Treats Patients Like His Own

Kat Hendrix
December 14, 2020
Lucas McDuffie, M.D.

When starting a new case, Lucas McDuffie, M.D., pediatric surgeon at the Medical University of South Carolina’s (MUSC’s) Children’s Health, takes a moment to reflect. “Every time I do an operation, I think about how I’d do it on my own child. It really puts it in perspective,” says McDuffie who feels this habit reflects a common philosophy among his MUSC colleagues. “I came here because of the attitude of the people. It’s a pleasure to collaborate with my partners and the overall hospital staff. There's a genuine sense that, as a team, we’re going to get the best possible outcomes for every kid we see–from the surgeons to the nurses on floor, the physical therapists, and the administrative people in my office.”

McDuffie comes to MUSC as an Assistant Professor in the division of Pediatric Surgery, after completing his fellowship in pediatric surgery at Riley Hospital for Children at Indiana University in Indianapolis, where he trained in both minimally invasive and open surgical procedures. He completed his general surgery internship and residency training at Indiana University and spent two additional years training in oncologic surgery and research at the National Cancer Institute at the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Maryland.

Like many, McDuffie was drawn to medicine by a love of science and a desire to help people, but his experience with one particular patient focused him on pediatric surgery. “During my third year of medical school, we saw a patient with terrible ulcerative colitis. He was only five years old and had constant pain and severe, uncontrollable bleeding. No medication helped him. So, the pediatric surgeon removed his diseased colon and, immediately, he felt better and could get back to normal life. It was incredibly inspirational that, with one or two operations, you can take a kid from constant pain and losing weight–where the entire family is suffering–and make that kid and his family whole again,” says McDuffie.

The manual dexterity of surgery also appealed to him. “I like working with my hands. I’ve worked a number of construction jobs and tried to be a professional musician for a while, playing electric guitar in a rock band that toured the DC area,” says McDuffie. Although he has a special interest in pediatric surgical oncology, McDuffie practices the full spectrum of highly specialized pediatric surgical procedures including trauma, emergency general, burn, thoracic, and gastrointestinal surgeries in patients from birth through 18 years of age. He recently enrolled MUSC’s first patient in a multi-center research project investigating the effectiveness of a therapy called ReCell® in pediatric burn patients. “We know it's great for big burns, now we're looking at smaller injuries,” explains McDuffie. “We just enrolled a child who had 15% of his body surface area burned in a fire. We used the ReCell® spray which is made of the patient's own skin, and he did remarkably well. It's really exciting, and we're looking forward to helping other kids with this therapy.”

McDuffie is also working to reduce adolescent obesity. “My partner, Dr. Lesher, and I do minimally invasive bariatric surgery in morbidly obese teens. It's been used in adults for over 20 years, but it’s relatively new in teenagers,” he says. “MUSC is the only place in the state that offers minimally invasive weight loss surgery to pediatric patients right now. It's a life changing option for teens whose disease has become impossible to reverse on their own. If obesity becomes severe enough, it is almost impossible to recover with diet, exercise, and medication alone. The only really effective way is with an initial boost from surgery.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics recently recognized the safety and efficacy of laproscopic weight loss surgery in adolescents, noting that it is the most effective way to treat morbid obesity and its comorbidities (eg, hypertension and diabetes) in adolescents. “Teen obesity is a serious problem in South Carolina,” says McDuffie. “It's important to have this option. Pediatricians are beginning to recognize that the most effective solution to obesity–surgery–is also a safe option, where patients are only in the hospital 1 to 2 days.”

Currently, McDuffie divides his time between the Shawn Jenkins Children's Hospital in downtown Charleston and MUSC's R. Keith Summey Medical Pavilion in North Charleston. If you would like to make an appointment with Dr. McDuffie or refer a patient, please call 843-876-0444.


Armstrong SC, Bolling CF, Michalsky MP, et al. Pediatric Metabolic and Bariatric Surgery: Evidence, Barriers, and Best Practices. December, 2019. 144(6):e20193223; DOI: Available at: