South Dakota native Matthew Mutch, MD never thought of choosing anything other than surgery as a career. Now he is part of the team of colorectal surgeons at Washington University and finds his high expectations met.
He sees patients at the Center for Advanced Medicine located at the main medical campus and in West St. Louis County at 1040 N. Mason Road.
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Why did you choose Washington University School of Medicine?
|Matthew Mutch MD shares time with his wife Jennifer and daughter, Megan
I went to Medical School and completed my five-year surgical residency here, and was guided into colorectal surgery by Dr. Ira Kodner, and Dr Jim Fleshman, both professors in the section. It seemed a mutual match for an appointment to the Section of Colorectal Surgery. But first I completed a colorectal surgical fellowship at the Leahy Clinic in Boston, to get experience in a different environment.
What caused you to choose surgery?
I always knew I wanted to be a surgeon. In fact, when I came to medical school I was surprised to find that other people chose other fields of medicine. My father was an ob-gyn specialist and from high school on, whenever I could, I would spend time with him or with another family friend who was an orthopedic surgeon. Education was important to our family, but my parents let us make our own decisions about our careers.
Why colorectal surgery?
I was doing my research in genetics and was thinking about specializing surgical oncology. But there are several aspects about colorectal surgery that are very intriguing. Perhaps the greatest is that surgery is the recommended treatment for colorectal cancer, so you have an opportunity to cure someone with the disease. Second, there is a broad spectrum of diseases that affect the lower GI tract – from serious malignancies to more benign problems that can be handled on an outpatient basis. This gives us a full range of operative opportunities – some procedures are very complex, some are much easier.
Third, the future is expanding for this field. People are recognizing the importance of colorectal surgery as a subspecialty as they understand the impact of surgical technique on diseases such as rectal cancer or inflammatory bowel disease; new laparoscopic procedures provide substantial benefit to patients; and ongoing discoveries in genetic markers will give us more precise ways to interpret disease staging, so management decisions can be more precise.
I think professionals in the field of colorectal surgery have great personal characteristics. In my experience they are down-to-earth, humble people. They are nice to be around. Dealing with colorectal disorders, you have to have a reasonable sense of humor.
What is the best advice you ever received?
Find something that you love to do and do it. Stick with it no matter how hard the challenge becomes. These two thoughts have helped me through a lot. I am not sure exactly who first told them to me, but they probably came from my father, or my brother, who has been great support to me.
What surprises you about being a surgeon that you didn’t expect?
The aspect that is both surprising and humbling is that you will meet patients for the first time and within 30 minutes they are entrusting you to fix them and make them better. The fact that we can significantly improve their lives by doing complex, or simple procedures is a constant reinforcement.
What is your field of research?
We are now trying to develop genetic signatures for the staging of colon cancer. The whole idea behind staging is to predict the patient’s outcome. So we are trying to determine on a genetic basis, who is at risk for cancer recurrence, who might profit from chemotherapy, and other treatment aspects for cancer. When our knowledge and the technology are in place it will greatly help direct clinical decisions.
What advice would you give for improving our lives?
Balance your life. Step away from work and take time out for yourself, to exercise and diet, and to be with your family.
What makes you happy?
My family, my kids. Family life is so great, it makes it easier to go to work in the morning and definitely easier to go home.
At work I like to see patients after surgery or a treatment and know I have affected their life for the better.
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