Sasha Krupnick, MD, lung transplant surgeon, serves as surgical director of the lung transplant program at UVA. He also specializes in cancers of the thorax — the area of the body between the neck and abdomen.
1. Why did you become a doctor?
I couldn’t imagine doing anything else.
2. Why did you choose your specialty?
I always liked to work with my hands. I always wanted to be a surgeon. Thoracic surgery is one of the few specialties that I find exciting, because you get to deal with many types of disease processes, from end-stage organ failure to oncology to benign disease. Also, you tend to take care some of the sickest people, whether it’s cancer or end-stage lung failure, and it’s rewarding to see them get better.
3. What’s your favorite thing about Charlottesville?
The mountains, the outdoors and how beautiful it is.
4. Where did you grow up?
I grew up in Toledo, Ohio.
5. What’s the most exciting thing/research happening right now in your field?
The most exciting thing happening in oncology is some of the immunotherapy for cancers, which is something that my laboratory has been studying for over a decade — even before it became fashionable. Some of the clinical translation of basic research in the ’90s to current clinical trials and actually to FDA approvals is very exciting.
In lung transplantation, some of the areas that I think are the most important are actually not being addressed, and we’re attempting to address them in our laboratory — specifically chronic tolerance and preventing rejection of the transplanted organ by the immune system without reducing or suppressing the immune system. That’s not happening, but that’s where we’re trying to take the lead and develop it.
6. Who is your inspiration or hero?
I’ve always admired surgeons that push the envelope and broke with some of the conventions. Specifically Thomas Starzl, who is the father of liver transplantation, but I would say the father of all transplantation, because he really pushed the field when it was not that popular and fought a lot of battles. I always admired him and people like him.
7. What’s your favorite thing about working at UVA?
How nice the people are and how friendly the environment is, and how collegial it is.