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2013 Health Care Heroes: C. Max Schmidt, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, FACS

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Health Care HeroesFINALIST: Advancements In Health Care

C. Max Schmidt, M.D., Ph.D., MBA, FACS

Director, Pancreatic Cyst and Cancer Early Detection Center at Indiana University Health

The statistics on pancreatic cancer are devastating. In 85 percent of diagnosed cases, the cancer is too far advanced for surgery to be an option, and even when it is, surgery rarely provides a cure. Once diagnosed, the average life expectancy of a patient is less than one year. A “lucky” five percent survive for five years.

C. Max Schmidt, M.D., director of Indiana University Health’s Pancreatic Cyst and Cancer Early Detection Center, is dedicated to identifying and working with at-risk people before they develop the disease so they won’t become a statistic.
 

schmidt04-max-258.jpg(IBJ Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

“There are really two windows of opportunity to cure pancreatic cancer,” Schmidt said. “One of those is by following patients who present with pancreatic cysts. The other is to follow people who are at-risk for pancreatic cancer because of their family history.”

Pancreatic cysts are key to early detection because 20 percent to 30 percent of them develop into cancer. Since cancers can take up to 20 years to form, there’s plenty of time for early detection. “The main focus of our lab is to detect biomarkers that will help us determine which of these high-risk patients we should subject to invasive treatments such as surgery, and which ones we don’t have to be as concerned about,” Schmidt said. “The most impressive biomarker we’ve discovered to date is one that can tell us, with near 100-percent certainty, that the cyst will not become a cancer.”

High-risk patients who test positive for the biomarker receive a “get out of jail free” card. The other high-risk patients continue to be followed, and cysts that turn precancerous can be removed before they become cancer.

Schmidt worked with the Regenstrief Institute, an informatics and health care research organization that collects data from patient medical records citywide, to identify at-risk patients. Future plans include developing an interface to notify primary care providers and others involved in a patient’s care when something in a patient’s medical record raises a red flag.

Once in place, Schmidt plans to “template” the technology to create a nationwide informatics-based pancreatic cancer prevention program to help raise awareness and promote the creation of more centers like the one at IU Health. “In the whole scheme of things, this may be the most promising of all because it will touch more lives,” Schmidt said.

Schmidt, 46, earned his medical degree and MBA from the University of Chicago and his Ph.D. in tumor biology from Georgetown while serving his internship and residency at Johns Hopkins. From 2000 to 2001 he honed his pancreatic surgical skills at Johns Hopkins Hospital while completing his Pancreaticobiliary Surgery Fellowship.

Since coming to IU in 2001, he’s grown the center to become the largest of its kind in the country. The clinic, which boasts one of the most robust tissue banks nationwide, coordinates the care and follow-up of more than 1,000 patients with precancerous lesions of the pancreas. It attracts patients far beyond Indiana’s borders.

Schmidt also heads B9, an IU startup company, created to identify and market the existence of biomarkers.

“Central Indiana, and beyond, is fortunate to have Dr. Schmidt tracking family histories, providing care, and most importantly, providing hope for thousands who will be affected by this devastating disease,” said Doug Schwartzentruber, M.D., system medical director at IU Health Cancer Centers. “With identification and proper screening of high-risk patients, prevention and early detection, survival is possible.”• 

 

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  1. I took Bruce's comments to highlight a glaring issue when it comes to a state's image, and therefore its overall branding. An example is Michigan vs. Indiana. Michigan has done an excellent job of following through on its branding strategy around "Pure Michigan", even down to the detail of the rest stops. Since a state's branding is often targeted to visitors, it makes sense that rest stops, being that point of first impression, should be significant. It is clear that Indiana doesn't care as much about the impression it gives visitors even though our branding as the Crossroads of America does place importance on travel. Bruce's point is quite logical and accurate.

  2. I appreciated the article. I guess I have become so accustomed to making my "pit stops" at places where I can ALSO get gasoline and something hot to eat, that I hardly even notice public rest stops anymore. That said, I do concur with the rationale that our rest stops (if we are to have them at all) can and should be both fiscally-responsible AND designed to make a positive impression about our state.

  3. I don't know about the rest of you but I only stop at these places for one reason, and it's not to picnic. I move trucks for dealers and have been to rest areas in most all 48 lower states. Some of ours need upgrading no doubt. Many states rest areas are much worse than ours. In the rest area on I-70 just past Richmond truckers have to hike about a quarter of a mile. When I stop I;m generally in a bit of a hurry. Convenience,not beauty, is a primary concern.

  4. Community Hospital is the only system to not have layoffs? That is not true. Because I was one of the people who was laid off from East. And all of the LPN's have been laid off. Just because their layoffs were not announced or done all together does not mean people did not lose their jobs. They cherry-picked people from departments one by one. But you add them all up and it's several hundred. And East has had a dramatic drop I in patient beds from 800 to around 125. I know because I worked there for 30 years.

  5. I have obtained my 6 gallon badge for my donation of A Positive blood. I'm sorry to hear that my donation was nothing but a profit center for the Indiana Blood Center.

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