The AVLS is comprised of many passionate AVLS members who are dedicated to committing their time and knowledge to aid the vein and lymphatic field. In this post, the AVLS took the time to interview Robert Worthington-Kirsch, the AVLS Featured Member of the Month. Robert joined AVLS in the early 2000s and has since been an active member passionate in the field of vein and lymphatics.
How and why did you start practicing in the field of vein care?
I sort of backed into vein care. I am an Interventional Radiologist, and was the second person in the US to offer uterine embolotherapy for fibroids (1994). This turned into a very busy practice, and for several years I was performing over 250 embolizations a year. I was at the SIR meeting in either 1998 or 1999 and was sitting in the plenary session with my friend and mentor, Bob White from Yale, when Mike Dake gave a lecture on the minimally invasive treatments for varicose veins that were at that time on the horizon. Bob turned to me and said, “This is your patient population. You need to jump on this.” So I started reading and talking with others. I spent time learning with Robert Min (ablation and sclerotherapy), Lowell Kabnick (ambulatory phlebectomy), and Robert Weiss (ablation). The day the FDA cleared the first device (the first generation VNUS RFA technology) I ordered a unit before 10am and did my first case within a week. Almost a year later I ordered a laser console the morning that the FDA cleared the technology for veins. There was great synergy – fibroid patients (and/or their husbands) had varicose veins, varicose vein patients (and/or their wives) had fibroids. Since then vein disease has gradually occupied a larger and larger portion of my practice time.
Uterine embolotherapy and treatment of superficial venous insufficiency are both ‘magical’ technologies. The underlying disease states cause terrible problems with quality of life in otherwise healthy active adults. The treatments we offer are technically challenging enough to keep me interested (I can’t imagine how bored I’d be doing 30 cataracts a day), have very high technical and clinical success rates, and very low complication risks. This makes for an incredibly rewarding practice.
When you are not at work, how do you spend your time?
My wife and I have 5 adult children and 4 granddaughters. We are also very involved in our congregation; I am the Mohel for our synagogue. I am an avid fly-fisherman and fly tier, so if I have an hour or so free I’ll hit one of the local streams. During the season I often do this before work. I read a lot, primarily science fiction. I have always wanted to play a musical instrument and just started a course on playing the ukulele.
How long have you been a member of the AVLS and why did you decide to join?
I joined AVLS (ACP at that time) in the early 2000s. It was attractive as a venue for learning as much as possible about vein disease – with a greater concentration than was available at SIR.
In what ways has the AVLS helped you as a practicing physician?
AVLS serves as a sounding board for ideas about vein care and as a backup/support for some of the challenges we face in daily practice. I have been happy to give back to AVLS through my service as Chairman of the CME Committee and participation in the Annual Meeting Planning Committee, and the Healthcare Advisory Committee.
Any advice for physicians new to the field? What resources does the AVLS provide that would benefit them?
Decide whether or not you are going to commit to vein care. There are lots of providers who decide to dabble in veins for a day a week. These individuals usually provide substandard patient care and make those of us who are trying to do it right look bad. If you aren’t willing to commit to ‘doing veins’ right don’t bother. I’ve been saying the same thing to the IR community about uterine embolotherapy for 20 years.
Read through the entire web site. There is lots of good information there and I’m sure you’ll get at least one significant pearl. Come to meetings – you learn as much interacting with others as from the didactic material presented. Get involved so that you are giving back to the community that supports your practice.
Interested in becoming the next Featured Member of the Month? Send your contact information to, [email protected]