The Urology team at Children’s National Hospital is led by Hans Pohl, M.D., and includes seven other fellowship-trained pediatric urologists and three nurse practitioners. Dr. Pohl has experience in treating patients with spina bifida and bladder exstrophy, in addition to the other more common diagnoses and in using laparoscopy to perform surgery through minimally invasive techniques.
Here, Dr. Pohl tells us more about the department he is leading and what it means for the future of pediatric urology patients at Children’s National.
What excites you most about current research in the field of urology?
The most cutting-edge research these days pertains to understanding the complex and diverse role played by bacteria in the urinary tract. We previously thought the urinary tract is sterile but that turns out to not be the case. Just like the friendly bacteria living in our bodies, there are bacteria that live within our urinary tracts. It is thought that when the normal function of the urinary tract is disrupted, the balance of healthy to unhealthy bacteria is disrupted. Our faculty at the Children’s National Urology Division are looking at urinary tract infection (UTI) from various aspects. Michael Hsieh, M.D., is investigating the role of bacteria in causing inflammation; Daniel Casella, M.D., has investigated how a drug called varenicline might reduce inflammation in infected kidneys; and Briony Varda, M.D., will be investigating the socioeconomic factors affecting how people living with spina bifida manage their urinary tracts and UTIs. By looking at UTIs at all levels from bacteria factors to host factors to treatment we will understand better how to reduce the impact of a very common problem on human beings.
What are some of the most valuable changes or advancements for the program you hope to see in the next couple of years?
I believe that our next step in program evolution will focus on improving the quality of life of children with urination abnormalities and UTIs. Everyone has experienced that their child has urinary symptoms at some point during childhood, some also have UTIs. Pediatric urologists have learned that normal lower urinary tract function is critically important in reducing a child’s risk for a UTI. Even if a child does not have UTIs, there can be significant social stigma amongst a child’s peers when loss of urine control happens.
What makes the Urology Division at Children’s National unique from other programs in the country?
We have grown considerably over the past several years, adding to our faculty surgeons with complimentary skills outside of the operating room. For instance, we have pediatric urologists who are also basic scientists, translational scientists, systems scientists, a clinical informaticist and minimally invasive surgeons. These varied qualities create a dynamic group of people who bring diverse perspectives to treating patients’ problems and generating creative solutions. We believe that our democratic process of complex care management where all surgeons can openly think about how to optimize patient management is unique. Patients don’t get one opinion from their surgeon, they get ten.