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School of Medicine Virginia Commonwealth University VCU Medical Center
School of Medicine: Message From the Dean

A Magician Leads Peds

No doubt about it. One of the first things to catch your attention when you look over Bruce Rubin’s CV is his affinity for all things magical. Not only does he work it into his patient exams, he teaches it to students, to residents and even to practicing pediatricians at CME conferences around the world.

He maintains that physicians are natural magicians, with our special costumes, magical potions and incantations. We’ve even got X-ray vision, to his way of thinking.

But Dr. Rubin’s magician’s props are tongue depressors and ear specula, with the occasional rubber band or sponge ball thrown in. And his goal is communication. “It gets the kids interested, listening and engaged. And it makes me more human and less intimidating,” he says.

Dr. Rubin works his magic

Dr. Bruce Rubin, the new department chair for pediatrics, works with an impromptu magician’s assistant on a recent afternoon at the Children’s Medical Center.

Or maybe the first thing to catch your attention was his amazing record of professional accomplishment.

He says that he’s known as the mucus guy. But I say he’s known for developing effective and appropriate aerosol therapy for children with lung diseases. And for advocating the antibiotic drug azithromycin for cystic fibrosis.

He’s also known for setting the traditional understanding of CF on its head by discovering that, contrary to conventional wisdom, it’s not that there’s too much mucus in the CF airway. Instead CF patients’ lungs fill up with pus. And that, of course, leads to a very different treatment approach.

Patients around the world know him for his mucus clearance clinic, which is the only like it in North America. And others know him for his study and treatment of plastic bronchitis, a deadly disease that takes its name from the way the mucus forms a fibrous cast that—when pulled from the lungs—clearly mirrors the branching of the bronchial tree. Dr. Rubin maintains the international registry for patients with this rare condition, and he’s working to develop disease models so that he can better understand and treat it.

Here on the MCV Campus, he’ll continue his patient care and his research. But interestingly, he thinks that of all the different jobs you can have at a hospital, being chair of pediatrics is the best. He says that pediatricians are genetically programmed to be nice and nurturing. “Even the most difficult pediatrician is still a pediatrician, and that’s what makes this so much fun.”