October 25, 2018

Bacchetta to help expand pulmonary surgery program

Matthew Bacchetta, MD, MBA, MA, has joined the Department of Thoracic Surgery as an associate professor and the surgical director of a new respiratory institute at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that will be launched soon.


by Matt Batcheldor

Matthew Bacchetta, MD, MBA, MA, has joined the Department of Thoracic Surgery as an associate professor and the surgical director of a new respiratory institute at Vanderbilt University Medical Center that will be launched soon.

Matthew Bacchetta, MD, MBA, MA

Bacchetta brings years of varied experience to the institute, from engineering and business to medical ethics and transplant surgery. He comes to Vanderbilt from Columbia University Medical Center, where he was the director of Adult ECMO, surgical director of the Pulmonary Hypertension Comprehensive Care Center, director of the Pulmonary Thrombo-endarterectomy Program and co-director of the Center for Acute Respiratory Failure at New York-Presbyterian Hospital/Columbia University Medical Center as well as being a lung transplant surgeon.

“I came to Vanderbilt because I thought there was a great opportunity to help grow the program in end-stage lung disease and potentially build a world-class respiratory institute. Vanderbilt has all the right ingredients — really outstanding people in pulmonary medicine, pulmonary hypertension, a good surgical team and a departmental leadership that is forward-thinking and determined to develop a world-class program,” he said. “It is an exciting opportunity. And Nashville happens to be a great place to live.”

Bacchetta, a native of rural Pennsylvania, described his journey from farm country to New York City to Nashville. He began his higher education studying engineering at Duke University.

“I always wanted to be an engineer,” he said. “I thought that I would be an engineer and then go into research and then eventually become a physician and somehow combine that.”

As a child, he didn’t know exactly how and when that would come together. “When I was an engineering student, one of my advisers, who was very influential, told me not to go to grad school first, instead work in an industry, so that when you come back to graduate school, you will be focused on a very specific problem born from experience as opposed to being assigned an esoteric problem,” he said.

After graduating from Duke with a Bachelor of Science in Engineering, Bacchetta went from being an engineer to an operations manager to building and running a manufacturing plant. Along the way, he gained a Master’s in Business Administration from the University of Virginia.

He was being groomed for a corporate position, managing a large capital portfolio, trading treasuries and working in debt management. “And then I got up one day and thought, this is really not what I want to do,” he said. “I’m going to become a doctor, because that’s what the plan was all along.”

But first, he wanted to satisfy an interest in philosophy, by studying medical ethics and receiving a master’s degree from the Department of Religious Studies and Philosophy at the University of Virginia. From there, he went to medical school at Cornell University Medical College in New York.

Bacchetta said he became impressed with Vanderbilt’s transplant program and its outcomes, visited colleagues who worked here and came to believe that this is a program he wanted to help grow.

He will help lead the new institute along with a medical director who will join Vanderbilt in the coming months. Its primary focus is benign diseases. Such diseases include complex and high-mortality disorders such such cystic fibrosis, pulmonary hypertension, COPD and interstitial lung disease.

The institute will be built with three key components — growing clinical areas, basic science and translational science.

“The good news is that Vanderbilt has a lot of these key ingredients in place already, so it’s mostly a matter of organizing it in a way that allows us to be very effective and create what we want to be,” Bacchetta said. “We’re trying to create something that will be a world-class institute.”

Ashish Shah, MD, professor and chair of Cardiac Surgery, added, “Perhaps more importantly, Dr. Bacchetta is defining and developing an entirely new subspecialty of cardiothoracic surgery: surgeons devoted to complex pulmonary vascular disease. This includes a range of challenging patients and problems that include surgical approaches to pulmonary hypertension, lung transplant, and advanced lung failure. Vanderbilt is now well positioned to be an international leader in the field.”

Seth Karp, MD, H. William Scott Jr. Professor and chair of the Section of Surgical Sciences, surgeon-in-chief of Vanderbilt University Adult Hospital and director of the Vanderbilt Transplant Center, said Bacchetta is a welcome addition.

“We could not be happier that Dr. Bacchetta decided to join us,” he said. “He brings world-class clinical and research programs that will improve care for our patients and contribute technologies to help patients throughout the country.”