1996 Wylie Scholar
Vice-Chairman of Research, Department of Surgery
Director of Vascular Surgery Research Laboratories
Professor of Surgery, Washington University
Dr. Robert Thompson’s research is focused on the cellular and molecular mechanisms responsible for the growth of abdominal aortic aneurysms. Through the support of the Wylie Scholar award, he has identified a group of enzymes that break down the connective tissue in the wall of the blood vessel. These findings advanced the research to develop new treatments to suppress aneurysm growth. As a result of this research, Dr. Thompson holds a patent for a drug treatment for aneurysms. In addition to his research, Dr. Thompson is an expert on thoracic outlook syndrome, a group of conditions caused by compression of the blood vessels that can cause pain or weakness in the arm, numbness in the hands and fingers, and sudden swelling and discoloration of the arm. Thoracic outlet syndrome is most common in active, otherwise healthy individuals aged 35-55 and can be a cause of substantial disability.
Dr. Thompson directs the multidisciplinary Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome at Washington University in St. Louis, one of the only such centers in the country, and is the consulting vascular surgeon for most major league baseball teams.
“I think it is safe to say that the Wylie award was the most pivotal award I received early in my academic surgery career. This provided internal and external recognition of the research program I had proposed, gave me confidence that I was on the right track in gaining interest from funding sources, and supported the first steps of a laboratory research project that soon grew into a major NIH grant. That project spurred 15 years of continuous NIH funding with over $5 million of grant support, and has allowed development of a drug treatment for abdominal aortic aneurysms to move from lab idea to success in animal models and now to an NIH-supported multicenter clinical trial. It’s hard to be sure that any of that would have occurred if not for that crucial first funding stimulus and recognition that was provided by the Wylie award, for which I will always be grateful.”