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Bueno named chief of Pediatric Plastic Surgery

Sep. 4, 2014, 10:28 AM

Reuben Bueno Jr., M.D., associate professor of Plastic Surgery, is returning to Vanderbilt University School of Medicine as co-director of Pediatric Plastic Surgery at the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt and also as director of the Plastic Surgery Residency Program.

Reuben Bueno Jr., M.D.

Bueno, the son of Vanderbilt’s first Plastic Surgery Residency graduate in 1973, and a graduate of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine himself in 1997, grew up in the halls of Medical Center North with familiar faces, such as professor and chair of Plastic Surgery, R. Bruce Shack, M.D.

Bueno’s father was in private practice for 27 years in Nashville and held an appointment as associate clinical professor at Vanderbilt, then moved to Washington, D.C., and served as chief of Plastic Surgery at the Veterans Administration Hospital for 12 years before retiring last year.

“Dr. Shack has actually known me since I was a little boy. He, former chair J.B. Lynch and my father were my inspirations to become a plastic surgeon, both growing up and as a medical student. I am very fortunate that this opportunity to come back home came up at this stage in my career,” said Bueno, whose parents and sister, who is a pediatrician, all live in Nashville.

Bueno comes to Vanderbilt from Southern Illinois University School of Medicine, where he was director of Pediatric Plastic Surgery and the Plastic Surgery Residency Program.

He completed his integrated plastic surgery residency at SIU, followed by a hand and upper extremity fellowship at Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City and a pediatric plastic surgery fellowship at Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto.

Bueno’s clinical interests include adult and pediatric reconstructive plastic surgery, adult and pediatric hand surgery, cleft lip and palate surgery, facial reanimation surgery, peripheral nerve surgery, targeted muscle reinnervation (TMR) and burn surgery.

“We are extremely fortunate to have Reuben joining us. His advanced skill and mastery of some exciting cutting-edge procedures will be a great addition to our team and help to further grow and enhance the care we provide for our patients and families,” said John W. Brock III, M.D., Monroe Carell Jr. Professor, director of the Division of Pediatric Urology and Children’s Hospital Surgeon-in-Chief.

Bueno will provide additional support and expertise to the pediatric plastic surgery service with Kevin Kelly, M.D., co-director of Pediatric Plastic Surgery and director of the Cleft and Craniofacial Center, and Stephane Braun, M.D.
Hand and upper extremity surgery is another one of Bueno’s specialties, and he has been a pioneer in TMR surgery.

For upper extremity amputees, TMR surgery allows for a prosthetic that is controlled by the patient’s own thoughts. This innovative procedure, also referred to as “bionic arm” surgery, reroutes severed nerves that previously went to the amputated limb to nerves on the chest wall or the residual limb.

The reinnervated muscles serve to amplify nerve signals from the brain, and a custom-built prosthetic can then sense these signals, allowing restoration of elbow and hand function.

The thought-controlled prosthetic is more intuitive and less cumbersome to use than the traditional body-powered prosthetic. Bueno hopes to collaborate with the School of Engineering to offer both the surgery and the “smart prosthetics” to patients at Vanderbilt.

His experience with TMR surgery has allowed him to perform three “world’s first” technique modifications to the original TMR procedure — reinnervating a muscle transferred from another part of the body and TMR surgeries in the acute period after traumatic amputations at the level of the shoulder and above the elbow.

“The advantage of doing it early is that the surgical site is without extensive scarring, so it makes dissecting out the nerves at the level of the amputation easier,” Bueno said.

“And we hope it prevents some of the severe neuroma pain that some patients develop at the site of the amputation.”

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