Dr. Hunter Ray with mentor Dr. Ali Azizzadeh.
Dr. Hunter Ray with mentor Dr. Ali Azizzadeh.

Hunter Ray, M.D., vascular surgery resident (integrated residency program), is the winner of 2016 Southern Association for Vascular Surgery’s (SAVS) S. Timothy String Award.

The S. Timothy String Award is granted annually by SAVS to the best presentation at the organization’s meeting. Ray presented his award-winning original research, “Predictors of Intervention and Mortality in Patients with Uncomplicated Acute Type B Aortic Dissection,” at the 40th annual meeting of SAVS in Cancun. His mentor is Ali Azizzadeh, M.D., FACS, professor and chief of vascular surgery, Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery.

“My instant reaction was disbelief as it is such an achievement to win the S. Timothy String Award,” Ray said. “I have submitted papers in the past to the Annual Meeting of the Southern Association for Vascular Surgery, however this was the first time that I have had the opportunity to present at this meeting. I began working on this research while I was a fourth-year medical student at UTHealth, and I had my first research experience between my first and second years of medical school when I took part in the Summer Research Program here at UTHealth.”

Ray is the first winner from McGovern Medical School since the award was established in 2004. The quality of the presentation, discussion, and submitted manuscript are major considerations in the award. The manuscript has been submitted for publication in the Journal of Vascular Surgery.

“We are honored and delighted to receive this prestigious award,” Azizzadeh said. “This is a testament to the commitment, diligence, and hard work of Dr. Hunter Ray, our faculty, and the entire research staff in the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery. This landmark study has the potential to influence the treatment approach in all patients who present with aortic dissection, a tear in the wall of the main vessel that carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body.”

The study looked at the predictors of intervention and death in patients with acute type B aortic dissection. Patients with uncomplicated acute type B aortic dissection have historically been managed with medication alone. Recent studies suggest that certain high-risk patients with uncomplicated acute type B aortic dissection may benefit from a new minimally invasive procedure to repair the aorta, otherwise known as thoracic endovascular aortic repair (TEVAR).

“Our study showed that patients with presenting aortic diameters >44 mm and a false lumen diameters > 22 mm on admission should be considered for TEVAR,” Azizzadeh said.

Ray was introduced to vascular surgery as a first-year medical student.

“I was drawn to vascular surgery as a specialty after seeing a carotid endarterectomy, and watching Dr. Safi perform an emergent ruptured AAA (abdominal aortic aneurysm) repair really sealed the deal,” he recalled. “I have been lucky enough to work on several projects with Dr. Azizzadeh and the rest of our department. I truly cannot think of a better program, a better department, or a better medical school. I really could not have done any of this without the help of everyone in the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery, and I would like to thank them all. I look forward to the rest of my training and my time here at UTHealth.”

Directed by Azizzadeh, the Department of Cardiothoracic and Vascular Surgery offers an ACGME-approved, five-year integrated residency program in vascular surgery, offering exposure to the full spectrum of open and endovascular procedures.

The SAVS was established to promote the art and science of vascular surgery and to further education in the comprehensive care of vascular disease, including disorders of the arteries, veins, lymphatics, and microcirculation exclusive of the heart and brain.