“Pay it Forward” Eastern Association for the Surgery of Trauma 2017 Presidential Address

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The Eastern Association of Trauma (EAST) is truly an organization like no other. It has been my professional home since I attended my first meeting over a decade ago, and I hope for all of you, particularly if this is your first EAST meeting, that you have that same sensation that I had back then. It has been such an honor and a privilege to serve as your President this year. Before I begin my talk, there are so many individuals who have helped me along this journey. Without their love and support, I certainly would not be standing here today. My parents took a leap of faith when they moved their young family an ocean away from their home. Their insistence that we always do our best meant that in their eyes, we could achieve anything as long as we worked hard enough. This is certainly an idea that continues to resonate with my older sister Veronique and me. Our family owes a tremendous debt of gratitude to Dr. David King and his partners at the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH). About 2 years ago, shortly after the EAST annual assembly, I got a phone call from my mother that my father was acting a little bit confused. They went to MGH to make sure everything was okay before leaving for their home in the Catskills. Knowing my parents and their tendency to minimize situations, I obtained David King’s cell phone number from Heena Santry to see if he could check in on them. Dave called me only a short time later to let me know that my father had a subdural hematoma. He ended up in the neurointensive care unit at MGH and required a decompressive craniotomy, after being in status epilepticus from the subdural that was putting pressure on his temporal lobe. I have never been so happy to be part of this trauma family because I knew that I could worry just a little less, because my trauma family had my family’s back.
My surgical journey began at the University of Chicago, where Dr. John Alverdy showed me the heart of what it means to be a surgeon. I use many of his Alverdy-isms today. If I can impart even half of what he and the other faculty, particularly Dr. Roger Hurst and Dr. Edwin Kaplan, imparted on me, then I have done a good job. Although the University of Chicago may have been where I found my heart, my surgical soul was definitely born at Cook County Hospital. Doctors Kim Nagy, Roxanne Roberts, Kim Joseph, and John Barrett showed us how to do trauma right. All of us who have passed through there have shared in their magic. They are surgical magicians, societally conscious, and unfailingly supportive. Although it is now no longer in the original building, the essence of Cook County remains the same. So many of us in the audience today have come through those hallowed halls and found our surgical soul. At the University of Louisville, Doctors Hiram Polk, J. David Richardson, Frank Miller, and David Spain taught me how to be an academic surgeon. As David Spain would say, “It is not just about learning how to do surgery and critical care. Our purpose is to train you to how to succeed in your career.” With my co-fellows James Lukan, Jason Hoth, and Melanie Scott, we made writing a group journey, and the product was always better when we stayed in a groove and not a rut, as Frank Miller would say.
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