The Advancing World of Venous Disease

Zoe Deol, MD, FACS

Regional Medical Director at Center for Vein Restoration

Chair, AVLS Member Retention Task Force

I was recently contacted by a general surgeon who did her surgical residency with me back in the late 1990’s.  She went into trauma surgery, and 30 years later, is looking for new opportunities.  She said to me, “I never knew there was such a field as venous and lymphatic disease….is that relatively new?”  Initially, her question took me by surprise.  As a “somewhat veteran” of the field, it seems to me that it has been around forever.  But upon reflection, I realized that it is a relatively young specialty.  With that youth comes positives and negatives.  One of the most powerful positives is the ability to be one of the doctors who shape the field.  In the older specialties, your rate of learning new things is a relatively flat line compared to that of a newer field such as venous disease.  For many doctors, the driving force behind going into medicine is the desire and excitement for learning new things.

The knowledge of venous disease and its relationship to lymphedema and lower extremity ulcers is changing at a rapid pace, and we are on the steep slope of an upward bound of discovery.  As a fellow, or physician new to the field, you have the rare opportunity to jump on the train as we chug up that slope together.  You can add coals to the locomotive’s engine, help passengers board, or even direct traffic as you publish papers.  There is so much to do and so much to learn.

My friend brought up one of the most commonly cited negatives when she asked, “How stable is this field?  Is this just a fad?  Am I going to regret it if I leave my current field and transition to venous disease?”  That is a legitimate question/fear, and I hear it a lot.  I would have to say that, for the early pioneers of this field, it was a much riskier proposition than it is now.  However, because of the hard work, dedication, and research put forth by the physicians who have built up the specialty, we are now in a time where this field is here, not only to stay, but to grow.  I even added by pointing out that ALL specialties go through transitions as the years pass by.  Some specialties that we thought were the most stable in the past, cardiovascular surgery for example, are now barely recognizable.  Open heart surgery has progressively been replaced by stenting, and now even portable ventricular assist devices.  You may as well ask, how stable is any field?  The answer is: only as stable as can be expected until the next discovery is made.

I for one am thrilled and honored to be on the side of the slope that is facing up rather than being on the side that has flat-lined.  Welcome all newcomers to the exciting world of venous and lymphatic disease!