Perseverance, Adversity and Perspective
Christopher L. Reeves, MS, DPM, FACFAS
As the dust settles on the 77th edition of the Annual Scientific Conference, we can look back on New Orleans with a sense of great pride and success. We set a fifth consecutive attendance record with nearly 1,900 foot and ankle surgeons attending an academic program second to none. No question, the conference is the “crown jewel” of not only the College, but the profession as a whole.
I hope some of you found time to enjoy New Orleans’ culture and history. A highlight for me was visiting the National World War II Museum. For a lot of us, World War II can only be understood through movies and documentaries; but for me, it was personal.
My grandfather, who served in WWII, passed away when I was 12 years old. He was always full of life, loved to learn and shared it with his grandson, such as reading the dictionary to improve the education he never completed. One mantra I will always remember from him is no matter the adversity, always persevere and keep perspective. As a teenager, this was pretty deep advice, but over the years, it grew in meaning and became a center point through my sports, surgical training and daily life.
What I didn’t know at the time, nor fully appreciate until recently, is exactly where his philosophy came from. Like many WWII veterans, the war was never really discussed. Recently, my father and I discovered war-time letters to my grandmother, military medals and “souvenirs” from Europe, which helped us recreate exactly where “always persevere through adversity and keep perspective” came from.
As a combat engineer, he went ashore at Omaha Beach during the D-Day invasion. His unit’s mission was to provide infrastructure and roads connecting the amphibious landing sites. After a long trek through Europe keeping transportation viable for U.S. and French ground forces, his unit was converted to infantry following attrition of U.S. forces. In one of the largest and more violent conflicts known as the Battle of the Bulge, his was one of many units overrun during night raids from German tanks and soldiers. He lived in a fox hole for many days, and despite losing a large portion of his unit, had a team of soldiers who persevered through adversity. They held the line against rapidly advancing German soldiers and, in no small part, halted the German advance. This was later shown to be the beginning of the end for the German offensive.
I would never compare a war experience to what we do as a profession, but the lessons that lie within these accomplishments can be translated through all walks of life. Looking back on the 77-year history of ACFAS, we can see that our founders, mentors and leaders were forced to persevere though adversity. We have historical perspective from our prior visionaries not afraid to take the road less traveled, being forced to make the best decisions at the time without the benefit of really knowing the long-term ramifications—but keeping a common goal in mind.
Today, we should keep this perspective as we continue to face external and internal forces that attempt to distract us from our mission. We still face concerns over reimbursement, parity, privileging and scopes of practice. And recently, we’ve faced special interests attempting to derail us with publications that offer conclusions not based on sound scientific data. But, we’ve been here before. We’ve persevered, we’ve kept our perspective and it’s led us to successes like no other time in our history.
Perseverance and perspective through adversity: Lessons taught to a 12-year-old future ACFAS leader that were learned and shared by a soldier during some of the most horrendous and frightening conditions imaginable, in the name of survival, all for a belief in the greater good of the world. It’s a perspective that, no matter what our challenges are today, those who paved the way before us ensured that the challenges would never be as difficult today as they were yesterday.