When Joey Lopez entered the department’s Integrated Residency Program after graduating from Harvard Medical School three years ago, he had no idea he’d find craniofacial surgery so captivating that he’d select it as a future area of focus.
It was the program’s breadth of surgical experiences that helped him choose. In-depth exposure to pediatric and oncology specialties at The Johns Hopkins Hospital, adult facial trauma at Maryland Shock Trauma, body contouring at the University of Maryland, and hand specialties at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center and Curtis Hand Center gave him experiences with preeminent leaders in the field not typically available to residents, Lopez says.
The experiences represent the department’s unparalleled investment in surgical education, he says. This is reinforced by a faculty support system that encourages input into residency issues and concerns, and through attending physicians who walk the exquisite line between autonomy and direct teaching in the OR. “We have the opportunity to learn hands-on very early in our training, but our faculty provide enough supervision that it optimizes both patient safety and our learning,” Lopez says.
Drawn to research in transplant immunology and tissue regeneration, Lopez has found mentors who are helping him explore the field and showing him how to unite his academic interests with surgical practice. The opportunity to hone his scientific intellect, he says, is defining his lifelong approach to the field: asking questions, developing hypotheses and testing them, whether in the lab or the OR.
“The program has shaped me into a surgeon who takes a very scientific approach to everything,” Lopez says. “By taking our intellectual curiosity and fostering that here, it really improves our ability to ask questions and think outside the norm when approaching problems. What sets this program apart is the way it really encourages us, beyond learning how to operate, to become good scientists and good researchers.”