Hello SOTGC community,
Today, I have the enormous honor of introducing you to a phenomenal humanitarian, passionate plastic surgeon, and a woman who from an early age decided that her mission in life was to help close the disparity gap, one person at a time. Dr. Amanda Gosman is an associate professor of plastic surgery at UCSD and Rady Children’s Hospital San Diego. She did her plastic surgery residency and a fellowship in Craniofacial and Pediatric Plastic Surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas Texas.
I have seen Amanda around the hospitals for several years, but it was only recently that I have gotten to know her. The passion with which she talks abut her belief in bringing education and resources to those who were born in less privileged circumstances than herself is so moving, that I teared up several times during her interview. Rarely do I meet someone who dedicates herself with such selfless care and devotion and I hope you enjoy this interview as much as I’m enjoying learning from this remarkable lady. Just an FYI, the video at the end will most likely require a Kleenex.
What got you into medicine and have you always been a humanitarian?
When I was in high school I went to Egypt on an exchange program, it was the experience there that triggered my “aha moment.” I was struck by the fact that there was such HUGE disparity in class and privilege, simply because of what family you happened to be born into. I kept wondering why certain groups of people were continuously passed over yet others were given SO much…and not because they themselves had done anything to earn or deserve it. For instance, my classmates and I on this program were taken around in air-conditioned Mercedes cars and we’d pass people in scorching heat, who were irrigating the fields with their hands.
I kept wondering how can so many people live their lives with such privilege and yet not try and share their resources. It made me want to cultivate a skill where I could really help others from a less privilege background than I had. I went to college with a plan to do international development (I got a degree in urban planning at Cornell) and became discouraged by the projects (and how slow they moved) that we worked on. My father was an orthopedic surgeon and I think he had a big part in why I went into medicine. During the summers I worked as an orderly in a hospital and my father suggested that instead of trying to change entire populations, to help people one person at a time. When my father got ill my dreams of traveling the world got reigned in, so I ended up going to medical school with the plan that I would do international humanitarian work. I’ve always been artistic and creative which was what ultimately got me into plastic surgery.
I took a year off between my 3rd and 4th year of medical school and worked in Central and South America and worked in some rural areas in Guatemala and Ecuador. My first experience in telemedicine was there, when the team I was helping performed the first laparoscopic cholecystectomy in a mobile surgical unit in the jungle of Ecuador and broadcasting the images live to a conference room in a university in the United States. It’s also where I learned that the ONLY way to create a sustainable system is through education. During residency I continued doing international work with my mentors in Dallas and the whole time I was thinking “how can I help people internationally through being a surgeon?”
Have you had a mentor along the way and if so, what are two valuable lessons they taught you?
I’ve had some mentors along the way, but I’d say my biggest mentor is my father. He started as an orthopedic surgeon and after he recovered from his illness he went into, and has done very well, as a professor in physical anthropology. He has always passed his lessons onto me, and the main ones have been:
- Value of effective executive function. In his OR he made sure that before going into surgery he would always plan for the top 3 things that COULD go wrong, and had a plan about how he would handle them should they actually happen. He also said that during times of “unexpected roadbumps” you had to remain calm and can’t allow emotions (especially anger) come into play. Stay focused and finish the job.
- He also stressed the importance of emotional intelligence
Tell me more about ConnectMed International, how did you come up with the idea, what is the mission behind it, and how could people get involved and help if they would like to?
After my residency I did craniofacial pediatric plastics fellowship and then worked for a Interplast (now Resurge) as an international fellow and so I was able to travel around the world and see many different models of care. I was able to pick what I liked about each one, and through those experiences I came up with the mission for ConnectMed International. I wanted to specialize in cleft lip and palate surgery, which requires a long-term multidisciplinary team approach. This is where telemedicine comes into play because it allows us to build teams of specialists and provide long term care in areas without access to these services. I wanted to go beyond just flying in providing surgical care and leaving complications behind. I wanted to provide a similar level of care to patients everywhere that I do to my patients in San Diego. I also wanted to have a viable platform for providing education and use it strengthen health systems. Through my work with the Hospital Infantil in Mexico I was able to introduce telemedicine and its clinical use its use through education and we have built a very unique international multdisciplinary cleft palate clinic with specialist from both sides of the border treating the patients. Though there is a surgical care component to the organization, its main focus is on education. To effectively introduce and sustain progressive treatment in developing areas, you have to lead with education.
Throughout the course of your career you’ve had people ask: “WHY do you have such a driving need to do what you do?”(Regarding your humanitarian goals). What advice do you give to women who have a burning need to do something that others simply don’t understand, but they feel it’s what they were put here to do?
When you realize, in one distinct moment, that you have to blaze your own pathway because the institution around you isn’t embracing your path….then blaze the way! Move forward, be strong in your convictions and be ready for the hard work and constant push back. Remember WHY you’re doing it and that anytime you are leading with the desire to help you are likely on the correct path even if others do not always agree
What is your mantra?
I have two:
“where there is a will, there is a way, you will have to get creative and it may not be perfect, but there is a way.”
“education is the key to everything, anything that will be lasting and beneficial starts with educating.”
Marney Reid is a Marketing Program Manager for a global industry leader in medical device. She is also the Founder of Stilettos on the Glass Ceiling. She has nine years of sales experience in male dominated industries and is transcending the Glass Ceiling by using her authentic value proposition as a competitive advantage.