Plastic surgery chief brings passion for innovation and collaboration to Riley

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Blindness, facial paralysis and nerve damage are just some of the areas in which Dr. Gregory Borschel specializes.

By Maureen Gilmer, IU Health senior journalist,

After 11 years in Canada, Dr. Gregory Borschel is back home again in Indiana this year, taking on the job of division chief of pediatric plastic surgery at Riley Hospital for Children.

Dr. Borschel, who graduated from Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory School in Indianapolis, had been with The Hospital for Sick Children, otherwise known as SickKids, in Toronto for the past decade-plus.

An opportunity to lead and grow the plastic surgery program at Riley, coupled with the chance to be closer to his two teenage children, was too good to pass up.

Dr. Borschel receiving a shot

With an appreciation for Riley’s collaborative culture, Dr. Borschel said he looks forward to being part of its team approach to care.

“By nature, all these people who work in the specialties at Riley bring something special, so hearing the voices of as many people as possible, including the families and the patients, is critical,” he said.

“I like to be part of a team, and I love bringing people together to form teams. The other thing I really like doing is developing new approaches to treating certain conditions.”

His clinical work focuses on pediatric facial paralysis, nerve injuries, hand surgery and other plastic and reconstructive surgery. In addition, he has pioneered corneal neurotization to treat blindness in patients with neurotrophic keratopathy, a devastating condition in which the nerves in the cornea are, in effect, dead.

Children with the condition likely are either born with it, or it results from tumors, he said. Other causes can include diabetes, trauma, herpes and – in some parts of the world – leprosy, an infectious disease that has been around since ancient times.

“We came up with a way to help blind kids see using nerve transfers – corneal neurotization – a wonderful collaboration with ophthalmology,” he explained.

The original treatment required a large, invasive incision, but he helped develop a minimally invasive approach that has been widely adopted.

“I’ve been fortunate to collaborate with lots of specialties in the operating room, and we’ve come up with some novel solutions to difficult problems through teamwork. That would be the cornerstone of what I bring to Riley, a lot of experience working with people of different backgrounds,” said Dr. Borschel, who has traveled extensively and treated people around the world.

“I’m a plastic surgeon by training, but I collaborate and operate a lot with orthopedic surgeons, neurosurgeons, general surgeons, ophthalmologists.”

He recently met with Dr. Christine Caltoum, division chief of pediatric orthopedic surgery, to talk about trauma cases and how their teams can complement each other.

“We are very excited to have Dr. Borschel here to lead the Pediatric Plastics Division,” she said. “We envision working collaboratively as we grow the pediatric hand and upper extremity offerings at Riley.”

Dr. Borschel also oversees the treatment of burn patients, who frequently require multiple surgeries.

“That team is a special bunch,” he said, after meeting a young patient who suffered burns over 95% of her body. “The burn nurses and Brett (Dr. Brett Hartman) – that is a very special dedicated group that should be cherished.”

He also gives a shout out to the cleft and craniofacial team, which includes audiologists, nurse practitioners, dietitians, social workers, dentists, oral surgeons, ENTs, plastic surgeons and other specialties.

“It’s a huge group, but they are really focused on getting the best outcomes for these kids. That’s a very special program where kids and families come in and it’s like one-stop shopping, where they see everyone and get all their needs addressed.”

His first week on the job, Dr. Borschel worked with Dr. Josh Adkinson to care for a child injured in an auto accident. Together, they performed nerve transfer surgery to alleviate paralysis on one side of the patient’s body.

Dr. Borschel poses outside

“Dr. Borschel is an exceptional plastic surgeon and international leader with a unique experience in managing very complex peripheral nerve problems all over the body,” Dr. Adkinson said. “His clinical work and research are at the cutting edge of what can be done in plastic and reconstructive surgery.”

That kind of advanced surgery is Dr. Borschel’s passion.

“The goal is to bring in or develop the best strategies in the world for these patients with these traumatic injuries,” Dr. Borschel said. “Nerve injuries are a focus of mine. Facial paralysis is another focus.”

Two patients – one from Europe and the other from Western Asia – are scheduled to come to Riley this quarter for facial paralysis surgery, he said.

“I focused a lot on that condition in Toronto, and now I want to offer it to all the patients who need it in the region and beyond.”

Dr. Borschel earned his medical degree from Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. He completed his residency at the University of Michigan Medical Center in Ann Arbor, followed by a fellowship in Toronto, where he went on to join the faculty of SickKids and founded the Borschel Lab, dedicated to researching better treatments for peripheral nerve injuries.

“Indiana University School of Medicine, the Division of Plastic Surgery and Riley Hospital for Children are fortunate to have recruited such a talented individual and leader,” Dr. Adkinson said. “I look forward to working with him to deliver state-of-the-art care for the children of Indiana and beyond.”

Photos submitted and by Mike Dickbernd, IU Health visual journalist,

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Gregory H. Borschel, MD

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