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New Scott & White neurosurgery department chairman’s interest in traumatic brain injury grew after Iraq service

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Janice Gibbs | FME News Service

Dr. Jason Huang, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Scott & White Hospital in Temple, has been on the job for a little more than a month. Huang is both a clinician and researcher with a special interest in traumatic brain injury.

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TEMPLE — Dr. Jason Huang is a clinician and a researcher.

His primary goal as the new chairman of the neurosurgery department at Scott & White Hospital is to build a strong neurosurgery department that can offer all related services to Central Texas residents.

Huang said he thinks Scott & White’s clinical opportunities and collaborative environment can move forward his vision to provide the best clinical care and at the same time offer a strong research element.

“We have a lot of potential to build a good program,” Huang said.

In addition to heading the neurosurgery department, Huang will lead translational research efforts at Scott & White’s Neuroscience Institute.

In 2008, Huang was deployed to Iraq. He was stationed at an in-theater hospital, where there were two neurosurgeons and eight orthopedic surgeons.

“We were the highest level hospital and anyone suspected of having a head injury came to our battlefield hospital,” he said.

Time was key for head injuries, Huang said. Soldiers with head injuries were flown straight to Huang’s hospital. The goal was to get the soldier from exposure to the neurosurgeons within two hours, and 98 percent of the injured left the field hospital with a beating heart. There were two CAT scan machines running 24/7.

“There was no MRI, too long, waste of time,” Huang said

Not all of the soldiers survived in the long run and those who did didn’t necessarily survive to live a functional life, Huang said.

“As a surgeon, my goal was to get them to Germany alive,” he said.

It was all teamwork — Huang could be team leader during one surgery and assistant the next.

Huang was a lieutenant colonel when he was discharged.

He left the military with a heightened interest in traumatic brain injury.

Huang was accompanied to Temple from Rochester, N.Y., by two researchers who are now located at the West Campus. He said he will be recruiting other researchers.

As a clinician, Huang said he will care for patients with brain tumors, spinal tumors, damage to the bundled nerves in the neck region, chronic back pain, spine disc herniations and more.

“We have a lot going in here in the Neuroscience Institute and the Neurosurgery Department,” he said.

One of Huang’s research projects involves developing artificial nerves that will help individuals with nerve damage.

“We are excited to have Dr. Huang as part of our Baylor Scott & White family,” said Dr. Glen Couchman, chief medical officer for Baylor Scott & White Health-Central Division.

“His strong background in patient care, combined with his ongoing research efforts, will be an asset to the communities that we serve.

“His leadership will help advance the quality of care in our neurosurgery program and also prepare the next generation of neurosurgeons as part of our ongoing commitment to academic excellence.”

Each year, 1.5 million people in the United States sustain a traumatic brain injury. Of those, about 50,000 die, 235,000 are hospitalized, and 1.1 million are treated and released from an emergency department.

Like many researchers, Huang is passionate about increasing funding for research on the brain and injuries to the brain.

Breast cancer and AIDS research receive a hundred times more funding than TBI research, though TBI is the No. 1 killer among individuals under the age of 40 and results in more potential for lost life than cancer and cardiovascular disease combined.

TBI research accounts for 1 percent of National Institutes of Health budget, but AIDS research accounts for 10 percent.

There are TBI guidelines that are followed by only 26 percent of Level 1 trauma centers, Huang said.

“One of my goals here is to make sure our center falls into this 26 percent,” he said.

“It’s up to the chairmen of surgery and neurosurgery to make sure that the guidelines are being met.”

Huang also wants critical care and TBI research staff to develop a nationally recognized clinical program with NIH funding and a TBI clinic to treat veterans.

“I think we have a unique opportunity to push that forward,” he said.

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Janice Gibbs | FME News Service

Dr. Jason Huang, chairman of the department of neurosurgery at Scott & White Hospital in Temple, has been on the job for a little more than a month. Huang is both a clinician and researcher with a special interest in traumatic brain injury.

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