I completed my Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery residency at Yale University in New Haven, Connecticut from 1986 to 1988. After completing my residency, I was invited to become a Professor of Plastic Surgery at Yale Medical School where I taught residents reconstructive and cosmetic surgery procedures from 1988 to 1991.
My son, who was actually born at the Yale New Haven Hospital during my residency program, recently completed his undergraduate studies at Yale University and revisiting the campus brought back great memories of my times there.
I have trained at a number of great institutions including Colgate University, the University of Wisconsin Medical School, Charity Hospital in New Orleans with Tulane University, the Royal Marsden Hospital in London, Bellevue Hospital in New York with NYU, and Yale University. They were all great places, but there’s something different about Yale that I always appreciated and I love it best of all the places I trained.
At many of the world’s finest institutions of higher learning the teaching tradition is based more on studying the techniques of the masters, the people who have done great things in the past. The approach, the Great Master’s method, is more or less learning from the masters and there’s a lot to be said for that method of study.
The Yale Plastic Surgery Program was unique in that they taught via the Socratic Method instead of the Great Master’s method used by other teaching programs. In the Socratic Method, you arrive at knowledge through a process of questioning as a way of finding your way to a given solution. The guided questioning exchange stimulates logical thinking and illuminates ideas. Not infrequently, a new alternative emerges that others may not have thought of. In the Great Master’s method, students learn the techniques developed by the great masters who have gone before them. These techniques are time tested and rock solid, but one never develops a system of discovery. With the Socratic Method, the surgeon learns to develop his own techniques.
I feel that the Socratic Method is better suited for the field of Plastic Surgery, as every patient situation requires a unique solution. Ever-evolving technological, medical, and scientific advances bring about new solutions and ways of addressing specific situations. Techniques learned from the great masters lay the foundation but techniques honed and perfected via the Socratic Method offer the best solution for individual cases at hand.
During my Plastic Surgery residency in the mid-eighties, my Chairman, Dr. Steven Ariyan once said, “Twenty years out of training you won’t be doing anything the way you learned it here.” As I recently celebrated my 20th year in practice, I reflected on how true his prediction was, and how grateful I was for having trained at Yale.
The Socratic teaching method has allowed me to confidently try new innovative techniques to complement the tried and true techniques in plastic surgery. I’m always questioning myself to improve surgical technique and find better ways to achieve patient goals. Over the years I think it has helped me evolve my scientific preparation and my talents.
I owe that to Yale. It’s a tradition that keeps renewing itself. I’m extremely proud to have been a part of it and really happy to have trained there. The campus remains ever inspiring and my times there were some of the best years of my life!