“I am originally from Florida. I completed my general surgery residency at Loyola Medical Center in the Chicago area. That’s where my interest in burn began. Many of the burn patients came in with what seemed insurmountable psychosocial issues. They barely had the ability to cope with normal life—and now they have burns on top of that.
For me, surgery has always felt like a gift, in a way. Every procedure is a moment where you impact someone’s life. I think about the individual that I’m operating on and try to channel what each patient needs from me in that moment. I feel hugely responsible for their surgery and their outcomes. If it’s a kiddo, I’m with them until they’re 18 and they’ve grown through all of their grafts. For adults, it’s at least a year or two, when their grafts are stabilized. They will see the grafts forever. It’s a part of their life. And I want to make sure they have as good a result as possible.
I try to remember that each person who arrives in my clinic is already feeling vulnerable. It’s important to have a nonjudgmental space that’s open for communication.
To do that, I have to remind myself that I’m more than just my job. For example, triathlons remind me that I have physical capabilities beyond being a surgeon. When I dance, paint, or play my clarinet—or do anything outside of work—I’m reminded of the beauty of life and why people want to get back to it. My hobbies help me keep an even temper and provide a calm, safe space for the patients to thrive.”