During his more than 50 years at the University of Minnesota, Buchwald has been a surgeon, teacher, mentor, researcher, and inventor. He is Professor of Surgery and Biomedical Engineering, Director of Graduate Surgical Training, Director of Resident Training, and Director of In-Training Examination. He was the first Owen H. and Sarah Davidson Wangensteen Chair in Experimental Surgery from 2001-2004 and holds the post as Emeritus. In 2002, the Minnesota Medical Alumni Society of the University of Minnesota presented him with the Harold S. Diehl Lifetime Achievement Award for Outstanding Professional Contributions.
His long-term research interests include cholesterol and atherosclerosis, obesity surgery, implantable devices, hyperlipidemias, and measurement of blood oxygen transport. Early in his career, he discovered that the part of the small intestine called the ileum is the primary site for the absorption or cholesterol and bile acids (the primary end-products of cholesterol metabolism), and, that performing surgery—Buchwald’s partial ileal bypass surgery—a procedure that bypasses part of the ileum, lowers cholesterol levels and dramatically improves the lives of those with familial hypercholesterolemia.
Buchwald trained with Richard Varco who performed the first obesity surgery in 1953. Since 1966, Buchwald has performed more than 4,000 obesity surgeries (also known as bariatric surgeries) and become one of the most influential and innovative surgeons in the field. As fellow bariatric surgeon Walter Pories said in a 2006 interview with Minnesota Monthly’s Tim Gihring, “If you named maybe 10 international leaders [in bariatric surgery] . . . Henry would fall on any list that people in the field would make.”
Throughout his career as a general surgeon, Buchwald has performed many thousands of surgeries, including all open gastrointestinal surgeries, partial ileal bypasses, jejunoileal bypasses, gastric bypasses, Fobi Pouch, vertical banded gastroplasty, roux-en-y bypasses, and duodenal switches.
His writing and influence also go into the realm of biomedical ethics and insurance reform. He has been president of the Central Surgical Association (1997–1998), the American Society of Bariatric Surgery (1998-1999), and the International Federation of Surgery for Obesity (2003-2004). He is coeditor of the journal, Obesity Surgery. He is a Fellow of the American Surgical Association, American College of Surgeons, Central Surgical Association, Cardiovascular Surgery Council and Epidemiology Council of the American Heart Association, and International College of Surgeons.
Declining opportunities to enter private practice, Buchwald has continued to devote tremendous energy towards mentoring younger surgeons. In 2002, the 53rd Volume of the Surgical Forum was dedicated to Buchwald. In the dedication to that issue, Marshall Z. Schwartz lists some of Henry Buchwald’s many accomplishments, commenting: “The above noted accomplishments and contributions alone warrant this dedication. But it has been Dr. Buchwald’s strong commitment to mentoring many young individuals (which he proudly lists in his curriculum vitae), including medical students, residents (both surgical and medical), and graduate students, that has made him a great academic role model. What makes Dr. Buchwald unique is his lifelong commitment to his trainees.”
Buchwald was still in his residency when he was granted his first research laboratory. At the time he was a Helen Hay Whitney Fellow. He studied histamine release, as well as groundbreaking work in lipids and the absorption of cholesterol. In 1973, The National Institute of Health (NIH) awarded Buchwald their largest investigator-initiated grant given to a principal investigator (one of the largest the University of Minnesota has ever received). The grant initiated the Program on the Surgical Control of the Hyperlipidemias (POSCH) trial. In 1990, the results of the first 17 years of this study were presented in the New England Journal of Medicine and at the annual meeting of the American College of Surgeons. The POSCH study definitely proved the link between cholesterol and heart disease. The POSCH trials demonstrated conclusively that lowering cholesterol can reduce heart disease and resultant heart attacks and, therefore, increase life expectancy. The results from all phases of the POSCH study have contributed significant insights and long-term data related to cholesterol, heart disease, and smoking. Buchwald has received seven additional NIH research grants. Buchwald, who has a joint appointment at the University of Minnesota in Biomedical Engineering, holds 17 patents for medical devices. These include the world’s first infusion port, peritoneovenous shunts, and specialty vascular catheters. He also invented the first implantable infusion pump, a precursor to implantable infusion pumps in use throughout the world today. He was inducted into the Minnesota Inventors Hall of Fame in 1988 for his extensive contributions to bioengineering devices.
In the late 1990s and early 2000s, Buchwald’s research has included: Type II diabetes and its reduction through bariatric surgery; oxygen transport and the development of a device to measure it; heart disease in women; and new technological approaches to bariatric surgery. One of his latest projects is the development of a new type of bariatric surgery called micro-orifice surgery, surgery performed open (as opposed to laparoscopically) but with very small incisions (to avoid complications of general anesthesia and make patients’ recovery faster and easier). His innovative research and development work continues.
Buchwald has authored or co-authored more than 300 peer-reviewed manuscripts. He is the co-editor, with Walford Gillison, of Pioneers in Surgical Gastroenterology (2007), as well as the co-author, with George S.M. Cowan and Walter J. Pories, of Surgical Management of Obesity (2006). His newest title, Buchwald Atlas of Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery Techniques and Procedures, was published in fall 2011.
He has been Section Editor of ASAIO Transactions, editor of Chirurgia Generale, and of the Journal of American College of Nutrition. He has been on the editorial board of The Journal of Clinical Surgery. Infu-Systems International, Diabetes, Nutrition, and Metabolism, Associate Editor, of Journal of Bariatric Surgery , Obesity Surgery and the Online Journal of Current Clinical Trials , and a consulting editor for Hospital Medicine.
Dr. Robert Rutledge, MD is a critical care surgery specialist in Henderson, NV and has been practicing for 32 years. He graduated from University Of Florida in 1978 and specializes in critical care surgery and bariatric medicine.
Dr. med. P. Staikov - Chefarzt Abteilung für Chirurgie Frankfurt/ Main Sachsenhausen Dr. med. P. Staikov, Head of Department of Surgery, specialist for visceral, bariatric & onco-surgery, Frankfurt (Germany)
Weight loss surgery is first and foremost a method for resolving health problems, and only later – ones related to aesthetics. For years, I observed how patients struggling with obesity were not able to get the treatment that they needed. So I looked for opportunities, and took a particular interest in the surgical treatment of this problem, which is currently the most effective method.
As a specialist in weight loss surgery, it is very important to me that I can help people who have often lost hope to improve their quality of life from a physical and aesthetic point of view. It fascinates me that when I see my patients six months later, I often don’t even recognise them – their features become defined again and they sometimes look like completely different people. Each time is like a confirmation to me that I wasn’t wrong to select such a responsible field of surgery that has the ability to very quickly change both the health and appearance of my patients for the better.