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The Daily Tar Heel

Q&A with UNC Children’s new Surgeon in Chief, Dr. Hayes-Jordan

In June 2018, Dr. Andrea Hayes-Jordan began her role as the Chief of the Division of Pediatric Surgery at the UNC School of Medicine, and Surgeon in Chief at the North Carolina Children’s Hospital. A few months in, Dr. Hayes-Jordan discussed her outlook on improvements to the hospital and her pioneering work on a rare disease.

Daily Tar Heel: How did you choose to come to UNC?

Andrea Hayes-Jordan: I took this job because it was very enticing to be able to lead a group of surgeons, and more importantly, to be able to participate in the improvement of the Children’s Hospital such that we could optimize the care for children in North Carolina. It’s really exciting to work for a public hospital, one that services the whole state, essentially, and be able to provide for these children, the highest level of care. It also is a great opportunity for me leadership wise because I will be leading, or am leading, several dozen surgeons whereas earlier, in my previous job, I did not have that leadership opportunity. It gives me the opportunity to shape a place and help build it into the place I know they want to be. 

DTH: Are there any specific things you hope to accomplish during your tenure as Chief of Pediatric Surgery?

AHJ: The Children’s Hospital is pretty large, and I’m in charge of all the surgical services in the Children’s Hospital. One of my goals is to provide a children’s operating room that has 24/7 coverage for all the children. The other thing I’d like to do is continue my research and be able to impact the outcome of this very rare tumor that I’ve become quite familiar with called Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor. 

In the outpatient setting, I hope to be able to provide a telemedicine model, not just at my clinic, but at several other children’s clinics here, where we would contact the patient via something similar to Skype so that we could see the patient and examine them electronically and save the parents from having to drive in, park, pay for parking, come see us and drive back home. It would be much easier if we could actually see the patients while they’re in their own homes through the telemedicine app. 

DTH: Are there any specific triumphs that stick out from your time in med school or your residency that have influenced you, and you would like to share?

AHJ: My time in residency has really shaped the way my career looks now because of a patient that I encountered when I was the Chief Resident, actually called a fellow, at St. Jude’s Hospital in Memphis. 

I was at St. Jude’s, and I met a patient there who had a disease called Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor, and it was very extensive, and he had hundreds of tumors in his belly cavity. We couldn’t help him, and I was the one who had to tell his mother that his tumor was inoperable, and that he was going to die. That experience really impressed upon me how important it was to be able to find a cure for this disease. After reading about it and studying the disease and the outcomes, it was clear to me that new therapy was needed. That changed my career and what I do now, being a pioneer and developing this hyperthermic intraperitoneal chemotherapy that we deliver to the patients with the desmoplastic small round cell tumor, and that procedure — which is abbreviated HIPEC — is what I’ve built my career on. 

DTH: You’ve said you are interested in mentoring young academic surgeons. Why is that important to you?

AHJ: Yes, it is important to me to mentor younger people because I realize that, in my career, the only way I have been successful is because of my mentors, and my mentors have really taken me a long way. You really can’t do it without help, no matter how smart you are, no matter how persistent you are, no matter how great you are at what you do; you always need someone who’s navigated the waters before you to guide you. I was really appreciative that I had several mentors who were really supportive of what I was doing. There were also people who were not supportive, but even if people are not supportive, your mentor can be there for you and let you know what you should or shouldn’t be doing and give you their opinion, which is usually one that is, you know, made out of caring. 

I think I have a responsibility to give back because someone mentored me, so that another person won’t endure the same mistakes I did. 

DTH: Are you currently mentoring any students?

AHJ: I have one student who is applying to med school right now. I’m sure he will get in, and I’ll still continue to mentor him forever. I have a couple other students that I mentor more informally. 

DTH: Is there one specific thought or motto that gets you through the day? Any anecdotes that give you hope?

AHJ:  You know the one thing that gives me hope is knowing that God is in control and that I’m here doing the best I can, but ultimately, I’m not in control of the world or the outcome of the patients. I think what gives me peace is knowing that God is in control.

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