John Bertini, MDThe Urology Department at TIRR Memorial Hermann is undergoing a few changes in 2024, with John Bertini, MD, and James Harris, MD, each taking a step back, but not completely retiring, from clinical work.

Drs. Bertini and Harris have both led extremely successful careers at TIRR Memorial Hermann and have profoundly impacted the world of urologic and urodynamic services.

Dr. Bertini entered private practice after graduating from and completing a urology residency at McGovern Medical School at UTHealth Houston and has since spent 41 years caring for patients. At TIRR Memorial Hermann, he has played a pivotal role in advancing urologic services for people with disabilities, particularly those with spinal cord injuries (SCI).

“Almost all patients with SCI have some dysfunction in the bladder, either in its storage function or its elimination function,” Dr. Bertini explains. “If that doesn’t get addressed, they can have renal injury and renal failure, and all that goes with that. Urination is really as complex of a neurologic function as walking. We just do it to a great extent reflexively, have had it under control from childhood and we often take it for granted.”

As Dr. Bertini reflects on his career working with people with disabilities, he has found working with the comprehensive rehabilitation care team at TIRR Memorial Hermann to be particularly gratifying.

“For patients who have had either SCI, an accident of some sort with a brain injury, a malignancy, or a chronic or acute disease that affects the nervous system, getting high-quality rehabilitative services is critical,” he says. “This service integrates many different specialties, including neurology, gastroenterology, plastic surgery and urology—providers that understand the peculiar and particular needs of a patient with a neurogenic condition. TIRR Memorial Hermann has mustered a long and proven tradition of providing that care at a very high quality. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Harris has served on the clinical teaching faculty of McGovern Medical School, sharing his expertise and compassion with students.

Dr. Harris is also stepping back from clinical work, but not completely. After completing his urologic training at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Denver, Dr. Harris entered private practice, where he specialized in the surgical treatment of cancers of the male urologic system, urinary incontinence and helping patients obtain prosthetics. In his nearly 40 years serving patients, Dr. Harris has focused not only on treating their medical issues but has placed special emphasis on improving quality of life. In addition to his clinical work, Dr. Harris shares his expertise and compassion with students at The University of Texas Medical School at Houston’s Division of Urology.

At this time, Dr. Harris intends to reduce his schedule, but with the large volume of patients seeking care in the urology department, he will continue to regularly see patients at TIRR Memorial Hermann.

While he is stepping back from urology service, Dr. Bertini is moving his focus to a subset of patients he is particularly concerned with: men with sexual and reproductive issues stemming from SCI and other neurologic maladies.

“My particular interest is one that can easily be overlooked or, certainly, is difficult to openly encounter with the patient,” Dr. Bertini says. “They’re often devastated, especially by SCI. What I’ve done with my semi-retirement is pull back from full clinic days and full days in the operating room to working with the folks at TIRR Memorial Hermann to focus on the patients and to pull my time and talents into addressing those particular concerns. Especially the SCI population, which typically often has its fair share of young men who are in the prime of their reproductive and relational life—it can be a great source of depression and anxiety as a very important part of their manhood appears to have been robbed from them.”

With Drs. Harris and Bertini reducing their respective workloads, several new faculty members are joining the TIRR Memorial Hermann urology service as Drs. Bertini and Harris step back. Travis Green, MD; Justin Luse, MD; and Grant Redrow, MD, are accomplished urologists who share the same passion for compassionate patient care and innovative research.

“Dr. Green did a fellowship in men’s health for sexual medicine and urologic sexual medicine, Dr. Redrow did a fellowship in robotics, and Dr. Luce is very interested in gender urology and is going to be spending a lot of his time over here at TIRR Memorial Hermann,” Dr. Bertini notes. “They bring a lot of talents that can be applied to treating the patient population here, and they have a familiarity with TIRR Memorial Hermann, its systems, its people. As I draw back, the capacity for urology at TIRR Memorial Hermann is going to increase very significantly.”

The TIRR Memorial Hermann Urology Department celebrates the careers and dedication of Drs. Bertini and Harris as it looks toward the future of urology service with great excitement.

Continued Focus on Patients with Disabilities: Research Studies on Neurostimulation of the Bladder

Research Studies on Neurostimulation fo the Bladder

Argyrios Stampas

Argyrios Stampas, MD, MS, the spinal cord injury medicine research director at TIRR Memorial Hermann, is investigating a novel approach to urologic care for patients with spinal cord injuries (SCI).

Neuromodulation, in which the tibial nerve is electrically stimulated, has proven successful for patients with overactive bladder, and Dr. Stampas is evaluating this approach for patients with neurogenic bladder.

“I thought that this tibial nerve stimulation would be a great solution; but in its current form, it requires people to come into the office three times a week. That’s not feasible for a population that has difficulty accessing health care as it is,” he says.

To overcome this hurdle, Dr. Stampas adapted the stimulation technology to be used at home, swapping out needles for adhesive electrodes. Pilot studies have shown that the treatment was feasible, safe and seemed to be effective.

Encouraged by the results of the pilot trial, Dr. Stampas and his research team have assessed the device’s safety and feasibility among patients with SCI. Dr. Stampas only aimed to learn whether it would be possible to teach patients how to use the device and have them use it correctly at home, but was surprised to see a clinical impact as well.

“After about a week of using the device, I started reducing the overactive bladder medications,” he recalls. “Sure enough, before and after decreasing the medication, nothing changed in the patient diaries, but they had reduced bladder medications. So, we’re basically substituting a portion of their bladder medications with electric stimulation.”

Dr. Stampas is currently investigating the optimal parameters for the electrode treatment. He is optimistic about the impact this option will have for patients and is excited to see where the research leads the team.

Winter 2024 Edition
US News and World Report Best Hospitals Badge
Nationally Ranked Rehabilitation

For the 34th consecutive year, TIRR Memorial Hermann is recognized as the best rehabilitation hospital in Texas and No. 4 in the nation according to U.S. News and World Report's "Best Rehabilitation Hospitals" in America.

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