May 18, 2017

Alexopoulos named chief of liver transplantation program

Sophoclis Alexopoulos, M.D., has been named chief of Vanderbilt’s Division of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation.

Sophoclis Alexopoulos, M.D., has been named chief of Vanderbilt’s Division of Hepatobiliary Surgery and Liver Transplantation.

Sophoclis Alexopoulos, M.D.

He comes to Vanderbilt from the Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, where he was assistant professor of clinical surgery in the Division of Hepatobiliary/Pancreatic and Abdominal Organ Transplant Surgery. He also served as the surgical director of the Kidney Transplant Program at Keck Medical Center of USC, associate surgical director of the Pediatric Liver/Intestinal Transplant Program and surgical director of the Pediatric Kidney Transplant Program at Children’s Hospital of Los Angeles.

Alexopoulos said he wants to build on the work of his predecessors, which will allow his team to offer pediatric patients with liver disease broader access to transplantation through the use of technical variant grafts (split, reduced and live-donor liver transplantations).

“I am fortunate to have such a well-laid foundation at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt,” said Alexopoulos. “It is essential as we bring more technical expertise to the transplantation of smaller and younger children. The program is ready to move to the next level of transplantation for children, including partial liver, in situ split liver and live-donor liver transplantations.

“There is a need for this in Nashville and at Vanderbilt. I feel very fortunate to be able to bring my skill set to the institution.”

Seth Karp, M.D., H. William Scott Jr. Professor of Surgery and director of the Vanderbilt Transplant Center, anticipates Alexopoulos will take the liver transplant program to new heights in both the clinical and research arenas.

“We are very fortunate to have recruited Dr. Alexopoulos to Vanderbilt,” Karp said. “He is an exceptional surgeon with expertise in adult and pediatric liver transplantation and a research portfolio that includes the use of state-of-the-art machine perfusion technology to improve liver graft survival.”

Pediatric liver transplantation has been an interest of Alexopoulos’ since he finished his residency at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston. He completed his fellowship at Stanford University Medical Center, where he had applied based on the strength and reputation of the pediatric liver transplant program.

“Once I decided what I was interested in, I wanted every opportunity to learn and develop my surgical abilities. I wanted to train with the center that was best known as one of the largest for volumes in the country,” he said. “It was just the opportunity I needed.”

At Vanderbilt, Alexopoulos will have both administrative and clinical duties. He is a strong believer in a team approach, he said.

“When a team works well, it brings out the best in everyone,” he said. “I am excited to have the opportunity to join a great team that is nationally recognized. It is so important that all members of our team are supported.

“We have the ability, compassion and desire to make such an impact on our patients’ lives. I cannot emphasize enough how important a team approach to that is. If we have a good team, we will be successful. If we are successful, then our patients are happy and then I will know that we have achieved our goals.”

Alexopoulos came to the United States from Greece with his parents and younger sister when he was 1. It wasn’t until he was a freshman in college that he realized he wanted to become a physician.
“I was an electrical engineering major initially,” he said. “I switched to physics to open my schedule for premed classes after I started volunteering at Scripps Memorial Hospital in La Jolla.
“I found that I enjoyed being able to help people and I really enjoyed taking care of patients. I especially liked the camaraderie of the emergency room.”
Alexopoulos graduated with a degree in Physics from the University of California at San Diego. He did not want to change his major again.

“I believe that having a degree in physics or studying physics allowed me to develop a different set of critical thinking skills than if I had majored in biology. One is not better than the other,” he said. “They are just different approaches to tackling problems.”

Alexopoulos and his wife, Maggie, have three children who he characterizes as the “best part of my life.”

“I love spending time with my family. I enjoy cooking two to three times a week with my kids. My favorite dishes are Italian. I enjoy running a few miles a week, reading, going to the movies and family bike rides.”

For now, Alexopoulos is awaiting the arrival of his family from California in June.
In the meantime, he said chuckling, “I have a mattress on the floor, a chair, a trash can, a plate, a fork and a pot.”