May 9, 1997

Shack named chair of VUMC’s Department of Plastic Surgery

Shack named chair of VUMC's Department of Plastic Surgery

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Dr. Bruce Shack was recently named chairman of VUMC's Department of Plastic Surgery

Dr. R. Bruce Shack, a member of Vanderbilt University Medical Center's plastic surgery faculty for the past 15 years and vice-chairman of the department for the past five years, has been named professor and chair of the Department of Plastic Surgery.

Shack succeeds Dr. John B. Lynch, professor of Plastic Surgery, who stepped down as chairman earlier this year.

"I am very excited about this opportunity and about the future of plastic surgery at Vanderbilt University Medical Center," Shack said.

In addition to an active clinical practice at VUMC, Shack has also been in charge of coordinating resident education for plastic surgery residents at Vanderbilt University Hospital.

He said that reducing his clinical load will be inevitable, but necessary, because of the administrative requirements that come with being named chair of a department.

"I have an opportunity with the platform already built by Dr. Lynch to really launch Vanderbilt's Plastic Surgery. It's an opportunity and a challenge to do something that will be very worthwhile over the long haul. Taking care of patients and teaching residents is, and will always be, worthwhile, but this is an opportunity to really establish something to augment the Vanderbilt plastic surgery training program."

Shack, a graduate of the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, came to Vanderbilt in 1973 as a surgical resident. He was a medical student when Lynch was on the plastic surgery faculty in Galveston prior to Lynch's move to Vanderbilt as chairman of the department.

"I became part of the 'Galveston Connection,'" Shack laughed. He was one of several residents who were medical students in Galveston with Dr. Lynch and who followed him to Vanderbilt to train in plastic surgery.

Shack was chief resident in surgery from 1977-78, then entered the plastic surgery residency, in which he finished as chief resident in 1979-80. He joined the Johns Hopkins plastic surgery faculty from 1980 to 1982, then left Baltimore to join the faculty here in 1982.

His appointment will greatly benefit the department, said Dr. John L. Sawyers, professor of Surgery, Emeritus.

"Dr. Shack is an outstanding clinical surgeon who can perform the difficult reconstruction operations as well as the delicate cosmetic procedures. He is a surgeon's surgeon. Dr. Shack is also an excellent teacher and delights in working with his residents and medical students," Sawyers said. "The department came to national prominence under the guidance of Dr. Lynch. Under Dr. Shack's leadership, the department will continue to prosper as a distinguished academic Plastic Surgery Department."

Shack said he has enjoyed his busy clinical practice and the opportunity to train residents.

"This is what I love to do. This is my forte. I love people, the operating room, teaching the residents in the operating room environment, the rounding-on-the-wards environment, and the clinic environment."

Shack said he has several plans for the department, which already enjoys a fine reputation because of Lynch's leadership.

"I have been trained well by Dr. Lynch. I was in an academic position at the foot of the master learning how to run a department and how to train residents and get things done," he said. "Dr. Lynch is a tremendous individual and a tremendous chairman and is recognized as such all across the nation."

One possible new wrinkle will be changing the length of time that residents train in plastic surgery.

"We now have the opportunity to change the direction of the training program a bit. The traditional method of training in plastic surgery has always been that residents would come to us after they had completed a residency in general surgery or some other surgical specialty. We would only have our residents for a couple of years, three years at the longest," Shack said.

A new proposed model will be to spend a minimal amount of time doing prerequisite training in general surgery (two to three years), then to do an extended residency period in plastic surgery.

Shack said that this plan depends on what happens with the future of graduate medical education and funding for residency positions over the next five to six years.

"We're going to move forward with caution, but with cautious optimism, to develop this new direction and to lobby hard with others here at Vanderbilt and other academic medical centers to assure that funding will be available for post graduate medical education," Shack said.

In addition, at least two new faculty members will be hired over the next two years, bringing the department's total full-time faculty to seven.