David Morris, M.D.
What attracted you to surgery?
Surgery just seemed to fit my personality. I knew walking into the first morning conference on my internal medicine rotation as a medical student that I was not an internist. I'm not one of these surgery versus medicine kind of guys — I completely acknowledge that the world needs both. But when I walked into that first conference, I felt like I had blundered into the wrong family reunion. I like tangible results. When I can stop bleeding, remove cancer, or improve a patient's quality of life, I can go home happy.
What attracted you to Mayo Clinic for residency training?
I did not know going into residency what kind of surgeon I wanted to be. Mayo allows you to be pluri-potent: you can go wherever you want to go and specialize in many different areas. The Mayo Clinic name is known across the country and throughout the world.
The volume of complex surgery at Mayo is astounding. There is no shortage of Whipple's, thoracotomies, hepatectomies, advanced laparoscopic procedures, and major vascular cases. And the bread and butter general surgery is good too. Lastly, the general surgery residents have a 95% board pass rate. Enough said.
What makes the Mayo Clinic General Surgery Residency unique?
Residency at Mayo not only teaches you technically sound surgical skills and judgment; you also acquire the "Mayo polish." You learn how to stand in front of your peers and look impressive.
The preceptor model of training is one of the greatest features of training at Mayo. You get the opportunity to work side-by-side/one-on-one with some of the best surgeons in the world. There is no competition amongst fellows or chiefs for good cases. If your staff is doing a great case, that case is yours ... period. As a second year resident, I performed a left hepatectomy, a laparoscopic total colectomy, and ileal pouch anal anastomosis as the surgeon junior. You take complete ownership of your patients, from the clinic to the hospital, to the follow up visit. The patients think of you as their doctor.
This training model also allows an unparalleled amount of autonomy. By working closely with you, your staff learns to trust your judgment and skill. I've done more independent operating (i.e., my staff is in a separate OR and I'm working with a surgical assistant or junior resident) than I ever saw at any of the other programs I visited.
Anything surprise you about Mayo's program?
When I discussed my decision to come to Mayo with my mentors in medical school, I was told not to come to Mayo because: 1) there are too many fellows; 2) the referring services do all the workup for you; and 3) you don't operate much because the VIPs don't want residents to do their cases. I was surprised to find out that:
1) There are a lot of fellows but there are also a lot of operations performed. We have more than 100 operating rooms at Mayo. There is enough surgery to go around.
2) No referring service anywhere in the world (even at a famous place like Mayo) ever does a complete, correct workup for a surgical problem without involvement of a surgeon at every step of the way.
3) The amount of VIP traffic at Mayo is not much higher than at any other prominent program. The vast majority of our patients are ordinary people from Minnesota, Wisconsin, and Iowa. In addition, most of the VIPs who come to Mayo know it is a training hospital; and expect residents to care for them and assist with their operations.
What is living in Rochester like for you?
I actually came to Mayo in part because it was in Rochester. I brought two young kids and my wife with me at the start of residency. I bought a house, on a resident's salary, that is about eight minutes from the hospital in a great neighborhood with great schools. My kids can leave their bikes in the front yard overnight and expect them to still be there in the morning.
What does your future look like right now?
I am currently trying to decide between two of the very best trauma fellowships in the country. I am confident that I will be well-prepared for my fellowship and my eventual career, wherever I choose to go.