Medical Mentorship: Legacy Leadership Links in the Surgery Chain of Being

Special Article - Plastic Surgery

Austin J Surg. 2015;2(5): 1069.

Medical Mentorship: Legacy Leadership Links in the Surgery Chain of Being

Charles Brown*

Department of Radiology, University of Kansas Medical Center, USA

*Corresponding author: Charles Brown, Department of Radiology, University of Kansas Medical Center, 100 North Academy Danville, PA 17821, USA

Received: April 09, 2015; Accepted: August 05, 2015; Published: August 12, 2015


This short essay proposes that a 21st century surgeon should have the opportunity to be more competent than his or her earlier counterpart, particularly since he or she can learn so much from the accumulated knowledge of medical mentors. By means of Parental Youth-mentoring, Academic-mentoring, and ultimately, Professional-mentoring a legacy of medical leadership is built. As a consequence, the accomplishments of notable past practitioners from ayurvedic Salya-cikitsakas (sixth century B.C. ur-surgeons) to Harry J. Buncke, (1922- 2008), the American plastic surgeon, who has been called “The Father of Microsurgery,” forge the next surgery-forward link in the surgical chain of being.


Using autogenously bone grafts instead of silicone or acrylic, the late Dr. Paul Tessier [1], who pioneered these now-standard craniofacial-corrective Plastic and Reconstructive surgical techniques in the mid-1950s, asserted that to be a good surgeon you sit at the feet of the masters. Dr. Tessier’s assertion accords with The Hippocratic Oath: Modern Version, which asks its adherents to respect the hardwon scientific gains of those physicians who preceded them. Modern medicine recognizes the tremendous debt it owes these pioneers, whom I call mentoring “legacy leaders.”Dr. Felix Freshwater (Miami, FL), elaborated further on this mentoring prescription: “There are no masters, we are all students. When you stop being a student, you are dead - if not physically then intellectually. Some students are better at gaining new knowledge than others. Some students are better at telling others about what they have learned - they are called great teachers.” Generally, this transference of medical knowledge can be achieved through very formal clinical education supplemented by less formal, although no less important, medical mentoring. In fact, healthcare leadership doyen, Carson F. Dye, has pronounced that “medical mentoring is a topic that has received a lot of attention in the health administration profession. It is regarded as an important part of developing future leaders. The field has largely taken a topdown approach to mentoring… Mentoring tends to work best when the mentee takes personal responsibility for the entire process - that is, finding a mentor to work with, taking the initiative to work with the mentor, and often finding other mentors at other points in career [2].”

Regardless of one’s chosen profession – in large measure, life comprises a series of lifelong sessions in which one inculcates skill sets augmented by professional experiences. Some may best assimilate lifelong knowledge by means of autodidactic educational processes, but others may also do so as a result of supra–educational experiences and interpersonal interactions. Some School of Medicine (SOM) education may comprise one long, intense, gratuitously negative, formalized process by which clinical expertise might be inculcated and assimilated. As one might infer in this instance, no med school instructors “connected” to form mentoring relationships, although an extramural mentoring regimen formed part of some course activities. Contrary to prevalent top–down–initiated mentoring (that is, formalized mentoring institution-sponsored and –formulated), medical mentoring is a unique variation on this traditional theme.

While addressing his alma mater’s (Williams College, New York) alumni on December 28, 1871), Garfield epigrammatically idealized the bottom-up (that is, often informal, mentee-driven mentoring) value of a mentor/teacher: “Give me a log hut, with only a simple bench, Mark Hopkins [famous American educator and president of Williams College] on one end and I on the other, and you may have all the buildings, apparatus and libraries without him [3].” Relatedly, as chronicled by Candice Millard, President James A. Garfield’s later assassination and subsequent mismanaged medical interventions made him – like so many other high-profile historical figures (Figure 1) - an unwittingly contributor to medical improvements [4].

Citation: Brown C. Medical Mentorship: Legacy Leadership Links in the Surgery Chain of Being. Austin J Surg. 2015;2(5): 1069. ISSN : 2381-9030