Meet the New Chair of Colorectal Surgery at Cleveland Clinic

Introducing Scott R. Steele, MD

After 25 years in the U.S. Army, including two deployments to Iraq and two to Afghanistan, Scott R. Steele, MD, is beginning a new mission as Chair of the Department of Colorectal Surgery at Cleveland Clinic. In this profile, learn more about Dr. Steele and the expertise he will bring to Cleveland Clinic’s Digestive Disease & Surgery Institute.

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At a glance

Specialty interests:  Clinical outcomes research, minimally invasive surgery, colorectal cancer

Background in brief: Graduated from United States Military Academy at West Point (1994). Earned medical degree from University of Wisconsin (1998). Completed residency in general surgery at Madigan Army Medical Center (2003) and fellowship in colon and rectal surgery at University of Minnesota Medical Center (2005). On active duty from 1998 to 2015, including four combat deployments as a trauma surgeon, and serving at Madigan Army Medical Center as a colorectal surgeon and Associate Program Director of the General Surgery Residency Program. Most recently was Division Chief of Colorectal Surgery at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center, as well as Vice Chairman of Clinical Affairs and Associate Director of Surgical Services for the Digestive Health Institute.

Research interests: Currently working on multiple epidemiological and outcomes-based research studies on all aspects of colorectal disease: cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, pelvic floor disorders, endoscopy and anorectal disease.

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In his own words

Why colorectal surgery:  “A lot of times, colorectal diseases are the ones people don’t talk about, even with their own families. It’s an honor to be trusted by patients and to provide reassurance that I can take care of them. Establishing those close patient relationships is what attracted me to colorectal surgery.”

About combat duty as a U.S. Army surgeon:  “There’s no truer medicine than treating an injured soldier on the battlefield. You see young men and women, who in many cases don’t make a lot of money, who are fighting for their country, fighting for their friends, fighting for something they believe in, on foreign soil. I had the privilege of encountering those who were injured in combat, and had the opportunity to treat them — in some cases save their lives — and get them home to their families. That experience will stick with me for a very long time.”

About his proliferation of current research projects:  “One of the highlights of doing research is working with medical students, residents and fellows and getting them excited about asking questions. How can we do things better? Is what we think we know truly correct? Is this the best there is? It’s exciting when we find the answers and then see how our research influences the way patients are treated.”

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Plans for Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Colorectal Surgery:  “My first priorities are to get to know the staff and determine how we can work together, as a collaborative team, to improve the way colorectal disease is treated. We will continuously seek better ways, through our own experience and high-quality research, to improve patient outcomes.”

Trends in colorectal surgery:  “Probably the current trend is on introducing Transanal Total Mesorectal Excision (taTME) for patients with low rectal cancer tumors. This newer approach makes the hardest part of the surgery, down in the pelvis, easier to dissect.  taTME likely will help improve patient outcomes and speed recovery.