This week marks the eighth week away from my plastic surgery practice. We have now opened our clinic back up and are seeing patients and are ready for you! It is incredible to note that I have taken my longest hiatus from surgery in over 30 years. In fact, this break from clinical activities has been 4 times longer than any time I have taken off in my entire career. While my administrative duties have occupied my time, I come “out” on what we all hope is the “other side” even more humble and reflective about both my professional and personal life.
I have been at UT Southwestern for nearly 25 years as a faculty member. I truly love academic medicine. It continues to fulfill everything I was looking for following my training and even more. We are far from the “front lines” in plastic surgery. My role as Chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery has kept me involved in the campus and surgical administration, so I have watched intently for two months. I have been so impressed with the team we have here from top to bottom. Dr. Podolsky (our President), Dr. Warner (our Executive Vice President), Dr. Lee (our Dean), and Dr. Glazer (our CMO and COVID leader) have been cautious but thoughtful every step of the way. UT Southwestern has remained committed to our patients and the Dallas community. We led the way in stepping away from elective medical care, developed and help validate testing, and provided front line care for those effected by COVID both at Clements University Hospital and at Parkland Memorial Hospital. During that time, our institution has started several clinical trials and a registry to help us better understand the disease, how to prevent it and treat it. I am so proud to be a small part of this incredible institution that uses innovation and investigation to improve the care we provide our patients. What equally impressed me was the commitment of our establishment to each of its employees, continuing their employment not furloughing or letting go of any employees. I am so thankful to be at UT Southwestern.
I have been humbled to part of the Department of Plastic Surgery. In a very brief period of time, we shut down nearly all of our clinical operations and asked people to “work from home”.
Most of our staff and even some of our physicians had never done this and certainly had never been trained how, but that did not stop any of them! We have all learned how to care for our patients virtually, rearrange schedules and plan for the future from home. Zoom, Skype and GotoMeeting were rarely used. We have adapted and are quite functional for a large enterprise of nearly 150 people. Our technologically challenged embraced the opportunity to learn new and often better ways to conduct ourselves and manage our practice. I firmly believe we will come out of the pandemic better prepared to care for our patients. I am thankful to be surrounded by so many incredibly dedicated people who make our department what it is today.
As the “world” was turned upside down, I am constantly reminded what has happened to our patient’s lives. Outside of the pandemic, many of our patients are recovering from treatments that have left them with deformities or functional impairments that we know our team can fix and improve. Instead, we had to tell them everything was on hold and there was uncertainty as to when we will be back, caring for our patients. Across the board, our patients were completely understanding and committed to the greater good first and foremost. I have appreciated that more and more as the pandemic continued. Perhaps I am guilty of taking for granted how terrific medicine is today. We identify problems in some and know immediately what we can do to improve upon them. We also practice prevention and avoidance of problems with our patients. We lost those opportunities, but more importantly, the patients lost the ability to benefit from our knowledge and expertise. We have learned how to use virtual consultations to help them through and in some cases even avoid coming to see us. Our team has adapted to serve our patients. Our patients delayed their needs so that our community could focus on one of the greatest medical challenges we have seen in our lifetime. I am thankful to have selfless and such generous patients.
Personally, I have found the past 8 weeks a time of incredible growth and insight. The time away from clinical duties has made me appreciate how lucky I am to have the privilege to care for patients and help change their lives in some small way. I cherish the opportunity to not only care for our patients, but to interact with them. I enjoy the relationships I carry with my patients. I love surgery but I also love seeing my patients and simply talking with them about plastic surgery and things that are important to them outside of the plastic surgery world. I think we as physicians attract patients with similar values and personalities, making these relationships so enjoyable. Our patients have allowed me to achieve the professional goals I set for myself at an early age in my career, teaching me what is important to them, not me!
On my operative days, I may care for one to three patients. When in clinic, I may see anywhere from twenty-five to forty patients in a day. I miss those interactions and relationships. I am thankful to have had those days and look forward to resuming those this coming week, granted in a controlled fashion.
Last, but certainly not least, I have enjoyed having our family unit at home together. My wife, Suzanne and I have been empty nesters for some time. We have relished the next phase of our lives and some of the pleasures associated with that term. That being said, we have really appreciated eating dinner together, playing games, and hanging out with our two adult children. We love to tell our kids “we’re fun!”. While they often roll their eyes when we say that, I think they have learned how important one’s family really is and how lucky we are to have each other. We do not live together anymore, but we have each other and enjoy life’s highs and lows together as a family. We really treasure hanging out regardless of whether it is at dinner, playing games or simply dialoguing and debating the day’s activities or news. My family has made so many sacrifices for me and my career, and for that I am so thankful. The time together this past 8 weeks has given me insight into what life will be like at home someday. I am excited to give back to Matt, Ashley and most importantly Suzanne for all they have done and given for me.
This week we are beginning to see patients again in plastic surgery. I really can’t wait to see both old and new patients and work side by side with the incredible individuals on our team. My time “away” has given me a new perspective on life: both professional and personal. I hope this time finds you reflecting on the lessons learned over the past two months and as thankful as I am for health and wisdom.
I would love to hear from you on how you have been doing during these quarantined days. My team and I am here for you when you are ready! We miss you! Please contact us for an appointment here. As as BONUS for being such awesome patients, we are offering a welcome back discount on all injections and lasers until June 30th. Call the clinic to reserve your appointment at (214) 645-3112 or contact us here!