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Q & A with Dawn LaPorte

With memberships on the Governing Committee of the Council of Orthopaedic Residency Directors; ACGME, where she’s been selected to serve on the Orthopaedic Resident Review Committee; and the American Society of Surgery for the Hand, where her efforts have included organizing and co-chairing the Resident Educator Workshop for the past seven years, orthopaedic surgeon Dawn LaPorteis seriously dedicated. To her role as the residency program director for the Department of Orthopaedic Surgery, LaPorte brings a mentoring philosophy that is focused on nurturing orthopaedic talent and educating leaders.

What draws you to your role as residency program director?

I’m also the director for education and have always been interested in medical education and making sure that students are exposed to the building blocks that are going to make them excellent doctors. Residency education, specifically, is a strong focus for me because this is a critical time period for developing surgeons. It’s been amazing to me to see the impact over five years on each group of residents coming through this program—they are as good as any practicing surgeon.

Do you have a particular philosophy that you bring to this role?

I think—and the program at Johns Hopkins supports this—that there must be a steadfast commitment to education. That means being reasonable about things like the number of hours a resident can work and establishing the types of protocols that really allow them to focus on becoming better doctors. We’ve made changes to our program to make sure that a resident’s time is optimally spent, including interventions and protections that enable a very strong emphasis on education over service.

You were recently part of the team that did the first double arm transplant at the The Johns Hopkins Hospital. How did that experience impact the way you work with your residents?

What you learn through an experience like that is that teamwork and preparation are essential to achieving the best outcome. In this scenario, we did frequent and rigorous full-team rehearsals in a cadaver lab. But it was as much about troubleshooting every possible problem that might occur as it was about creating a team symbiosis. These are important concepts for residents and great teaching moments for people like me who are on the frontlines of their education.

How do you think your residents perceive the value of both you and the program?

Well, first I would say that we’ve developed a sort of second family here. I work closely with residents on both an individual and a group basis, and over their tenure we become close, we know each other’s families, we are very connected. I think what they also appreciate is that there is a structure to this program, and that we’re here to protect that structure and provide guidance as well as to preserve the education aspect of their time with us. We’re here to help with choosing fellowships, doing job searches, getting them involved in professional societies and committees, and also teaching them about practice management. Most importantly, I believe that what we’re doing is not just creating great surgeons and great leaders, but also great people.”

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