The Insiders Scoop – Plastic Surgery

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Name: Anthony Echo, M.D.

Specialty/Interests: Plastic surgery, microvascular plastic surgery, reconstructive plastic surgery, breast surgery, aesthetic plastic surgery

Education: University of Nevada (Biology B.S.), University of Nevada (M.D.), Baylor (Plastic Surgery Residency), Stanford (Microsurgery Fellowship), Washington University (Peripheral Nerve Fellowship)

Current Position: Assistant Professor of Plastic Surgery, Institute for Academic Medicine at Houston Methodist and Weill Cornell Medical College

 

1 | What drew you to specialize in plastic surgery?

Initially I liked the idea of aesthetic surgery. I think this what most people think of when they hear plastic surgery. However, once I did my first plastic surgery rotation in medical school, I saw the amazing things that are able to be performed (i.e. reattaching a finger, reconstructing a breast by transferring the abdominal tissue to the chest, etc.).

 

2 | What advice would you give to students interested in plastic surgery?

It is important to understand that plastic surgery is still surgery; therefore, the training requires long hours each day and is one of the longest and most grueling specialities to complete. If you would not be happy doing the work that any other surgical resident is expected to do, then it is probably best to reconsider your choice in specialty.

If you’re set on plastic surgery, then work hard in medical school to earn good grades, do well on Step 1 and Step 2, and impress on your clinical rotations.  

 

3 | How did you decide on your type of clinical setting? Your current practice does not appear to be a traditional academic or community setting, but rather a hybrid of sorts.

My specific practice a great mix, and probably the best combination of an academic, hospital, and private practice. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with my current group as a resident, and the timing worked out perfectly. As I was finishing my training, they were looking to hire another attending plastic surgeon. It was an amazing opportunity to get to join my mentors as their junior partner. Sometimes timing and luck work out.

 

4 | How do you balance research into your clinical and teaching responsibilities?

It is important to have great help in regards to researchers, fellows, residents, and students.

 

5 | What advice do you have for pre-medical and medical students who are interested in making a meaningful change through research?

Having a true interest in research is critical. From there one can find a question that need answering, and figure out how to answer it. Knowing what questions need answering can be a bit challenging from a pre-medical or medical student perspective without any clinical experience, but working with a mentor can facilitate the skills necessary to develop a hypothesis and study design.

 

7 | What is your morning routine? How has that changed from residency to attending life?

I get up and head immediately to the gym around 5AM. Then I come back home to eat breakfast with my kids before going into the hospital to start my day in the OR or clinic. I usually try to finish by 4 PM to take my kids to soccer, dance, or swimming. After that, we have dinner as a family and get the kids ready for bed. Once they fall asleep, I work on emails and other tasks from the day requiring completion.

The biggest difference from residency to attending life is that I have more control over my day. I would say that it is not any easier, but the responsibilities have changed. While I am still busy, I am glad to be finished with my training.

 

8 | How much sleep do you get every night?

I would like to get 8 hours, but it is probably closer to 6-7 hours on average. Occasionally it’s closer to 4 hours if it was a call day or I needed to complete a presentation last-minute.

 

9 | How do you maintain your work-life balance?

Schedules. I need to block out time for family and personal things. If it is on my Outlook calendar, it will get done. I put everything on my calendar – including vacations, meeting, kids’ events, family functions, dinners, gym, and phone calls.

 

10 | Who were the most impactful mentors in your life?

My mom and dad are my biggest mentors and supporters. They had nothing growing up and worked hard to provide for me and my sisters. They made sure we all went to college, and provided any support they could. Without them, I would definitely not be where I am today.

With regards to a plastic surgery mentor, I would have to say Dr. Eser Yuksel. He was a newer faculty at Baylor Plastic Surgery when I was a medical student in Nevada. At that time, there was no residency program at UNLV, so I was looking for a summer research opportunity at an established plastic surgery program. I sent out several emails to programs, and Baylor happened to be looking for someone that summer. I was teamed up with Dr. Yuksel, who was instrumental in me getting into Baylor for plastic surgery residency.

 

11 | What has been one of your most fulfilling professional experiences?

Seeing the students, residents, and fellows who I have mentored and worked with over the years become successful at their careers.

 

12 | How do you maintain your work-life balance? Has that changed between medical school, residency, and attending life?

As busy as you think you are in medical school or residency, it only gets busier. The most freedom you will have is as a medical student. No one is expecting much out of you, and whether you show up or not, it does not effect the day. The resident has the least balance, since their schedules are based on their attending surgeon’s schedules. Once you are in practice, depending on your practice model, you will have some more flexibility (again depends on practice type). In a purely private practice model, you can work as much or as little as you want. And on the other end of the spectrum, there are some employed positions where you are expected to be at the hospital for set hours each day, and have 3 weeks off each year.

 

13 | What do you believe to be the most exciting frontier or new things on the horizon in plastic surgery?

One of the unique things on the horizon for breast cancer reconstruction is the ability to recreate sensation to the breast after mastectomy. We are using nerve grafts to reconnect the nerves in the chest to the tissue flap. We transfer tissue from the abdomen in the DIEP, and the nerve grafts will allow this grated tissue to be sensate. This is a significant step forward in the refinement of breast reconstruction surgery.

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