Xiang Qian, MD, PhD, came to Stanford ten years ago to complete a residency in anesthesia and a fellowship in pain medicine. What he found at Stanford—the collaboration between basic science, engineering and clinical medicine—convinced him to stay. Today, Qian divides his time between caring for patients in the Pain Medicine Clinic in Redwood City and Stanford Hospital, and conducting collaborative research to develop novel therapies for his most vulnerable patients, especially those with facial pain. Every other moment of his packed schedule is devoted to International Medical Services (IMS), where he serves as Medical Director, helping to care for approximately 30 patients every day with his IMS colleagues.
“My mindset has always been about innovation, about finding novel, breakthrough therapies for my patients,” said Qian, Clinical Associate Professor, Anesthesiology, Perioperative and Pain Medicine. “My clinical mind is always feeding my scientific mind.”
Shortly after finishing his fellowship, Qian began a collaboration with Huy M. Do, MD, Professor of Interventional Neuro Radiology, to develop a CT-guided interventional pain program for facial pain patients. CT guidance helps improve the accuracy and minimize the complications of standard treatments, said Qian. For example, the precision of placing a needle at the base of the brain is vastly improved using CT image guidance, he said. “In the past, we were doing this with fluoroscopic, x-ray guidance with limited resolution,” he said, which often required adjusting the needle multiple times with the patient being awake. “The treatment was very painful,” said Qian. Now, with improved CT-guidance, targeting the needle is precise, and patients are under anesthesia and experience much-reduced or no pain.
“So far, we have a technique success rate close to 100 percent putting the needle on the target,” said Qian, who received the 2017 Translational and Clinical Innovation Award for his effort to develop novel therapies for pain patients. “Without collaboration from other departments, these new therapies would not be possible.”
In another collaborative project, Qian began working with the engineering school in 2014 to develop a smaller, implantable nerve stimulator, powered by wireless energy. Similar to a pacemaker for the heart, nerve stimulators are modulators for the nerves. While conventional nerve stimulators are about the size of a fist, Qian’s new prototype is the size of a grain of rice.
“We’re trying to make it smaller, which would not be possible without collaboration among Stanford’s biomedical engineering, engineering and materials departments,” he said. “We are working together to figure out a novel device that can help out more of our pain patients.”
Medicine without borders