Thames Valley Plastic Reconstructive Surgery Symposium: Building bridges

Professor Fu Chan Wei will be heading the speaker lineup at the Thames Valley Plastic Reconstructive Surgery Symposium being held on Friday, Sept 29th. In this blog post, James Chan gives us a short snapshot of what to expect during the event.  James Chan is an Honorary Clinical Lecturer at NDORMS, University of Oxford, and Senior Registrar in Plastic Reconstructive Surgery at the Oxford University Hospitals NHS Trust. His mission is to bring about translation of lab research to the clinic with the aim of improving patient outcomes.

Where would you go if you wanted to experience the most cutting-edge microsurgical reconstruction in the world? Having trained in plastic surgery in the UK over the past 10 years, I ached to go somewhere different. I wanted a cultural shock, see different pathologies, work in a different healthcare system, immerse myself in a different philosophy, learn more about my craft, push boundaries. The Chang Gung Memorial Hospital, one of the leading microsurgical centers in the world led by Prof Fu Chan Wei, was my top choice. Over the years, I’d heard rumors about this mystical place in the Far East. So last October, I arranged for a short visit to sneak a peek.

Like every one of the twenty or so international fellows and observers, I tip-toed and craned my neck to catch a glimpse during massive reconstructive cases, hoping to take away some secrets, tips and tricks. I witnessed brutal resections of cancers affecting the head and neck region only to be miraculously reconstructed with parts of the leg. I watched nerve grafts taken from the leg to reroute the facial nerve from one side of the face to the other to allow the patient smile symmetrically again. I saw toes being detached and turned into functioning thumbs and fingers. In clinic, I watched patients further down the line from this operation use their toes that were now on their hands manipulating chopsticks with graceful dexterity.

While the case mix in Taiwan differs greatly to the UK, we as reconstructive surgeons share many similar challenges. Every 10-0 stitch (0.020-0.029 mm in diameter – thinner than a human hair) can be the difference between success and failure. There is so much scope for the cross-fertilization of skills and ideas. That was why I invited Prof Wei over to Oxford. Prof Fu Chan Wei is one of the true giants of our specialty. He was instrumental in developing many of the microsurgical techniques that allow us nowadays to reconstruct patients who have been seriously traumatized or ravaged by cancer.

This coming Friday, we have organized an all-day regional symposium where plastic reconstructive surgeons, consultants, and trainees across the Thames Valley region (SouthWest England), as well as Oxford University medical students will have an opportunity to hear him speak. A number of our surgeons will also present their own experiences, clinical updates, and their latest research findings.

The idea is to exchange and share ideas and philosophies. Education must be the medium for inspiration and we must build bridges whenever possible.

Opinions in this blog post are that of the author, and not necessarily that of Hindawi. Profile photo credit: NDORMS. The text in this blog post is by James Chan and is distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License (CC-BY).