Recently, one of the craniofacial surgeons - Dr. Scott Bartlett - who works closely with many of our CCA families was honored for his incredible career and work training other surgeons. We know that our families enjoy a close and special relationship with their surgeons, so CCA reached out to find out more about the award and Dr. Bartlett's work in this exclusive interview.
Please join with us in congratulating Dr. Scott Bartlett, CHOP’s Chief of the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery, for receiving the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons President’s Honorary Award. This award is given to a physician to honor their countless contributions and service to the specialty and for their enormous impact on the profession by educating and mentoring generations of plastics surgeons. Dr. Bartlett received the award at the American Society of Plastic Surgeons’ recent meeting in Boston.
CCA: How long have you been a craniofacial surgeon?
SB: 29 years
CCA: What led you to pursue this field as a career?
SB: Well, I was always interested in the face, and after medical school, that led to fellowship in craniofacial surgery. After my fellowship, I had the opportunity to stay at CHOP and the rest is history!
CCA: What was the hardest part of medical school or residency?
SB: It’s all pretty hard! But, the hardest part physically was residency in general surgery. When I was a student, on the old system, you had to go through general surgery first (which is 5 years) and then I spent every other night on call for 5 years. That's not the model anymore. However, I wouldn’t trade it for the world – this grueling schedule taught me to a doctor first and a surgeon second. So while it was completely physically demanding, I wouldn’t want to change the experience looking back.
CCA: What is the best part of your work week?
SB: I really enjoy the procedures that I perform. I enjoy spending time in the OR. Also, I love seeing the patients in followup in the clinic. Seeing the successes and seeing how you can improve results inspires me. I am constantly thinking about how I would and can improve results for my patients.
CCA: Over the years, what have you learned about the kids and adults you serve?
SB: I think that there’s obviously a lot that you learn – but what has been one of the biggest lessons, that I'm taught again and again every day – is that kids can overcome incredible adversity with regard to procedures. Also, many patients have difficult functional problems but the thing that matters to them is their appearance. I also recognize that especially as we get into the teenage years, appearance trumps everything. This is not to say it is cosmetic, but actually reconstructive. Recreating the form they desire motivates me. Plus, the form and function go hand in hand - of course you have to ensure proper function, but form may be more important to patients than function. People are willing to modify their lifestyles and put up with small inconveniences to achieve the reconstruction they desire.
CCA: Do you share a special connection with your patients? Any stories come to mind?
SB: Knowing our patients as we do, one of the things that we have that not all specialties get to experience is ability to follow our patients from infancy through adulthood. We see them when they are babies to when they transition out of our care and are finished with procedures. Working this way with longitudinal followup is really satisfying. I remember once, at discharge appointment for an 18-year-old patient of mine ... she walked around the whole office saying thank you to everyone with tears in her eyes because this place had been her medical home. She truly considered us part of family and we were a part of her healing.
CCA: If you could tell the world one thing about your patients, what would you say?
SB: The patients are incredibly resilient! They are appreciative. There are times in their lives when they don’t seem that way but considering all the difficulties they endure, they are a remarkable group of people to face adversity the way they do and deal with it the way they do, with gratitude and grace.
CCA: What do you tell your patients to help them stay calm and positive before big surgeries?
SB: I usually say, "Don’t worry, you’re just going to go to sleep. When you wake it up it will be over and you won’t know a thing. We’re well prepared for after surgery, you’ll be fine."
CCA: What is the best overall health and wellness tip you could give to your patients?
SB: That's a good question! Staying positive about things is so important; there are a lot of tools we can use to help you out and there’s always a way to improve things. There’s no problem we can’t solve, even if it’s very unique or rare, there are lot of tools we can utilize to get the best possible results.
CCA: What is your proudest moment in your career?
SB: Many things come to mind, but I am so proud of the recent President’s award, because it's given to an individual who has influenced the careers of trainees. I have trained as many if not more doctors in leadership roles in the field of craniofacial surgery than anyone else. It's gratifying to know I've been a part of that. Secondly, volunteering as a surgeon in Krakow, Poland at a pediatric hospital, University Children’s Hospital is a big part of my life. I've been on 60-70 trips and started an institution there. I still go and operate in Eastern Europe on complicated deformities – untreated diseases that we’d never see in the US because they never received intervention before. It's an opportunity to learn and to help these individuals.
CCA: What do you see in the future for craniofacial surgery?
SB: I am excited about distraction osteogeneis – there are emerging, less invasive techniques and promising new work with tissue and bone. These advancements shorten recovery times and improve operating procedures and reduce hospital stays.
CCA: If you could give one piece of advice to parents of children with craniofacial anomalies, what would say?
SB: There isn't one thing I would say, because everyone - each case - is different. I do always tell them though, I give them my best opinion for their child and I only recommend what I think is best, but they should feel free to seek a second opinion. They should investigate their options.
CCA: What hobbies do you enjoy most?
SB: Oh, I love skiing in the winter and fishing in the summer.
CCA: What's your motto?
SB: Be prepared. And, also - think in the 4th dimension. The 4th dimension being time... we have to think about the longterm results of the work we do. How will time change the reconstruction as they grow, change, and age? It's important to think of time, for the patient and the surgeon. Patients need to understand that we're working towards a goal and surgeons need to consider how the procedure will hold up as the child ages.
CCA: Thank you so much, Dr. Bartlett for sharing your thoughts with us. Congratulations on your award!