SUS Lifetime Achievement Award Winner: Michael Longaker, MD, MBA
SUS Lifetime Achievement Award Winner Dr. Michael Longaker began his presentation by thanking his parents. His mother is 92 years old and his father unfortunately passed 25 years ago. One of his most valuable lessons he learned was in 4th grade. He had finished his book report hastily, so he could go out and play with his friends. His mother was not pleased by his performance and asked him to come inside. She asked him “Is this your personal best?” She went on to tell him “If you are going to take the time to do something, do it right.” This has been a guiding principle throughout his career.
He went on to thank his sister Sue and her husband of 46 years, Edward. She has always been supportive of him throughout his life. He thanked his wife, Melinda, who he met in medical school and is a dermatologist. His son Andrew, a junior in high school, and wife could not attend because Andrew could not miss school. His older son Daniel was present. He had been born as a preemie at 3lbs and now is a college basketball player.
Playing basketball taught him a valuable life lesson. Magic Johnson joined the team when he was as a sophomore and he guarded Michael, and dominated him. When he called his father to tell him his realization that he was not going to be a professional basketball player, his father said, “you have always been a good student” and hung up the phone.
As a resident he made a clear realization that surgery is a hierarchical system. At UCSF Drs. Harrison and Ebert (President AAS and SUS) encouraged him to do research. Dr. Longaker met with Dr. Debas and was told he will do research. Dr. Longaker responded “I do not want to do research.” Dr. Debas told Dr. Longaker “read my nametag and now your nametag.” Dr. Debas then said “Let me ask you again” and Dr. Longaker responded “I would love to.” His evaluation read “trainable ?”
When he went to the lab, Dr Harrison told him to look at embryonic wound healing because he noted a lack of inflammation around Gore-Tex patches when placed on unborn patients during surgery. After his training his first job was the Converse Chair and Chief of Plastic Surgery at the Manhattan VA. While disappointed, he used this opportunity to design and build his lab from the ground up. Dr. Tom Krummel then recruited him to Stanford where the environment was optimal for his research and continues to be so now thanks to Dr. Mary Hawn.
His strategy has always been to be the weakest scientist on his team. Currently he works with Dr. Geoffrey Gurtner, Dr. Peter Lorenz, Dr. Derrick Wan, and Dr. Charles Chan (1st author on the 2 Cell papers, articular cartilage regeneration via skeletal stem cell) in the laboratory. His current Division Chief Dr. Jim Chang was his first fellow in the laboratory. He thanked his over 150 mentees.
He expressed his gratitude to the SUS, which embodies the servant leader. He warned the audience “do not promote yourself.” Mentorship is about empathy. A mentor needs to figure out what does the mentee want and how can the mentor help he/she achieve his/her goals. Mentors should look through a window and not a mirror, because you do not want to see yourself.