After a long day of operating yesterday, I woke up this morning to find the most amazing thank you letter in my email. As a member of The Surgical Friends Foundation, I not only have the opportunity to help patients who lack access to plastic surgical care, but I also have the chance to mentor and teach UCLA undergraduate students. Yesterday I had a wonderfully enthusiastic pre-medicine student observe one my skin cancer reconstruction cases. This student is a member of the Surgical Friends Foundation at UCLA club, and is clearly destined to become a plastic surgeon. Here is her letter:
November 16, 2011
Dear Dr. Brenner and Roxbury surgical team,
Once again, I take this opportunity to thank you guys for having me at the skin cancer reconstructive surgery on Wednesday, November 16, 2011 at 7:30AM. I am thankful to Surgical Friends Foundation at UCLA for providing undergraduate pre-med students with such opportunities, but more importantly, I’m thankful for Dr. Brenner and his surgical team for working in tandem with Surgical Friends Foundation and permitting students to monitor their hard work and surgical cases.
During the two hours I spent observing Dr. Brenner’s surgery, I learned many important topics that will come in handy in the future, either in medical school, the field, and/or in my future studies. Dr. Brenner talked me through his surgery and explained each and every step, as well as the reasons for each step. He began by marking the area he was reconstructing, the nose, and explained each parts of the nose: the dorsum, root, lateral sides tip, alae, nostril, and columella. His goal for this surgery was to reshape the alae that had previously been affected with basal carcinoma. Dr. Brenner’s method of teaching was clear, precise, and simple, which made it so much easier to remember later on.
Furthermore, Dr. Brenner’s chemistry with his staff was wonderful. The whole team connected like a family and helped each other throughout the surgery. A memorable moment was when Dr. Brenner literally called “time out” prior to starting the surgery to re-check with his anesthesiologist the patient’s prior history of diseases/conditions and any allergies the patient might have to certain products/medications used throughout the surgery. The entire surgery was videotaped and is available for streaming online on Dr. Brenner’s website. This tool is very helpful for students who were not able to observe the surgery and gives them the opportunity to watch the entire surgery on their own time.
In addition, Dr. Brenner showed me before and after pictures of the patient who was affected with basal carcinoma. Dr. Brenner explained that the dermatologist had already removed the tumor on the patient’s alae. It was now up to Dr. Brenner to fill the hole that was left from removing the tumor by excising tissue from the adjacent cheek, flipping it over, rotating it, and attaching it to the lateral side of the nose. This step had already been performed in the prior surgery; however, during this second surgery (which I observed), Dr. Brenner just had to reshape and contour the alae on the patient’s right side to match the healthy alae on the patient’s left side.
When I asked about the complications of this surgery, Dr. Brenner ensured me that there would be none and that the patient would be able to breathe normally, have a normal looking and functioning nose, and even be scar-free.
It was amazing to see the outcome of this surgery: a perfectly contoured nose with both alaes matching and the lack of a scar! The patient’s nose looked so good, real, and healthy that no one would have been able to tell she had every received reconstructive plastic surgery. If I had seen the patient for the first time after her surgery, I wouldn’t have had the slightest clue that she had skin cancer reconstructive surgery done. The patient is now tumor-free and has her great-looking, natural nose back. I’m so happy for the patient and this awe-inspiring, eye-opening experience.
All my thanks and appreciation goes to Dr.Brenner, nurse Ryan, surgical assistant Jose, and anesthesiologist Lisa for all of their hard work and kindness.
Wish you all the best and good luck with your future surgeries!
Surgical Friends Foundation at UCLA
*photos on this post are not actual patients of Dr. Brenner.