Dr. Bartley Griffith Delivers Founders Week Research Lecture of the Year
Bartley Griffith, MD, chief of cardiac surgery at the University of Maryland (UM) School of Medicine, has spent the past 30 years on a quest to provide biomechanical, transplant, and, recently, regenerative solutions to severe lung disease.
Named the 2010 Research Lecturer of the Year as part of the University's annual Founders Week celebration, Griffith returned to his roots-and the University's-to deliver an inspiring lecture on his career work Nov. 10 at Davidge Hall. The building dates to the early 1800s when the School of Medicine, and the University, was founded.
Paying homage to his early mentors, his research partners (many of whom were in attendance), and his patients, Griffith recapped a brilliant career that began at the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine before he came to UM a decade ago. In that 10-year span, he and his lab partner Zhongjun Wu, PhD, have attracted more than $25 million in research funding.
A brilliant clinician, researcher, and teacher who has performed more than 1,200 heart transplants and 600 lung transplants, Griffith often simplified his work for those in attendance at the lecture. "Breathing is something you take for granted until you can't do it," he said.
A competitive runner, sailor, and skier, Griffith explained his love for research and healing by quoting from Stanley Kunitz's "The Wellfleet Whale." In the poem, a nearly dead whale opens one eye and, staring directly at Kunitz, sends a shudder of recognition between the two before dying. That "red eye" type of experience, trying to save the critically ill, drives Griffith in his research. "The future is bright for those [caregivers] who see the red eye."
The lecture included developments in extracorporeal membrane oxygenation that have inspired an artificial lung targeted for patients in 2013. With the relatively new field of stem cell and regenerative medicine as a prompt, he also "imagineered" a future for lung repair.
Some of the warmest stories at the lecture were of former patients, including one, Margaret Eckrote, who survived a double lung transplant in 1992 and recently "looked me up" to thank Griffith and to show him a picture of her teenage daughter. With the family picture shown on the big screen behind him, Griffith said simply, "I think we're blessed by the work we do."