Department Welcomes Dr. Marcos Vidal Melo as Chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology

November 1, 2021
Dr. Marcos Vidal Melo photo

Premier cardiothoracic and vascular anesthesiologist Marcos Vidal Melo, MD, PhD, joined the department November 1 as chief of the Division of Cardiothoracic Anesthesiology. Dr. Vidal Melo is an independently funded physician-scientist of international renown for his clinical and translational cardiopulmonary research, and an extraordinary mentor to scores of trainees and postdoctoral fellows across disciplines.

Dr. Vidal Melo succeeds Dr. Jack Shanewise, who engineered the division’s remarkable clinical and educational expansion for the past seventeen years. In 2019, Dr. Shanewise announced his decision to step down as chief of the division, and graciously agreed to stay on in the position until a successor arrived. Dr. Vidal Melo joins the department from Harvard, where he was Professor of Anesthesia at Harvard Medical School and the Hellman Endowed Chair in Anesthesia Research in the Department of Anesthesia, Critical Care and Pain Medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) and Harvard Medical School.

His principal research activities focus on the development of imaging and bioengineering techniques to investigate the cardiopulmonary system, particularly the changes in pulmonary function and inflammation that accompany mechanical ventilation and acute lung injury.  His research has had significant sustained impact on multiple basic and clinical disciplines, including critical care medicine, anesthesiology, biomedical engineering, and radiological approaches to ventilation and perfusion and inflammation imaging of the lung.

Dr. Vidal Melo earned his medical degree from the Federal University of the State of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil in 1988. He completed his clinical anesthesiology residency at Massachusetts General Hospital in 1999, and immediately began fellowship training in cardiac anesthesia, also at MGH, which he completed in 2000. He is board certified in anesthesiology, echocardiography, and pain medicine. Notably, and central to Dr. Vidal Melo’s widely recognized creativity in clinical and translational research, he earned two degrees prior to medical training: a master’s degree in biomedical engineering from the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1987, followed by a PhD in experimental surgery from the University of Heidelberg in Germany, which he completed in 1990. 

In 2003, Dr. Vidal Melo presented a positron emission tomography–based technique that has become a major reference for computing spatial ventilation-perfusion distributions in the lung. This is the only imaging method that is accurate for the estimation of gas exchange in diseased lungs. He has used this and related lung-imaging techniques to advance our understanding of lung injury, particularly lung injury associated with mechanical ventilation. 

Dr. Vidal Melo currently oversees two large NIH-funded studies. One of them, a multi-institutional study across 16 medical centers, addresses the wide and unexplained variability in anesthetic management of ventilation strategies during major open abdominal surgery, which often produces postoperative pulmonary complications. The findings of this research could shift the paradigm of care for millions of patients undergoing surgery and anesthesia with mechanical ventilation each year, reducing the estimated incidence of 1.1 million postoperative pulmonary complications and associated 46,000 deaths per year in the United States.

Dr. Vidal Melo’s administrative contributions to the field locally, nationally, and internationally include leadership roles in clinical and translational research in anesthesia, critical care and pain medicine, and cardiac anesthesia. Nationally, he chairs the National Institutes of Health Study Section on Surgery, Anesthesia, and Trauma, and is the founder and director of the Perioperative Research Network, a national system of academic anesthesiologists performing prospective clinical research on postoperative pulmonary outcomes. His outstanding scholarship is documented in well over 100 original articles in peer-reviewed research publications, and numerous reviews, editorials, and book chapters. As an influential reviewer for over thirty journals, he has led scholarship in cardiology, anesthesiology, pulmonary medicine, and critical care, as well as in numerous related fields, including biomechanics, environmental science, clinical trials, nuclear medicine, and biomedical engineering, among others. He currently guides discourse in the field as an associate editor of Anesthesiology, the highest impact journal of our specialty.

As an educator, Dr. Vidal Melo is a didactic and clinical teacher and preceptor who has supervised hundreds of fellows, residents, and medical students. He has enhanced the career progress of a large group of postdoctoral mentees with extraordinarily diverse professional interests. Inspired by his depth, creativity, and expertise, most of his mentees have published papers with Dr. Vidal Melo and have established their own professional careers in academic medicine and research. 

“His world-renowned research program will expand our basic and clinical research programs, complementing both the basic lung biology research of senior faculty members and clinical research in protective lung ventilation in our intensive care units,” comments department chair Dr. Brambrink. “Together, his research, practice, leadership, and mentoring render a powerful chain of academic excellence that will heighten and advance our missions of courageous discovery, the highest quality clinical care, and superior educational achievement. I truly am delighted to welcome him to the department.”