The Second-Generation Craniofacial Surgeon: Progress Through Personal Responsibility and Personal Relationships

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Excerpt

It is unusual to take a moment in the middle of a busy life and practice to reflect on the impact that personal relationships have in medicine. This reflection is one that is personal and is inspired by a mentor to myself and many others readers of this journal: Dr. Joseph G. McCarthy. In the broad sense, all important decisions in life become personal. I view Dr. Joseph G McCarthy's greatest strength among his many other strengths to be the ability to develop and maintain lasting personal relationships. This ability has maintained the New York University (NYU) plastic heritage in the context of a rich tradition of excellence beginning with Dr. John Converse through Dr. Joseph G. McCarthy and one that still continues under the new leadership of Dr. Eduardo Rodrigues. To understand this programmatic strength, one must understand the context of Dr. McCarthy professionally and personally as a linchpin bridging the continuum of NYU plastic surgery leadership. It is obvious that NYU has been one of the dominant training programs in plastic surgery and that in particular the craniofacial component has been and still is one of the premier proving grounds for innovation. I look at Dr. McCarthy's steady programmatic leadership like the linchpin of an axle serving as the fastener to prevent the fast moving wheels from coming off of a constantly evolving program driving forward (Fig. 1).
As all the readership of this journal know Dr. McCarthy serves as a representative of the second generation of craniofacial surgeons. This generation took the ideas of the first-generation craniofacial mentors and pushed forward into the developing craniofacial skeleton. In addition, this second generation built multidisciplinary care teams taking comprehensive approaches to craniofacial care instead of relying upon the individual surgeon boundary breaking innovation. While spending time with Dr. McCarthy in the operating room he often would reminisce upon his upbringing during which his mother taught him French and his great appreciation of Parisian culture as part of the education strategy of medical students and residents. In this Francophile-centered discussion, he would gently prompt the resident to “attack on a broad front, like Napoleon” or recount that he always did his easy homework first and that the resident should do the easy part of the operation first. In this way, Dr. McCarthy would be operating but yet weaving the oral history of his own life with the intertwined history of training residents in both a paternal and productive way. In these personal interactions, the values of professionalism were taught, practiced, and emulated and this became the mark of an NYU resident or fellow from the McCarthy era. He was known by the staff as “JGM” or “the boss” in an endearing but yet respectful way. I was honored to serve as his fellow from 2009 to 2010. In this way, I joined a cadre of fellows who had gone out into the plastic surgery and in some way carried JGM forward and will continue to carry JGM forward to the next generation both patients and colleagues in medicine. We often as surgeons wrongly believe that it is important to teach technical skills and JGM did far for than lead in the education of technical skills but rather did “technical plus,” the plus being the exceedingly important professional life skills. It was said by the humanitarian Joseph Karsh that it is rarely that one is able to pay the debt of son to father, soldier to soldier, pupil to master, but pay we must and we do it by paying forward with mentorship for the next generation. For Dr.
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