Physician Spotlight – Roman J. Skoracki, MD, FRCSC, FACS
In the latest installment of our Physician Spotlight series, we learn a bit more about our Division Chief of Reconstructive Oncological Plastic Surgery, Dr. Roman J. Skoracki. Check out Dr. Skoracki’s answers to our questions below.
Q: Who or what influenced you to take your path into medicine?
I had a passion for surgery from early on; it was something that resonated well with me. I enjoyed the art and craft of surgery, and I gravitated to the idea of being able to fix something while also receiving nearly instantaneous feedback on my performance. All of this was reinforced by being surrounded by incredible mentors who had excellent outcomes demonstrating what’s possible with good surgery.
There were certainly several mentors in my career path who were instrumental, but the two that stand out to me the most are Dr. Robert Lindsay and Dr. Reid Waters. Dr. Lindsay was a plastic surgeon in Calgary who came into my career path during medical school when I was trying to decide which type of surgery I wanted to do, and I met Dr. Waters – a plastic surgeon who did a lot of aesthetic surgery in addition to reconstructive surgery – later on during my residency. To see the breadth of these surgeons’ practices and expertise, and to come to the realization that every case is a separate challenge of its own, was truly inspiring.
Q: What brought you to OSU’s Department of Plastic Surgery, what do you feel makes the team unique?
I think the team Dr. Miller has assembled here at OSU is really the cream of the crop. In my mind, the group is very unique in that it’s a nice mix of highly experienced, relatively young plastic surgeons who particularly enjoy taking care of the unique demands of cancer patients, and they are able to give each individual exactly what he or she needs. Furthermore, it’s a group small enough that each physician knows one another so well that there’s a little bit of a family atmosphere, which is especially attractive to me. Everybody works in a very modular fashion – we can attend to each other’s patients easily, and everyone delivers care at a very high level.
Q: What are your specialty interests?
A big special interest of mine is treating lymphedema, which is an abnormal collection of high-protein fluid that can form as a side effect of cancer therapy. Unfortunately, it’s a complication of cancer treatment we see rather frequently when caring for cancer patients. Lymphedema is something I became particularly interested in because I could see the effect it had on the patient’s quality of life. Most patients are extremely pleased when they’ve done well throughout their initial oncologic surgery, but then it’s sad to see when they start to struggle with potential side effects of the treatment, and lymphedema certainly is one of those.
I’d say my interest was initially sparked by reading publications from colleagues – at that time mostly in Japan – and then having the opportunity to visit them and see their results. Since then, I’ve been interacting with surgeons all around the world who have been performing the surgery, essentially pooling our experiences in this relatively young field within plastic surgery. That’s been very exciting, and to be able to see that we can make a difference and improve a patient’s quality of life when they present with this complication is definitely gratifying.
Q: What’s the philosophy of your approach to caring for patients?
I think it’s a very unique situation that we’re in as healthcare providers – not just physicians, but also PAs, nurses, and everyone else who encounters patients – because we see people at an extremely vulnerable time in their lives. For me, it’s a privilege to participate in my patients’ care, and I carry that to every appointment and every new patient I meet.
There’s something very distinctive about that relationship you forge with a cancer patient. It tends to be a little more intimate of a patient-physician relationship – you become a sort of surrogate family member for the patient, and vice versa. Beyond being the one who participates in the repair and rebuilding of the patient through reconstructive surgery, you’re there to provide support and listen to the psychosocial side of the disease. You get to know patients better because you spend more time and often more visits with them than you would during the treatment of many other illnesses. To let them know from day one that this is something we can deal with as a team – they’re always the captain of this team, but we’re there to support them – is something very special.
Overall, it’s an honor to share the entire journey with patients because it’s incredible how courageous they can be. For me, that’s something I enjoy tremendously, and I think all my colleagues would probably tell you the same thing. It’s something that draws me toward the oncological side of plastic surgery.
Q: What has been your proudest moment as a physician?
I’d have to say it’s the metamorphosis we see patients undergo from when they walk in the door scared and/or overwhelmed, to the later parts of their journey when they come to realize that cancer is not something that defines them and it’s something they can overcome. In short: while it is a part of them, it’s certainly not them.
It’s amazing to see the triumph in the end – it’s something extremely special, and it makes me very happy to be a part of that journey for my patients. All of that is extraordinarily rewarding.
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To learn more about Dr. Skoracki, or if you are interested in scheduling a consultation at our office, please contact us today.