Leading specialist returns to Riley Children's Health to revamp pediatric surgery, research, innovation and more

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Mark Cain, MD returns to Riley Children's Health as surgeon-in-chief.

Mark Cain, MD, FAAP knows what it takes to create successful, world-class clinical programs. An internationally recognized pediatric urologist, Dr. Cain helped orchestrate the rise of the urology program at Riley Children’s Health to among the best in the nation. After four years at Seattle Children’s as Director of Regional Surgical Services and Associate Surgeon-in-Chief, he has returned to Riley Children’s to serve as Surgeon-in-Chief and a member of the Riley Children’s Executive Team in a revamped role focused on extending the pediatric health system’s surgical reach in Indiana and the Midwest.

“In addition to missing the collaborative practice culture and the urology group here at Riley, this new opportunity to strategically expand Riley’s surgical footprint was something I just couldn’t turn down,” Dr. Cain said. “Offering access to Riley’s elite surgical capabilities closer to home has the potential to impact thousands of children and families in Indiana and regionally.”

Hub-and-spoke to expand access to surgical care

As division chief of pediatric urology at Riley Children’s, Dr. Cain played a major role in the opening of more than 15 satellite clinics in communities across Indiana. He performed urologic surgeries in about eight community hospitals as part of the outreach effort. In his new role, Dr. Cain envisions building a similar hub-and-spoke system for the pediatric surgical specialties at Riley Children’s.

“Bringing our leading-edge surgical expertise to our communities that aren’t large enough to support pediatric tertiary or quaternary care and collaborating with local clinicians creates an alliance that’s mutually beneficial—and most importantly, good for patients,” Dr. Cain said. “I think the desire to accelerate this type of regional collaboration at Riley Children’s is really growing, and I’m eager to participate with our executive team in making it happen over the next two to three years.”

Promoting surgical research

As Surgeon-in-Chief, Dr. Cain hopes to build on the research strength of Riley Children’s to establish a more structured and collaborative surgical research initiative.

“The IU School of Medicine Department of Pediatrics has been enormously successful in attracting funding from the NIH and major funding agencies,” Dr. Cain said. “While surgeons’ clinical volumes have always been quite high and have led to impressive advancements in clinical care, the divisions are relatively small to support major research initiatives. We’re looking at ways we can lead and engage in more collaborative surgical research funding with shared resources at Riley Children’s.”

One current example, Dr. Cain said, is the Riley Children’s Health Pediatric Surgery Basic Science Research Laboratory led by pediatric surgeon Troy Markel, MD. With continuous funding from the NIH and other funders, the lab studies necrotizing enterocolitis and is set to launch a clinical trial for infants with the disease. Additionally, in urology, Konrad Szymanski, MD, the recipient of an NIH grant, has developed and is piloting multiple goals of care platforms for children with spina bifida.

Continuing to practice central to new role

While Surgeon-in-Chief is his full-time job, Dr. Cain sees value in continuing to practice on a part-time basis at Riley Children’s.

“While I have a keen understanding of the things that are essential to the growth and success of a surgical enterprise, I think it’s important for me to actually practice—to be in the trenches with my colleagues—to not only support the surgeons and surgical teams but to see firsthand how changes and improvements are implemented and how they impact the care we deliver,” Dr. Cain said. “Plus, in leaving Riley, I realized just how unique the relationships with patients are here—families really appreciate the physicians who take care of their children, and it’s great to be a partner in their care.”

Riley Children’s is a leader in pediatric surgery

  • Nationally recognized programs in urology, cardiothoracic surgery, neurosurgery, GI surgery and orthopedics
  • Annual surgical volume of nearly 21,000 cases
  • Verified by the American College of Surgeons as a Level I Children’s Surgery Center
  • In 2023, expanded its premier surgical offerings to include fetal surgery

Leader in research and innovation

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Mark P. Cain, MD, FAAP

Pediatric Urology