Dr. Johnny Huard, Vail Scientific Summit Feature 1
Dr. Johnny Huard had been on the job in Vail for just a few weeks as the Chief Scientific Officer at the Steadman-Philippon Research Institute and Distinguished Professor and Vice Chair for Research in the Department of Orthopedic Surgery at UT Health in Houston back in the summer of 2015 when he was having a conversation with his colleagues Dr. Marc Philippon, Co-Chair of SPRI and the Managing Partner of The Steadman Clinic, and Dan Drawbaugh, CEO of both SPRI and TSC. Also in the group that day was Mike Shannon, Chairman of KSL Capital Partners and one of biggest benefactors of SPRI and TSC.
In addition to welcoming Dr. Huard to the Steadman community, the three other gentlemen had another idea they wanted to float past the new doctor at SPRI. “They wanted me to start a scientific meeting here in Vail,” recalled Huard. “They really felt that we needed to start the momentum rolling on the studies of regenerative medicine, which was the primary focus for me joining SPRI. “I told them that I liked the idea and that I would put it on my agenda for the next year. But that wasn’t good enough for Mike Shannon,” said Huard with a smile. “He wanted one in three weeks!”
Attacking what to some might seem impossible is something from which Huard never shies away.
“We had a meeting of everyone at SPRI, made phone calls to the top 25 or so scientists in the field who I have worked closely with over the years, and in just a few weeks’ time we had our first annual Vail Scientific Summit,” said Huard. “We had maybe 25 speakers that first year and then increased that number to about 45 in 2016. This year, we have passed the 60 mark and our hope is to continue to grow and expand with each coming Summit.”
“I want this meeting to become one where if you don’t get invited, you know that you haven’t done so well in your research in the last year,” continued Huard. “We want to invite people who are doing cutting-edge research and who can contribute the newest and brightest ideas each year.”
Part of the reason for the growth in this year’s third Summit – which was held August 23-26 at the Vail Marriott Mountain Resort – was the inclusion of numerous orthopaedic surgeons and scientists from around the country and the world into the program, including several of the top physicians from The Steadman Clinic.
“On our second night, this year we had the orthopaedic surgeons speak,” continued Huard. “It is very important for both the scientists and the surgeons to get a clearer picture of where medicine stands in their fields and how they can learn more from each other. Our surgeons here at The Steadman Clinic utilize the research we have done at SPRI and fully embrace the idea of collaboration with all of us in the field of regenerative medicine.”
The Steadman Clinic’s Dr. Philippon, Dr. Robert LaPrade, Dr. Matthew Provencher, Dr. Peter Millett, Dr. Donald Corenman, Dr. David Karli, Dr. Raymond Kim and Dr. Joel Matta were not the only surgeons on the program at this year’s Summit. Dr. Vonda Wright, a highly-acclaimed orthopaedic surgeon and top-rated public speaker and presenter from the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, was also one of the featured surgeons to address the Summit. Wright joined a handful of other surgeons from around the country who presented their ideas and studies to the group.
Regenerative medicine remains the focal point of discussion at the Summit and will continue to do so in the foreseeable future according to Huard.
“I’ve always compared this to the iPhone 9 of medicine. The iPhone 7 is perfectly fine. You’ve got everything on your iPhone 7. The iPhone 8 would be a little better and the iPhone 9 would be even better yet. Each year that we come away from the Vail Scientific Summit, we realize that we have just talked and learned about the next version of regenerative medicine’s iPhone.”
Huard loves bringing all of the great science minds together and considers that to be the biggest highlight of every Summit.
“The Summit has become a centerpiece of collaboration. As an example, nowadays you don’t have to be in your office when you are writing a grant proposal. You can be at a Starbucks or waiting for a flight at the airport and talking or Skyping with your staff and getting your work accomplished,” said Huard. “We are not in a major metropolitan market like New York, Chicago or Los Angeles. We are in the small resort town of Vail, Colorado.”
“I want to make Vail the hub for translational medicine and sports medicine,” he continued. “When a scientist or doctor comes up with a new idea or procedure or surgery that will possibly make a significant impact in the world of sports medicine, I want him or her to want to come to the Vail Scientific Summit to present the new findings. The big universities out there — Stanford, Harvard, UCLA — they have terrific research staffs and are great at finding the new methods and ideas, but they are not so great at translating that to the clinical side and that is something that we have here at SPRI in Vail.”
“Collaboration is so critical in our work and there is no better example of it than what is on display here at the Vail Scientific Summit. A meeting like this makes you realize that there is something you can always improve upon.
“This meeting not only fosters collaboration,” added Huard, “but it also reinforces the idea that you have to push yourself and your staff even harder to continue to find new medical breakthroughs and new surgery methods that will help your patients.” What might we look for at the next Vail Scientific Summit? Huard definitely has some new ideas in mind.
“Some of the challenges we doctors and scientists face are in the development of new drugs and getting approval from the FDA (Food and Drug Administration),” said Huard. “Very often, new drugs do have side effects and sometimes those side effects react in a negative way with other drugs that a patient may be taking. This is something that — in addition to our research and our development of the new drugs — we have to account for and overcome in order to make the new drugs effective.
“The FDA is there to protect the patient,” continued Huard. “We as scientists have to make sure we follow the current FDA guidelines. That is why for future Summits, I want to invite someone from the FDA to help guide us in the most efficient way to make our new medicine and drugs more effective and available to patients as quickly as possible.”