April 13, 2011

Neumeister named University's top scholar

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. -- A plastic surgeon at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine is this year’s University-Level Outstanding Scholar.

The University is honoring Dr. Michael W. Neumeister, professor and division chair of plastic surgery at SIU School of Medicine, for his outstanding contributions to his field. The award is part of SIUC’s annual Excellence Through Commitment program, which highlights top achievers at the University.

Chancellor Rita Cheng will host a reception for the winners on April 19 at Morris Library. The University established the Excellence Through Commitment program in 2003. The awards recognize excellence in the performance of faculty, civil service, administrative/professional, graduate student, and student employees.

As the University’s top scholar for 2011, Neumeister will receive a certificate, the title of distinguished scholar and a designated parking space for one year.

A native of Victoria, British Columbia in Canada, Neumeister earned his Bachelor of Science degree in 1984 in physiology and pharmacology at the University of Western Ontario. He earned his Doctor of Medicine degree in 1988 at the University of Toronto and served an internship at Toronto East General Hospital. He completed residencies in general surgery at Dalhousie University in Halifax and plastic surgery at Manitoba University in Winnipeg, finishing in 1996. He also completed fellowships in microsurgery/hand surgery at Harvard, Brigham & Women’s Hospital in Boston and SIU School of Medicine, 1996-1997. He is board certified in plastic surgery by both the Royal College of Surgeons of Canada and the American Board of Plastic Surgeons.

Neumeister goes by many titles at SIU School of Medicine, where he holds or has held various chairs, directorships and chief leadership positions over the years, including a present title of vice chair of research for the Department of Surgery.

Neumeister is director of both the Regional Burn Unit and Wound Care Center at Memorial Medical Center, Springfield. He serves as medical director at Baylis-Outpatient Surgery Center there, as well. He also is vice chair of plastic surgery at St. John’s Hospital, Springfield.

Among other positions in various professional medical organizations, Neumeister also serves as vice president of research for the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and the Plastic Surgery Educational Foundation.

“Dr. Neumeister has a reputation both nationally and internationally for his reconstructive efforts in restoring form and function not only to upper extremity but also the lower extremity and the head and neck region,” said Dr. J. Kevin Dorsey, dean and provost of SIU School of Medicine. “The creative nature of his specialty blends nicely with his research interests, which incorporates clinical and basic science pursuit.”

During his time at the medical school, Neumeister has published almost 80 peer-reviewed articles, a book and 14 book chapters. His many research projects have brought in hundreds of thousands in grants, including a 2007 $1.1 million grant from the Southern Illinois Regenerative Medicine Institute that looked at healing bone and blood flow using stem cells.

Among his many achievements, Neumeister has pioneered new techniques and strategies for reconstruction for a variety of patients, including those who suffer from breast cancer, head and neck trauma and cancer and trauma to upper and lower extremities. For his efforts, he received the Marco Godina Traveling Fellowship in 2004 from the American Society of Reconstructive Microsurgery, its highest award.

“Clearly, Dr. Neumeister is creative, willing to change and apply new (ways) to improve patient outcomes,” Dorsey said.

Neumeister also has led the way in taking new discoveries out his laboratory and translating them into improved patient care. Once such accomplishment involves fabricating synthetic skin substitute for a severely burned patient. He also tissue-engineered a prefabricated new trachea for a patient suffering from tracheal stenosis, who had no other options. Both patients are doing well.

Neumeister, along with a colleague, also recently made history with the re-innervation of a free muscle flap to the chest wall of a patient whose arm was amputated at the shoulder. The procedure supplied needed nerve input for a modern prosthesis fitted with biosensors that allow it to move and bend more like a natural arm and hand. The Department of Defense has expressed a great deal of interest in the new technique, which could be used to support soldiers returning from war.

Neumeister also was involved with a first-of-its-kind reconstructive surgery on a child and a first facial reanimation in a patient with facial paralysis. He is known as a leading authority in using Botulinum toxin (botox) for ischemic hand pain and chronic nerve disorders, Dorsey said.

“Bringing new technologies to SIU School of Medicine seems to be a common theme,” for Neumeister, Dorsey said. “Dr. Neumeister is using his clinical training, his creativity and artistic ability and his research to bring clinic practice of plastic surgery from his lab to the bedside for those patients who require reconstructive surgery.”