill set. Much as a proud parent can reflect on the accomplishments of their children, I too feel very proud of our evolving and maturing fellowship that is a world-class training opportunity for those dedicating their life to the mastery of care for the patient with vascular disorders. It is no secret that vascular patients are among the sickest encountered by a physician in their training and practice.
We who choose to do vascular surgery have a particular calling to rise to that challenge and provide them with the best care possible. UT Health San Antonio fellows have the opportunity to gain the skill sets needed such as performing advanced percutaneous, standard conventional surgery or best medical therapy.
It is evident from the high case volume (over 1000 cases on graduation even during COVID) that the program offers a wonderful case mix of training opportunities between the three clinical partners: the VA Hospital, University Hospital and the private practice hospital St. Luke’s Baptist. It is a privilege to care for our nation’s veterans who have risked their lives for our freedom. They are a particularly wonderful and grateful group with classic vascular disorders such as aneurysmal, extra cranial carotid disease and general PAD. The high acuity University Hospital also offers a unique training opportunity with a large diabetic population with complex distal tibial disease– especially in a younger group of people with limited access to health care. Advanced limb salvage is a major part of this practice. Also, with an extremely busy trauma service there is a good opportunity to gain that skill set and to work with our cardiothoracic service to treat acute aortic injuries. The May’s Cancer Center partnership with Urology for renal cell resections (even into the heart) is an outstanding learning opportunity for our trainees as well.
Lastly, the opportunity to work in an extremely busy private practice setting is a gold mine of experience for any trainee, and not commonly found in academic fellowships.
Paired with the case volume is a sound didactic schedule based on the VSCORE curriculum as well as site-based pre-op/indications and limb salvage conferences. The fellow staffs a longitudinal clinic at the VA on Wednesday afternoons to help develop that skill set. Research is encouraged, but it is not mandatory for graduation, with many graduates participating in local, regional and national forums. A quality improvement project along with participation in risk management sessions are required to understand that important aspect of professionalism. The goal is to produce a rounded surgeon leader that is qualified to enter any type of practice they would like to upon graduation, academics, private or a hybrid.
The UT Health San Antonio Vascular Fellowship will provide you with a sound foundation for treating vascular surgery patients on every level expected of a modern vascular specialist. I look forward to training the next groups of exuberant learners!
Lori Pounds, MD, RVT, RPVI, DFAVF
Vascular Surgery Fellowship