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Meet Our Staff — Washington University Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome at Barnes-Jewish Hospital

Robert W. Thompson, MD
Director of the Washington University Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome at Barnes-Jewish Hospital
Dr. Thompson was raised in Ann Arbor (MI) and graduated from Hope College (BA, 1979) and the University of Michigan School of Medicine (MD, 1983), followed by residency training in general surgery at the Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston (MA) (1983-1990). During residency, he obtained laboratory research training at The Children’s Hospital Boston under the mentorship of Drs. Patricia A. D’Amore and Judah Folkman, where he focused on cell biology, angiogenesis, and vascular disease. After serving an additional year as the assistant to the surgeon-in-chief at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Dr. Thompson completed a specialty fellowship in vascular surgery at the University of California, San Francisco (1991-1992). He then joined the faculty at Washington University School of Medicine and Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, where he has been in academic practice for 17 years. Dr. Thompson is currently professor of surgery (Section of Vascular Surgery), radiology, and cell biology and physiology at Washington University School of Medicine.

Dr. Thompson is an experienced research investigator with more than 12 years of grant support from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), for which he directs a basic science laboratory focused on the pathophysiology and drug therapy of aortic aneurysms, a translational research program on the impact of metabolic syndrome and vascular disease, and clinical outcomes research on patients undergoing treatment for TOS. He has published more than 80 original manuscripts and over 60 chapters and reviews on various topics. Dr. Thompson is a member of the American Society for Clinical Investigation, the American Surgical Association, the Society for Vascular Surgery, and the American Heart Association, and he has been a regular member of several NIH research study sections and scientific journal editorial boards. Dr. Thompson is vice-chair for rResearch in the Department of Surgery and an active participant in the Washington University Institute for Clinical and Translational Science.

Dr. Thompson’s clinical practice is focused on all forms of thoracic outlet syndrome and upper extremity neurovascular compression disorders. The surgical management of patients with TOS is an area for which Dr. Thompson has acquired an unusually rich experience and for which his expertise is widely sought. In building a nationally recognized referral center for patients with TOS at Washington University, Dr. Thompson has worked to develop a highly knowledgable staff and an effective multidisciplinary team, which includes experts in physical therapy and rehabilitation, anesthesia and pain management, diagnostic and interventional radiology, neurology and neurosurgery, orthopedic surgery, hand surgery, sports medicine, occupational and environmental health, and a number of other specialties. Dr. Thompson and his team currently evaluate more than 300 patients with all forms of TOS and perform approximately 150 surgical procedures for these conditions each year, representing an unusually large clinical experience for this group of rare disorders.

Dr. Thompson's CV 

Verdella Brink
Administrative Assistant for Dr. Thompson and the Washington University Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome at Barnes-Jewish Hospital.

Della originally grew up on a dairy farm in southern Illinois. She subsequently moved to the metropolitan St. Louis area in 1970, initially to attend Southern Illinois University in Edwardsville and to work in the food services industry. In 1987, she took a position working with a general and vascular surgeon at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis, and has continued in various roles with the Section of Vascular Surgery at Washington University since that time. Della joined Dr. Thompson in 1995, first as a clinical secretary and then assuming responsibilities as his academic administrative assistant. She has worked with diligence and to extraordinary effect to help build and improve our care for patients with TOS, always putting the complicated needs of our patients in the forefront, and has served a key role in the development of the Center for TOS. This past year, she celebrated her 20-year anniversary at Washington University and hopes to exceed this milestone with many more years to come. When she is outside the office — admittedly a rare occurrence — Della enjoys playing volleyball or badminton, fishing, sewing, knitting, crocheting, playing with her dog and three cats, and traveling, and she especially loves to cook.

Robert Fuller, RMA
Registered Medical Assistant for the Washington University Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome at Barnes-Jewish Hospital
Robert hails from Grand Forks (ND). He completed training as a medical assistant and initially took a position as a general medical assistant in the Section of Vascular Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine. After displaying uncommon levels of enthusiasm, empathy for patients, and dedication to his work, in 2008 Robert was recruited to take a more focused medical assistant position with Dr. Thompson to concentrate on the care of patients with TOS. He greets this role as a daily challenge that he has found to be extremely gratifying, and is constantly seeking new opportunities to help each patient with their individual medical concerns. Outside of work, Robert spends his time with his family. He enjoys arts, music, and time with his children.

Valerie Emery, RN, ANP
Nurse Practitioner for the Washington University Center for Thoracic Outlet Syndrome at Barnes-Jewish Hospital
Valerie was raised in rural Pike County (MO) and attended Central Missouri State University for her undergraduate degree. She has more than 25 years of experience in nursing. In 2004, she completed a Master of Science in Nursing degree along with certification as an adult nurse practitioner. Valerie has worked many years caring for patients with cardiovascular disease, gaining special expertise in the Washington University School of Medicine Division of Cardiology managing patients with congestive heart failure. She has particular interests in the facilitated self-management of patients with chronic disease. Valerie was recruited as the newest member of the TOS Center in May 2009, and has taken on this role with a great deal of energy and enthusiasm. She is married and has three children. In her spare time, she enjoys reading and spending time with her family.

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