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Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Residency and Fellowship Graduation and Annual James Barrett Brown Day 2023

Graduating residents (left to right) Drs. Bechtold, Zubovic, Linkugel and Bruce.

This June, the Department of Surgery and Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery celebrated the 2022-2023 graduation of plastic and reconstructive chief residents and fellows with two days of events and awards leading up to their graduation on the evening of the 24th.

Congratulations to Chief Plastic Surgery Residents Jordan G. Bruce, MD, Andrew D. Linkugel, MD, and Ema Zubovic, MD; Joint Plastic Surgery Resident and Hand Surgery Fellow Lauren A. Jacobson Bechtold, MD; Hand Surgery Fellows Shady Elmaraghi, MD, and Benjamin H. Timmins, MD; and Microsurgery Fellow Saif M. Badran, MD, PhD.

James Barrett Brown Visiting Professor Lecture and Annual Research Day

Celebrations kicked off Friday with a warm welcome from Chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Justin Sacks, MD, MBA, and an overview on James Barrett Brown Day from Director of the Plastic Surgery Residency Program Alison Snyder-Warwick, MD.

James Barrett Brown was Chair of Plastic Surgery at Washington University from 1955-1968. Brown, who trained under Evarts Graham, MD, the first full-time chair of the Department of Surgery, and Vilray Blair, MD, the first chief of the division plastic and reconstructive surgery at the School of Medicine. Along with his mentors, Brown made significant contributions to the division and the field of plastic surgery as a whole. This event honors his legacy by promoting research and essential collaboration.

Following introductions, residents took to the stage and presented a series of excellent research podium and poster presentations. Research from over 20 presenters showcased the wide breadth of diverse research interests and aptitudes held by Washington University trainees and faculty.

Visiting Professor Bernard T. Lee, MD, MBA, MPH, Professor of Surgery at Harvard University and Chief of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center, then presented the annual James Barrett Brown Address, entitled “Improving Outcomes in Plastic Surgery: The Impact of Health Literacy.

Lee, whose research interests focus on patient outcomes and satisfaction, health disparities, and health literacy, emphasized the vital importance of patients’ understanding of their options and possible outcomes when it comes to improving outcomes overall.

“Informed patients are better patients,” he stated. “They participate more in their care, they have lower healthcare costs, they require fewer hospital admissions, report higher satisfaction, and generally have better health outcomes.”

Lee provided multiple comprehensive strategies to approach the topic and work toward the best possible outcomes for each individual patient, starting with evaluation of health literacy during consultation. These strategies include the consistent use of a standard verbal assessment to understand health literacy of patients and utilizing the teach-back method in patient interactions to confirm and ensure understanding. These methods serve to engage patients properly in conversations about their health so they can make the best informed decisions about their care with the guidance of their practitioner.

“The dissemination of these evidence-based techniques could potentially improve patient understanding and improve our ability to identify low health literacy patients and change the way we interact with them,” Lee said.

Following Lee’s address, resident researchers were recognized for their exemplary presentations and commitment to the division.

Patient Safety and Quality Coordinator Vicky Peck, RN, presented Ema Zubovic, MD, with a token of special recognition for her tireless dedication to Patient Safety and Quality Improvement (PSQI). This recognition was awarded baseded on Zubovic’s tireless commitment to throughout the entire course of her residency. During her time as a resident, Zubovic showed remarkable commitment through her tireless reporting and submission of PQSI action items, having submitted over 200 tickets. “That reporting is the backbone of a safety program,” said Peck. “Having a leader like Ema in your residency, who improves the institution during her time here, speaks volumes to the culture here.”

Awards for best research talks were then presented by Lee.

