MEET DR. POOL

Surgeon

Board-certified by the American Board of Thoracic Surgery

In private practice since 2011

 

Has performed over 3000 major operations

An expert at aortic root replacement, bypass surgery, mitral valve repair, robotic lobectomy, first rib resection, and other operations

Proctor for Intuitive Surgical, teaching & coaching other surgeons in thoracic techniques with the Da Vinci robot

Proctor for Edwards Lifesciences, teaching other physicians in TAVI techniques

"It is a great privilege for me to care for my patients. I understand that undergoing a major operation is often a scary, difficult time. I want to earn your trust, and I work hard to communicate what you are facing, what can be done, and how I can help. 

The longer I go along in life, the more I realize how much is beyond my control. I can't promise you a particular outcome, just as I can't guarantee my own next breath. But I do promise...

 

I specialize in complex operations. Oftentimes VERY complex operations.

 

Such as redo operations, multiple valve operations, high risk operations - operations that other surgeons may decline. 

It wasn't always that way, however. 

Late in my training in general surgery (which is 5 years long and typically 100+ hours per week of work), I shied away from complex operations. 

The mentor who helped me get past my hesitance is Dr. Tom Shires.  

 

The analogy I use with my children is pinball. We have 3 pinball machines at our house. In teaching my children to play pinball, I stress that you cannot focus on keeping the ball from ...

It sounds like a simple idea but 

it made a huge difference in how I approached operations, from a psychological point of view. Instead of fearing that I might do something wrong in an operation, I began to focus on how I might possibly do everything right. 

Dr. Shires is a world-class surgeon who specializes in very complex surgeries in the abdomen. He convinced me that it was possible to do a very complex surgery perfectly - you just have to do each step perfectly! 

Dr. Shires
 

... draining down the middle. If you do, the ball will definitely drain, and the game will be over! Instead, focus on what you want to do with the ball, where you want to put it, the high score you want to achieve. When you focus on the positive of what you can do, you will naturally avoid the ball draining down the middle. 

So, I do not shy away from the big operations anymore - in fact, I seek them out! And that's a good thing, because almost every surgery I do now is complex, it's just a matter of how complex.  

And once I learned to approach an operation thinking about how well I could do it rather than trying to avoid mistakes, I was ready to learn to do heart and lung surgery. 

I was privileged to learn from Drs. Neal Kon and Ted Kincaid at Wake Forest in NC. They are both world-class surgeons who taught me almost all of what I know about CT surgery.

Dr. Kon taught me to take whatever time I need to properly complete the task - that is, do not ever rush because you are likely to make mistakes, which will take even longer to fix. 

Dr. Kon also taught me the technique to use for aortic root replacement and many other complex heart operations. 

  

Dr. Kincaid taught me to stay calm in dire situations.

 

You can ask my team members --- when stuff hits the fan, I downshift. I take a moment. I collect my thoughts. I channel energy like I'm "Iceman" from Top Gun. 

I've seen too many surgeons go haywire when an emergency arises. Yelling, barking orders but in a confused, haphazard manner. Moving around manically but not accomplishing much

I learned from Dr. Kincaid that such an approach is counter-productive. It would be like a quarterback running the wrong direction on the football field - every other player says what the heck?!​ And the other players don't know what to do. Chaos results.

No, stay calm, collect your thoughts, and execute a solution. Everyone on the team will be better able to address the problem.

 

You'd be surprised how often mini-emergencies arise in my line of work. 

Another thing I learned from my mentors is that patients do not usually appreciate a surgeon who is a jerk. Nor do nurses or other team members. Heart surgeons usually have automatic credibility with patients - because of the rigor of the training process - so it is ok to be friendly and down-to-earth and relate to patients well. I appreciate my mentors for modeling that for me. 

Sometimes I lapse back into jerk mode, but hopefully only for a moment! 

Dr. Kon
Dr. Kincaid

Once I learned the important fundamentals of heart and lung surgery from my mentors, I began private practice. 

I have enjoyed a strong practice, having the privilege to care for thousands of patients in the past several years. 

I am able to perform many different types of operations on the heart and lungs. 

There are a few operations that I do not perform, such as heart and lung transplants, LVAD insertion, and TEVAR. My partner, Dr. Hill, is an expert at TEVAR. Also, I do not regularly perform esophagus surgery, unless the patient has an emergency.

I do not hesitate to refer a patient to another surgeon, if I believe it is in the patient's best interest. Part of being good at what you do is recognizing what you cannot or should not do. 

My faith is the driving force for my life and thus my practice. I want to treat others as I would want to be treated. I care for patients because they are intrinsically valuable, created in the image of God. 

I consider it a privilege and a ministry to care for patients. 

I like to pray with patients, usually before their operation. I have had patients decline for me to pray with them, and I respect their wishes. But many of my patients have mentioned to me later that it means a lot to them. 

Could it be that saying a prayer and encouraging a person in their faith might possibly be more important that performing an operation? I think it is." 

... that I will care about what happens to you and I will use my skill to help you get through this difficult time best I know how. 

I think a big part of my success has been the outstanding team I am blessed to lead. Think of me as the quarterback on your surgical team. 

Like a football team, no one person alone can win the game for you. I am your go-to person but I rely on my team members to help get the job done.   

Please take a minute to get to know some of my team members. 

God bless & heal you! 

J. Mark Pool, MD

ABTS Board-certified

214-692-6135

Member of Society of Thoracic Surgeons