Pay It Forward
Christopher L. Reeves, MS, DPM, FACFAS
Professionally speaking, what drives us? Where does our passion lie? What really moves the needle for us in our professional lives? Some may say the next innovative surgery, while others may say seeing improved patient outcomes. For me, it is being a mentor, teaching and watching young surgeons develop their own thought process and surgical skillset.
It’s this passion that brings me to one of my favorite times of the year—springtime. A time for honoring mothers, watching baseball and seeing graduating residents and fellows set sail into the world as foot and ankle surgeons.
In training programs, yesterday went by too fast and tomorrow never comes. Well, I am here to tell you that tomorrow is here today—where the decisions and successes are yours, and so are the failures, but the learning never ceases.
Personally, my residency training had many endless days and many lessons that I carry every day. I was blessed with mentors who were dedicated to resident education and made certain we were all prepared for what lie ahead. But as I reflect on that time in my life, it’s humbling to think about the passion, desire and unwavering patience my mentors expended to develop young surgeons who likely already thought they were exceeding at their skills. Perhaps, that is the secret?
Today, as I reflect back three years ago when our graduating residents began this journey, I see two individuals who are not the same people as they were then. Two individuals who have developed into fine surgeons with decision-making skills that will soon be put to the test. They are ready for those challenges because of their mentors who, like mine, had the passion to teach them in such an efficient manner that they can do so without pupils realizing they are being taught. A formula of subtle encouragement, selective (sometimes not so selective) criticism and a lot of implied pressure, which equates to thinkers and doers. As a surgeon, their development has been inspiring to watch.
Everyone reading this is a leader, teacher and educator affecting people we interact with daily. People, patients, colleagues, employees, residents and fellows are affected by what we consistently do, and not so much just by what we say. This is a big responsibility, and I challenge all my peers to become a mentor in some way to residents, fellows and young surgeons. I’ve always learned as much if not more about a subject when I teach it. If you want to be humbled, have a resident or fellow stump you with a clinical question! I promise it will only happen once. If you want to find more fulfillment in your profession, train residents and postgraduate fellows. Provide them the opportunities to develop deeper skills and knowledge than you have.
Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors and doing new things because we’re curious, and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” This same holds true in the College. We want to continue finding new paths and to continue encouraging our young members to make lifelong learning a habit. It’s the “pass it along” theory— “If you get, give. If you learn, teach.”
Congratulations to all of those graduating from residency and fellowship programs. Make the ACFAS difference by being a proven leader and a lifelong learner who changes lives. Go make a difference…and pay it forward!