Best Podium Presentations went to Alexandria Keene, MD, mentored by Minot Packer Fryer Professor of Plastic Surgery Susan E. Mackinnon, MD, for her project entitled “A single-blind prospective randomized clinical trial comparing Cortiva to AlloDerm in prepectoral and partial submuscular immediate implant based reconstruction, and Sai Pinni, BS, under the mentorship of Associate Professor of Surgery Marissa M. Tenenbaum, MD and Professor of Surgery Terence M. Myckatyn, MD, for her presentation on peripheral nerve injury after deoxycholic acid (Kybella) injection.

Kenan Tawaklna, MD, also mentored by Mackinnon, received the award for Best Poster Presentation for his project entitled “Evaluating outcomes in common peroneal nerve decompression.”

“Phenomenal talks today,” said Snyder-Warwick. “Thanks to the mentors for their guidance and to the trainees for their hard work and dedication. We couldn’t do all the great things we do here without each of you. Huge congrats to everybody, well done.”

Graduation Ceremony

On the evening of June 24, plastic and reconstructive faculty, staff, trainees, graduates and family gathered at the Botanical Gardens for the formal celebration of the graduation ceremony.

During the celebrations, the division recognized outstanding trainees and faulty for their commitment to education.

Danielle Brown, MD, a rising PGY-6 resident, was presented with the Student Elected Resident Teaching Award by Assistant Professor of Surgery Joani M. Christensen, MD. This award is voted on by medical students to honor the mentor who they feel shows exemplary effort toward helping them learn and advance toward their bright futures in medicine.

The Resident Elected Resident Teaching award, voted on by residents and presented by Keith Brandt, MD, the William G. Hamm Professor of Surgery, was bestowed upon graduating chief resident Andrew Linkugel, MD, for his commitment to the high quality teaching of residents. “Andrew treats residents with respect and is not above any task that helps the team,” Brandt said. “He is always professional and he has proven dedication and excellence, especially in educational conference management.”

The 2023 Best Patient Safety and Quality Improvement Project Award, was presented by Assistant Professor of Surgery Amy Kells, MD, PhD. This inaugural award honors recipients for excellence in their presentations at the first annual Plastic Surgery PSQI Symposium held on June 7, 2023. This year, voting resulted in a three way tie recognizing the three pioneers who volunteered to kick off the new event: rising PGY-3 Caitlin Marks, MD, rising PGY-5 William Zhu, MD, and rising PGY-4 Jonah Orr, MD. “All the presentations were just amazing,” Kells said. “We tried to break the tie, but ultimately, we had to decide that all three presentations were worthy of this award.”

Assistant Professor of Surgery Kelly Currie, MD, was then honored with the Paul M. Weeks Award for Excellence in Resident Education, presented by graduating chief residents Zubovic, Linkugel, and Bruce. This award, voted on by all trainees, recognizes the faculty member who truly goes above and beyond in their dedication to the quality education of their residents. “Every single faculty member gives so much to all of us,” the chief residents said. “But we get the opportunity to recognize one person in particular who we think has made an outstanding contribution to resident education, not only to our six year journey, but also to the residents who are junior to us. Dr. Currie has really revolutionized the way all the residents learn.”

In celebration of the six years of dedication shown by the residents and tireless perusal of excellence by the graduating fellows, the event included a cocktail hour, dinner, photos by the reflection pond and in front of the pieces on display from the ongoing Chihuly in the Garden exhibit, and an address from each of the graduates commemorating their time in the program. At the closing of the night, Division Chief Sacks took to the podium to thank the division, graduating residents and fellows.

“Each one of our graduates here embodies the spirit of relentless pursuit of knowledge and unwavering dedication to service. Your drive and commitment have not only brought you this moment of recognition today, but will propel you forward in the future in all your endeavors,” he said. “In closing, allow me to express my profound pride in all that you have accomplished and my unwavering faith in all that you will achieve. On behalf of WashU Plastic Surgery, congratulations on your remarkable accomplishments – and they are truly remarkable – and our best wishes for your bright futures. Remember, you’re not just entering the field of plastic surgery, you are entering as WashU trained surgeons.”