Faculty Spotlight: John Capacchione, MD

Dr. John Capacchione began his career as a research pharmacologist at Anaquest, a pharmaceutical company that specialized in anesthetics. It was there that his curiosity in medicine was sparked.

“I’m naturally inquisitive, and although my work at Anaquest was rewarding, I could not extrapolate what I observed in an animal into the human setting,” said Dr. Capacchione, “so I applied to medical school, was accepted to the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences (USUHS), joined the Navy and ultimately completed my Anesthesiology training.”

After completing his anesthesiology education and a two-year assignment as a General Medical Officer/Medical Department Head aboard the USS INCHON, Dr. Capacchione began developing his research expertise in swine protocols and malignant hyperthermia. As the study of genetics became more robust, Dr. Capacchione found his next puzzle to solve — the application of genomics to anesthesiology, or what he calls precision anesthesia.

“There’s great variability in how people respond to the drugs we give them, but we don’t know how they’re going to respond until they respond,” said Dr. Capacchione, “If we could look at a person’s genetics and determine if they’re at risk, for example, for opioid addiction, we could come up with an alternative to pain treatment.”

Dr. Capacchione is an integral part of an effort in the University of Minnesota Department of Anesthesiology to build a more active, robust research program — one of the focus areas being precision anesthesia.

“I have a skill-set I’ve developed as a Navy captain that can be useful in academics,” says Dr. Capacchione, “I am not an expert in genetics or statistics, but what I think I’m good at is developing teams. The University of Minnesota has vast expertise in areas such as genetics and pharmacology, so I pull together interdisciplinary teams that have great potential to produce innovative research that advances the field of medicine.”

In addition to his work at the University of Minnesota, he is involved in the anesthesia community as Chair of the American Society of Anesthesiologists' Committee on Uniformed Services and Veterans’ Affairs and Chair of the National Capital Consortium’s Scholarship Oversight Committee. In these roles, he has lead initiatives to encourage young people to get involved in research.

“You can’t teach curiosity, so my goal is to identify those people who are curious and might be interested in a career in academics and to find them early, stimulate them, and get them to join our team,” says Dr. Capacchione, “I tell residents that I’m assuming they have Nobel laureate qualities in them. I don’t know if they do or don’t, but for me to assume they don’t doesn’t serve either of us.”

In 2013, Dr. Capacchione was inducted into the Foundation for Anesthesia Education and Research (FAER) Academy of Research Mentors in Anesthesiology and has been a research mentor to 51 students, residents, graduate students and junior faculty, including the first military anesthesiology resident ever to apply for and receive a FAER research grant.

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