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Chairman's Message


Kelly McMasters, M.D., Ph.D.

Kelly M. McMasters,
M.D., Ph.D.

The University of Louisville, Department of Surgery, has a long and proud tradition of excellence. From its inception in 1837, when the University of Louisville served as the premier medical training ground for the western frontier of the United States, the Department of Surgery has been at the forefront of surgical education, patient care, and research. Samuel Gross, MD, the foremost surgeon of his day, served as the chairman of the Department of Surgery from 1841-1856. Before going on to serve with distinction as the Chairman at Jefferson Medical College and establishing the famous Gross Clinic, he established one of the nation's finest surgery programs at the University of Louisville, renowned for excellence in patient care and education. He also founded an active and innovative surgical research laboratory--a rarity at that time.

Since that time, there has been a succession of great surgical practitioners, educators, and investigators at the University of Louisville, culminating in the era of Hiram C. Polk, Jr., MD. During his term as chairman from 1971 to 2005, Dr. Polk became not only the longest reigning chair of a surgery department in the country, but one of the world's most well-known and respected surgeons. He also took the Department to new heights. The Polk era is replete with great accomplishments, from development of one of the nation's most prominent trauma centers; groundbreaking research in surgical infection and host response, microcirculation, and surgical oncology; noteworthy achievements in artificial heart and ventricular assist device research; and development of the world's preeminent hand surgery program, including hand transplantation-to name a few. Despite these great accomplishments, Dr. Polk's greatest legacy is the impact he has had in surgical education. Dr. Polk has shaped the careers of countless students, residents, fellows, and faculty members during his long tenure at the University of Louisville. Many of these individuals have gone on to lead divisions, departments, hospitals, cancer centers, and other major programs around the country and around the world. Yet Dr. Polk is equally proud of those surgeons he has trained who have gone on to elevate the level of medical care in their communities, from small towns in Kentucky and the surrounding region, to large cities across the US, to those engaged in missionary work around the globe.

These accomplishments in surgical education at the University of Louisville have been based on a simple philosophy. Excellence is not an accident. Excellence is most often achieved when it is expected. Mediocrity can occur anywhere. Excellence is demanded here.

Rick Pitino, the acclaimed basketball coach who led the 2005 University of Louisville team to the Final Four, and who previously led the University of Kentucky team to three Final Four appearances, two national title games, and a national championship, wrote a best-selling book entitled "Success Is a Choice." In the book, he drives home the point that success is not an accident, but a choice. Success is deserved and involves an uncompromising work ethic and dedication to achieving common goals as a team. The Pitino basketball play book and the Polk Surgery Handbook have shared this common theme for a long time.

The Surgery Department at the University of Louisville remains committed to these principles. This involves continued development of outstanding programs in patient care and surgical research. But first and foremost, our goal is to consistently produce the finest surgeons in America. To do this, we must lead and teach by example, and continue to emphasize not only fundamental and advanced surgical skills, but the primacy of the doctor-patient relationship. The awesome responsibility of a surgeon to his/her patient is not taken lightly. These lessons will continue to serve trainees at the University of Louisville in every field of endeavor.

The University of Louisville, Department of Surgery, will remain fundamentally focused on providing the best possible 5-year clinical training program. For those residents who are interested in specialty or academic careers, additional opportunities in basic and clinical research, or in specialized clinical training, will continue to be provided. This includes an extra year or more of training at the finest institutions around the world. Such tailor-made opportunities, designed to provide the best possible career opportunities for our trainees, will continue to be the hallmark of the University of Louisville program.

We know that excellence is not an accident. Excellence is expected. Excellence is planned. Excellence is deserved.

Kelly M. McMasters, M.D., Ph.D.
Ben A. Reid, Sr, MD Professor and Chairman
University of Louisville, Department of Surgery