Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

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PRS Resident Chronicles
Wednesday, January 15, 2014
Thankful Reflections: A Resident's Path to Learning
by Jacob Unger, MD
The holiday season is upon us and with it comes a time for reflection, for family, and for giving thanks.  This thanksgiving I was lucky enough to get to spend some time with my extended family and refocus on those important aspects of life as well as spend some time contemplating my future.
I was surprised at my own
nerves for my first case
When I look back on the past 5 months of training it is easy to see the progression in both thought and technique that have occurred.  It seems like just yesterday that I was writing about the anxiety and excitement of starting my 5th year of training with the all-consuming role of Chief of the Parkland plastic surgery service. Yet, here I stand, now with multiple chief rotations under-my-belt, and starting to think about fellowship opportunities and even possible first jobs. While I may be able to see how I have progressed over these last few months, the opportunities for improvement are always present as well showing me how far I have yet to go.
Recently, I was able to perform my first case that I booked through our Chief Resident Aesthetic Clinic.  This is a wonderful opportunity where the 5th and 6th year integrated residents (and 2nd and 3rd year independent residents) are allowed to see cosmetic patients solo in the faculty clinic space and create operative plans based on these patients’ desires.  We then present our plans to faculty, find an OR date that is mutually agreeable and perform said surgery, with continued follow up in our individual clinics. I was surprised at my own nerves for my first case. While it was a procedure I had been a part of and even performed numerous times, the fact that this patient had chosen to trust me with her surgical goals and had given me the honor of determining and carrying out the best plan in my opinion was both humbling and exhilarating!
But, it is moments like these that allow you to both realize how much you have learned, as well as how much more there is to discover
Fortunately, the procedure went well and the patient is pleased with her result. But, it is moments like these that allow you to both realize how much you have learned, as well as how much more there is to discover. You quickly see how much more efficiency there is to achieve, and how elegance does not come as easily as it seems when watching the masters that surround me in my training program.
As I reflect on the past year I realize how lucky I am. I am thankful for my family, for my training, and for my future. The hard work that all of us as physicians put in to our education, our training, and our patients has a clearer light at the end of the tunnel as we get closer and closer to reaching the end. While I have more training ahead of me, I am thankful as well for the future opportunities to learn and improve my craft before the day comes that I am truly ultimately responsible, with no sage advisor over my shoulder.
This thanksgiving I am just so thankful; Thankful for those who educate me, those who support me, and those who love me. I can only hope to be as inspirational to my family and to future generations of plastic surgeons as my mentors have been to me.
About the Blog

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

PRS Resident Chronicles” is the official Resident blog of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, the journal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. Visit this blog to follow the unique journeys of several young doctors as they go through residency in their respective Plastic Surgery Programs across the country.

We want to hear from Plastic Surgery Residents across the globe as well: how do you use PRS in your residency? What are some of the challenges you’ve faced and successes you’ve had? Join the on-going conversation by commenting, and if you think you have a potentially interesting-enough entry to be a unique blog post, email us at

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Keep in mind that the views and recommendations presented in this blog do not necessarily indicate official endorsements or opinions of the Publisher, PRS, or the ASPS. All views are those of the authors and the authors alone.

Rod J Rohrich, MD


Andre Alcon is a fourth-year medical student at Yale University where he is starting a one year research fellowship in tissue engineering with the department of plastic and reconstructive surgery.

Ashley Amalfi is currently a fifth year Plastic Surgery Resident at Southern Illinois University School of Medicine. She attended the George Washington University and received dual degrees in Fine Arts and Art History. She returned home to attend The University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in Rochester, NY. Ashley met her husband, a urologist, during her training at SIU. She enjoys yoga, reading, travel and cooking in her free time.

Jordan Ireton is in her first of six years at the University of Texas Southwestern Plastic Surgery residency program.


 Anup Patel, MD, MBA, is a resident in the Yale Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Program. He co-founded Cents of Relief, a 501(c)3 nonprofit, that empowers victims of human trafficking through health and educational initiatives including those related to reconstructive surgery. Along those lines, he has interest in surgical burden of disease and healthcare policy. He has been selected to serve on the American Society of Plastic Surgeons Board of Directors as resident representative.


Justin Perez is a fourth-year medical student at Weill Cornell Medical College. Born and raised in Reading, Pennsylvania, Justin moved to New York City to attend Fordham University, where he graduated summa cum laude with degrees in Biology and Spanish Literature. His academic interests include tissue engineering and wound healing, the topics of his current research. His hobbies include theater and biking.


Raj Sawh-Martinez, MD is a current resident at the Yale Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery program.  He grew up in Yonkers, NY and completed his undergraduate work in Neural Science at New York University.  He graduated from the Yale School of Medicine in 2011.

Ajul Shah, MD is a graduate of University of Texas Southwestern Medical School and is now a resident in his second of six years at the Yale Plastic Surgery residency program.

Jacob Unger, MD was raised in New Jersey on the shore. He attended Tulane University for his undergraduate work where he rowed on the Tulane Crew Team and majored in Philosophy. He graduated Phi Beta Kappa, Summa cum Laude with honors and then attended New York University School of Medicine. When not working, he enjoys traveling with his wife, surfing, and skiing.

Former Resident Chronicle contributors

Eamon O’Reilly, MD LCDR USN is an active duty US Navy full-time outservice resident in his second of three years at the University of Texas Southwestern Plastic Surgery residency program in Dallas, TX.