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Two leading surgeons leave USF and TGH for Florida Hospital Tampa

Published Aug. 23, 2012

TAMPA

Two of the area's most respected surgeons have left the University of South Florida and Tampa General Hospital, taking 18 staffers with them to establish a new program at Florida Hospital Tampa.

Dr. Alexander Rosemurgy, a fixture at Tampa General for 27 years, has gained a national reputation particularly for treating pancreatic cancer patients. Dr. Sharona Ross is an 11 year TGH veteran and USF faculty member who collaborated with Rosemurgy on dozens of pioneering research projects.

The name of their new medical practice describes their specialties: Southeastern Center for Digestive Disorders and Pancreatic Cancer, Advanced Minimally Invasive and Robotic Surgery. The pair typically have attracted some of the most complicated surgical cases from across the state and beyond.

They declined to specifically criticize TGH or USF, saying only that they made the move to advance their research and improve patient care.

"It was time for both of us to move on," said Rosemurgy, "We weren't going to be able to grow where we were and we wanted to make a difference, not just show up for work every day."

Rosemurgy left the USF faculty a year and a half ago but kept his practice at Tampa General until recently. He was just 30 when he started Tampa General's first trauma surgery program. He served as chief of surgery for two decades, built a surgical digestive disorders program, and became well known for his success with the complicated Whipple procedure for pancreatic cancer. Ross came to the area as a surgical fellow and trained with Rosemurgy. She started a program to encourage women to become surgeons, and plans to continue that work.

The two conducted dozens of research trials, co-authored and presented up to 20 journal articles a year and pioneered new procedures that meant less pain and shorter recovery times for patients. Collaborating became increasingly difficult with Ross working for USF and TGH and Rosemurgy working for TGH. "With two different employers, the expectations, schedules and demands (of each institution) were too different," said Rosemurgy, "It was just too difficult."

Ross said she was considering an opportunity at Harvard when she met Brigitte Shaw, CEO of Florida Hospital Pepin Heart Institute in Tampa. The two hit it off and a deal was forged in months.

Ross left USF and Tampa General in June, though as the "official surgeon of the Republican National Convention'' she is maintaining credentials at TGH for now. Rosemurgy left TGH a month later. They brought with them 18 nurses, administrators, operating room technicians, researchers, doctors seeking advanced fellowship training and physician assistants.

They opened their new practice in North Tampa about two weeks ago and saw 40 patients on their first clinic day; surgeries started last week.

"They were going to leave and we were able to keep them in Tampa Bay," said Shaw. "Having them at Florida Hospital will help round out our programs and services in areas where we didn't excel before."

Florida Hospital Tampa, formerly University Community Hospital, is now part of the Adventist Health System, which has extended its reach throughout the Tampa Bay area. In March, Florida Hospital Tampa announced a cardiac research partnership with USF Health. This month the hospital became certified as a comprehensive stroke center, one of 18 in the state. And in October the new 80 bed Florida Hospital Wesley Chapel will open its doors.

Tampa General and USF acknowledged the contributions of Ross and Rosemurgy, but insisted their move won't harm the institutions.

"People come and go from hospitals and programs all the time," said TGH spokesman John Dunn, "But we have many surgeons here and patient care and the services we offer have not been affected by their departure."

Rosemurgy, 59, who is a grandfather, and Ross, 43, married and the mother of four children ages 7 to 17, said they were relieved not to have to uproot their families.

"Even my kids, who didn't want to move, said, 'How can you say no to Harvard?' " said Ross. "But Alex and I are on the same wavelength. We like to be innovative, work with industry, teach residents and fellows, publish research and put patients first."

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