A ^Retired Plastic Surgeon's Notebook

Saying goodbye to a plastic surgery giant, Dr. Mark Gorney

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Dr. Mark Gorney, 1924 – 2014

Plastic Surgery loses one of its giants.

From Plastic Surgery News

Mark Gorney, MD, Napa, Calif., who led ASPS as its president in 1983 and served as a founding member and first medical director of The Doctors Company (TDC), passed away Monday, Nov. 17, at age 89.

Dr. Gorney led the Society during a period of relative calm in the early 1980s. The stability of his term of office stood in contrast to his other roles with the Society and the specialty, in particular his work with risk prevention.

Dr. Gorney used his extensive knowledge of the specialty and the nuances of matters of risk and insurance coverage to become a valuable resource for both plastic surgeons and insurers. In 2005, he stepped down from his TDC position and assumed Life Member status in ASPS.  

See Napa Valley Registrar Obituary

From Lisa Lynn Sowder, M.D.
I first met Dr. Mark Gorney when he was at the top of his game.  He was winding down his successful clinical practice and winding up his work as the one of the founders of  The Doctors Company, my medical malpractice insurer. This was a man who really had it all, who had seen it all, and who had done it all.

He gave a talk at the Senior Residents’ Conference in 1991 on risk management.  His idea of risk management is do good work, don’t operate on mentally unstable people, and above all,  be kind.  He introduced us to the Gorneyogram which I think about every time I consider a patient for surgery.   The Gorneyogram compares the patients concern about a problem with the magnitude of the problem and the difficulty of the surgery needed to treat the problem.     Here are two examples:  A patient with an almost microscopic mole on her face who says it is ruining her life may go off the rails when she sees that removal of the microscopic mole leaves a microscopic scar.  Now that scar will be the thing ruining her life and guess who is responsible for that scar?   This  patient has an unfavorable Gorneyogram rating.  Contrast that patient with a mother of 4 whose breasts are so gigantic that she has trouble chopping wood for her  wood burning stove.  She’s going to be thrilled with a breast reduction even if it doesn’t give her the chest of a Victoria’s Secret model.  And guess who she is going to send chocolates to every Christmas?   This patient has a favorable Gorneyogram rating.  I was so taken with his honesty and his directness and his wisdom but it was what happened next that really touched me.

After Dr. Gorney’s excellent talk, one of the residents raised his hand and asked this question:  “Dr. Gorney, we who are sitting here are just about to finish our training and enter practice.  What is it like to be you, someone who has accomplished so much and who has contributed so much to plastic surgery?”  I will never forget Dr. Goney’s answer.  His voice cracked, almost imperceptibly when he said:  “All I’ve done and all I’ve got plus a buck gets me on the bus.”  This was a man of great modesty who did not let his accomplishments go to his head.

The last time I had the privilege of seeing Dr. Gorney was in November of 2008.  I attended the annual meeting of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and attended one of his talks about the psychology of the plastic surgery patient.  He shared the podium with Dr. David Sarwer, a professor of psychology.   They gave a terrific presentation using many examples of unhappy patients who had sued their surgeons.  Dr. Gorney examined each case with his usual candor and humanity.  I could tell that he was slowing down and knew that his teaching days were likely coming to a close.   Even though I will never again be able to hear his wise words in person, those words are with me every day.

R.I.P Dr. Gorney




Category: Patient Safety, Plastic Surgery, Surgical Eductaion | Tags:

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