As the new Professor and Chair of Anesthesiology, John F. Butterworth, IV, M.D., brings a long career of studying outcomes and drug responses in patients having cardiovascular surgery and of studying pharmacology and toxicity of local anesthetic drugs.
The fact that cardiovascular surgery often — perhaps 80 percent of the time — leads to mild temporary brain dysfunction is not widely appreciated, Butterworth says. “Early on, neurobehavioral deficits are pretty common,” he says and tells the tale of an elderly colleague who routinely did the New York Times crossword puzzle in ink. “Two weeks after coronary bypass surgery, he couldn’t get a single word. Four months later, he was back to doing the puzzle in ink.”
Butterworth has participated in numerous clinical trials testing such things as whether administering certain neuroprotective drugs or providing better blood sugar control will reduce the risk of stroke or neurobehavioral deficits after heart surgery.
Butterworth earned his medical degree on VCU’s MCV Campus and followed that with a research fellowship in the Division of Neurosurgery, where he was part of a team that was studying interventions that might improve recovery from head injuries. “It’s interesting to look back at that now and realize I was studying outcomes research,” he says.
After an internship at the University of Massachusetts and residency and fellowship at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, Butterworth spent 20 years on the faculty of Wake Forest University, and then six years as the R. K. Stoelting Professor and chair of the Department of Anesthesia at Indiana University.
That’s 31 years away from Richmond, and Butterworth says he’s happy to be back. “This is my home. I grew up in Richmond,” he says. His mother is here, as well as relatives so numerous, Butterworths says, “It would take me hours to tell you about all of them.”
He looks forward to the opportunity that chairing the department offers, which he feels is a very good fit both ways — for him and for the medical school. “This is an opportunity that came up at the right time in my life.”