Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery

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PRS Resident Chronicles
Friday, January 24, 2014
Op•por•tu•ni•ty: Where the Everyday Means More
by Andre Alcon
Op•por•tu•ni•ty (ä-pər-ˈtü-nə-tē):
1. A favorable juncture of circumstances
2. A good chance for advancement or progress

Students pursuing a career in plastic surgery have a long checklist to complete before going on to residency. Though we don’t like to think of our lives as a lengthy list of accomplishments and accolades, it’s easy to get lost in the numbers of it all. Sometimes we push ourselves so hard that we miss taking advantage of those inconspicuous, everyday opportunities that can shape our future in profound, unforeseen ways.

For instance, several months ago I was at a PRS conference grabbing lunch when a colleague approached me to go to the beach for the afternoon. I was hesitant to miss the afternoon lectures, but decided to go anyway. An hour later, I was surfing with a couple of down-to-earth, fun guys I had met just twenty minutes ago. I quickly discovered that they were PRS residents from a program I’ll be rotating with during my sub-I’s next year. Pretty lucky, right? I never planned on going to the beach that day or meeting PRS residents along the way, yet experiences like these could have a significant impact on my future.
As I thought about similar experiences I’ve had in the past, I realized that serendipity has played a much larger role in my life than I gave it credit for. Interestingly, these seemingly random, sometimes non-academic experiences have been just as important to my career as the ones I’ve worked for months or years to attain. Thus, I thought it might be worthwhile to share some of my thoughts on opportunity. Was I just lucky or is there something I’ve been doing to help bring about these “favorable junctures of circumstances?”
I wrestled with this concept for weeks as I tried to put into words something meaningful about opportunity. My friends and I sat around the dinner table discussing the elements of opportunities and how they come to be. Maybe it’s attitude. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned to be more comfortable in unfamiliar situations and as a result I’ve been able to take advantage of some incredible opportunities that years ago would never have happened because I was too shy to pursue them. Could it be curiosity and a passion for life? My eclectic array of interests-athletics, cooking, traveling, art, history, and many others-has enabled me to form more substantial relationships with those around me. In turn, these people have become my friends and mentors who have provided me with more opportunities than I could have ever imagined. 
Ultimately, we came to the conclusion that although there is no universal algorithm or formula for creating and recognizing opportunities, we must remember the value of continuing to do the other things we love in life. We all have interests and hobbies that we with we could devote more time to, but with the demands of being a medical student, we often have to put them on the back burner. However, I’ve found that when I have taken the time to pursue some of these interests, ironically, they’ve opened up a number of doors for me that have had a substantial impact on my career trajectory. One day, that trip you take to Italy could be the nidus of an incredible relationship with a mentor and future colleague. Or your passion for cooking could turn into a long dinner conversation with the department chief who also happens to share an appreciation for the culinary arts. It’s happened to me.  Plastic surgery demands a lot and we have no regrets about the sacrifices we make to get to there, but don’t forget to set aside your checklist from time to time to appreciate other things in life. You might be surprised by what happens next.
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.