“The face appeared so lifeless that I was forced to wonder if it could really come back,” he recalled. Later, he sewed its blood vessels to the patient’s and watched the stunning revitalization. It was among the many teaching moments Dr. Alam experienced as part of a multidisciplinary team that would reconstruct a physical identity for a woman who had lost the majority of her face to a gunshot wound.
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As the primary microvascular surgeon of the first face transplant case, he joined others in the effort — specialists and experts from plastic surgery, head and neck surgery, transplantation surgery, anesthesia, psychiatry, psychology, bioethics, nursing, social work, dentistry, ophthalmology, pharmacy, and infectious diseases. Their goal was to successfully perform a near-total face transplant for a patient who had exhausted all conventional means of reconstruction. Their goal was to enable a person to feel normal again, to proceed with hope despite all potential complications. The goal was to relieve patient suffering.
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As keynote speaker for the Academy of Osseointegration’s 30th anniversary Annual Meeting, Dr. Alam will reveal what he discovered as a member of that team — lessons very different from those he expected. Participants will be able to identify the similarities to his experiences in their own professional life.
“The clinical and social challenges in a problem like this can seem insurmountable from the perspective of a single caregiver, and absolutely would’ve been without the complex crossover skills of multiple providers and varied expertise,” he said. “It is a collective of thought and an evolution of ideas that moved this forward. Teamwork and collaboration are indispensable for a project like this.”
He plans to use the experience to illustrate how health-care providers learn, both actively and passively, as part of a team solving complex problems. He’ll also convey elucidating lessons learned about caring for people.
“No matter what the procedure, before going under anesthesia, every patient has enormous faith in his or her health-care provider,” said Dr. Alam. “They all feel they have the best caregiver in the world and that’s why they chose you. That level of trust is as inherent in people whether it’s a dental extraction or tonsillectomy as if it were something as life altering as it was for our transplant recipient.”
It’s a trust that can weigh quite heavily.
“Sometimes the surgical requirements are far beyond the capacity of what any provider can do in isolation, and it’s reassuring to know you can rely on the foundation built by the team. When you take a step back, you see the critically important part is improving someone’s life.”
The Power of Collaboration and the Team Approach will be held from 1:00 p.m. – 5:15.p.m. at the Moscone Convention Center in San Francisco. Register for the meeting before Jan. 12, 2015, to take advantage of an early bird discount and save $250 off the full registration. For more information, visit http://www.osseo.org/events/meetings/2015/index.html. To stay up-to-date on the Academy’s news, follow the AO on Facebook and Twitter.