—Samuel Langhorne Clemens1
The higher education so much needed today is not given in the school, is not to be bought in the market place…
Once in a blue moon, when I have been privileged to present what I at least think is a germane topic to the plastic surgery residents at 1 of the local hospitals, I ponder if it is to be for their schooling even if education is the preference. I accept the fact that usually I am a filler needed in desperation to replace a void in the “teaching” schedule, but nevertheless accept the challenge realizing full well my platform will begin before the cock crows. My bad habit of telling stories invariably meanders away from the assigned topic while still attempting to engage the audience as active participants. My excuse is that an understanding of the history and the peculiar personalities that we as plastic surgeons are will be remembered long after any discussion of a technique will soon be passe anyway. Because the nurses already consider me to be history, I am confident that in this subject I am an expert.
But this day was different. While expounding on the evolution of reconstructive surgery, the requisite portrait of Sir Harold Delf Gillies was confronted. Expecting recognition as the “Mastermind of Modern Plastic Surgery,3” the PGY1 resident (sic. intern) admitted to my chagrin of having no knowledge of the gentleman, and the PGY6 resident (sic. “chief resident”) added but little commentary despite both being almost through that designated integrated year. I sarcastically assumed that they were experiencing “nomophobia” (no-mobile-phone-phobia4) because not even a customary Internet search was possible if they were to respect my ban on cell phones during our session.
My initial negative assumption was that work hour restrictions somehow had limited their acquisition of basic information about our specialty beyond that required for immediate patient care.5 How can we be ignorant of the past if we are to change what we do in the future? Are not plastic surgeons by definition the problem solvers for all specialties,6 so any innovation must be built on our collective past experiences if we are to stay ahead of the exponential growth of technology shared by our colleagues? But on further introspection, I have declared myself to be the one who is wrong. My own Internet search revealed that fellows today are experiencing an incredible evolution in their education that I never had the opportunity to receive nor could for that matter even conceive. Preinduction “boot camps” start even before the beginning that stress practical core concepts and critical basics for patient care.7 Khansa and Janis8 have tabulated a cornucopia of available technical resources designed they say to “appeal strongly to the Millennial generation.” These are primarily focused on knowledge application rather than the pure knowledge acquisition that I had wrongly expected to be regurgitated. Online anatomy pictorials, surgery simulators, and even the ability to perform a video analysis of oneself while operating8 seem at least to me as part of my uninitiated generation to be staggeringly overwhelming advances. Maybe indeed all this is indeed education rather than just schooling.
Instead of being blindly critical as I initially was, the role of mentor like myself should today be more permissive. In the present tense environment, mentor and mentee relationships must be bidirectional.9 The teacher perhaps occasionally (or even often) should be the learner.