Panel Session: Inspiration Session

The 2019 Annual Meeting of the AVAS was blessed with several enlightening panel discussions. Our Monday, Lunch panel discussion (moderated by Faisal Bakaeen, MD and Gosta Pettersson, MD) was appropriately titled the “INSPIRATION SESSION”. Frederick Grover, MD ​(Emeritus Chair, Department of Surgery, University of Colorado) began with his thoughts on “HOW TO INSPIRE THE VA AND HAVE THE VA INSPIRE YOU”. Dr. Grover revealed that his exposure to the VA during his residency and his service at the San Diego Naval Hospital motivated him to become a leader in the VA. His continued service in the VA was inspired by the research and inspiration around him to improve the care our Veterans received. Melina Kibbe, MD (Professor and Chair, Department of Surgery, ​University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill) next provided her thoughts on “A PATH TO THE SURGICAL SUMMIT THROUGH THE VA”. Dr. Kibbe revealed that the VA afforded her the opportunity to work full time in the VA (with compressed tour of duty) and part-time at Northwestern University. She expanded on the clinical work she was proudly able to provide to her patients. Following that, her ability to teach future physicians and surgeons motivated her to remain in the VA. Finally, the vast possibilities for funded research in the VA motivated her to become a leader in VA research. Dr. Kibbe concluded that VA surgeons must promote surgical careers in the VA and refute the false ascertains made by many regarding a career in the VA. Houston Surgical Legend, Kenneth L. Mattox, MD (Professor, Baylor College of Medicine Chief of Surgery and Chief of Staff, Harris County Hospital) gave the audience several important leadership lessons as he talked to the group from the perspective of “A VETERAN SURGEON WHO INSPIRED A GENERATION”. Dr. Mattox reminded us that:

  • All had help getting to where they are now

  • Great leaders in Medicine are great leaders outside the realm of medicine.

  • Take the hard road because it will be more rewarding.

  • Obstructions and Barriers are always present and we should not let them prevent change. Great leaders come from challenge, not an easy route.

  • There’s always room at the top.

  • Thru crisis, great leaders always emerge.

  • Cream always rises to the top

  • Everyone is always a role model to someone who is often unknown to either or both.

  • Leadership and followership traits emerge early in one’s life.

  • Leadership opportunities are typically unexpected, and when they arise, rise to the occasion.

  • Great leaders do not seek recognition or praise.

  • Success knows no work hour restrictions- work while others sleep.

  • Leadership really does not require any talent.

  • There is always a better way.

Joseph S. Coselli, MD (Chief, Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine) encouraged us further with his heartfelt talk “FROM PERSPIRATION TO INSPIRATION: THE AORTIC LEGEND”. Dr. Coselli inspired us but reminiscing the history of the VA under Dr. Michael E. DeBakey. He reminded us that only via the perseverance of Dr. DeBakey, was there integration of the VA and academic training. He reminded us that great leaders do not always stem from success or accolades and that many leaders face failure and even ridicule and that success comes from perseverance. Finally, Rachel Ramoni, DMD, ScD ​(Chief, Research and Development Officer (CRADO) Department of Veterans Affairs) inspired the audience even more with her talk “RESEARCH THAT MAKES A DIFFERENCE”. Dr. Ramoni reminded us that Surgeons have always been innovators. A surgeon must always be prepared to reconsider differing alternatives to problems they face. She also reminded us that great leaders do not arise alone, and we always need friends and support. We were then reminded of the obligation to provide credit to those who helped us achieve our success.


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