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Sacks named division director in plastic and reconstructive surgery

Surgeon also installed as Shoenberg endowed chair

by Kristina SauerweinApril 1, 2021

The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Justin M. Sacks, MD, a highly respected microvascular surgeon with expertise in complex surgeries involving cancer and trauma, has been named director of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis.

Sacks also has been installed as the Sydney M. Shoenberg Jr. and Robert H. Shoenberg Endowed Chair in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, an endowment supported through The Foundation for Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

“We are thrilled to have Dr. Sacks join a long line of distinguished leaders in plastic and reconstructive surgery, including his successor, Dr. Susan Mackinnon,” said Timothy J. Eberlein, MD, the Bixby Professor of Surgery and head of the Department of Surgery. “He is a superb microvascular surgeon who leads by example, and he is an exceptional role model for our faculty and students.”

Sacks, who specializes in a surgical procedure known as microvascular reconstruction. It involves transferring tissue from one part of the body to another to reconstruct defects caused by cancer, trauma or hereditary conditions. His skill set ranges from the head and neck to the breast, abdomen, pelvis and limbs.

His research focuses on tissue engineering, assessing blood flow to reconstructed body parts, and transplanting multiple tissues such as muscle, skin, nerve, bone and tendon to form a functional body unit — a hand, for example.

He joined the School of Medicine in 2019 after working as vice chair of clinical operations and director of oncological reconstruction for almost a decade at Johns Hopkins School of Medicine in Baltimore. In 2016, Sacks earned an MBA in medical service management at the Carey Business School at Johns Hopkins University.

Sacks cofounded LifeSprout, a biotech company that has developed tissue scaffolding for tissue restoration and cell therapy. Along with other scientists, Sacks helped to develop a pressure sensing device to lessen pressure sore development among hospitalized patients.

“I envision the School of Medicine’s Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery becoming the No. 1 plastic surgery program in the United States,” said Sacks, who treats patients at Barnes-Jewish Hospital. “It’s a bold vision. To achieve it, I am dedicated to improving the division’s clinical, educational, research, mentorship and leadership missions.”

Sacks’ installation in March as the Sydney M. Shoenberg Jr. and Robert H. Shoenberg Endowed Chair was a defining moment in his career, he said. “It is a tremendous honor and responsibility to use the chair’s allocated funds toward the delivery of clinical excellence, improved education and transformative research,” he said. “It is truly an honor to be associated with a named chair and to join a roster of extraordinary leaders of this historic division.”

Sacks has received numerous awards and honors from groups including the American Association of Plastic Surgeons and the Plastic Surgery Research Council. He has lectured across the globe and has authored more than 140 research papers and 27 textbook chapters on plastic and reconstructive surgery. He serves on the editorial board of the Journal of Reconstructive Microsurgery; is a founding member of the American Society for Reconstructive Transplantation; and is a recent past-chair of the Plastic Surgery Research Council.

Sacks graduated from Cornell University and earned his medical degree in 1998 from Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, where he went on to train as a resident. He then spent three years at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center earning fellowships in microsurgery research, and hand and upper extremity surgery. In 2007, he began a one-year fellowship in microvascular cancer reconstruction and then joined the faculty at the University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center in Houston. In 2011, he joined the faculty at Johns Hopkins, where he rose to vice chair of the Plastic Surgery Department.

Sacks succeeds Susan E. Mackinnon, MD, who is recognized for pioneering techniques to treat peripheral nerve injury. Mackinnon remains on the faculty as the Minot Packer Fryer Professor of Plastic Surgery.

Washington University School of Medicine’s 1,500 faculty physicians also are the medical staff of Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals. The School of Medicine is a leader in medical research, teaching and patient care, consistently ranking among the top medical schools in the nation by U.S. News & World Report. Through its affiliations with Barnes-Jewish and St. Louis Children’s hospitals, the School of Medicine is linked to BJC HealthCare.

Kristina covers pediatrics, surgery, medical education and student life. In 2020, she received a gold Robert G. Fenley Writing Award for general staff writing from the Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC), and in 2019, she received the silver award. Kristina is an author and former reporter for the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and the Los Angeles Times, where she was part of a team of journalists that won the Pulitzer Prize in 2004 for breaking news. Additionally, she covered the 2014 Ferguson unrest for TIME magazine and, for eight years, wrote a popular parenting column for