René Descartes (1596-1650) – “Rationalist Philosopher” would not be surprised to find out that the 4 basic rules of research methodology he established in his Discours de la Méthode (1637) that illuminate the modern era of western science ring as true today as they did when they were published in 1637.
These rules were as follows:
- Never accept anything as true without evidence of its truth: avoid precipitate conclusions and preconceptions.
- Divide problems into as many parts as possible and as may be required to resolve them.
- Begin with the simplest, and ascend in an orderly manner, step by step to the most complex.
- Make reviews so comprehensive and enumerations so complete that you can be sure of leaving nothing out.
Research within the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Toronto has always remained a cornerstone of our Division. Our humble start in the 1960’s with former Chair, Dr. W. K. Lindsay’s flexor tendon injury models in chickens has blossomed to include the full spectrum of laboratory-based research, epidemiology, surgical education and health care delivery. We have faculty that are “contributors “to our profession as we embrace research questions and the projects that follow. Many of our academic staff are graduates of the innovative Surgeon-Scientist program that was established at the University of Toronto well over 25 years ago and flourishes to this day. Each year, the division supports trainees with an interest in an academic surgery to enter this program to complete a MSc or PhD and help define the future of our specialty.
Plastic surgery does not own a major organ system but we face reconstruction in all anatomic arenas thereby allowing us the unique opportunity to collaborate with all medical and surgical subspecialties. As such, we are called on to help address problems in the broad areas of wound healing, tissue engineering, transplantation, limb replacement, breast reconstruction, peripheral nerve repair, skin replacement, surgical simulation and robotics to name but a few. The depth and breadth of our specialty is vast and this allows us to pursue an equally broad base of research interests and problems.
The Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery at the University of Toronto has always had a tremendous interest in training tomorrow’s leaders and surgeon scientists. Of the 56 surgeons on staff in our division, the vast majority of us hold higher degrees in research, either through the Surgeon-Scientist Program or other graduate programs.
Whilst many of our training program graduates become community Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons, our philosophy to emphasize the importance of research methodology in all of our trainees is a necessary skill set regardless of the designation of your practice. Awareness of research methodology and the importance of recognizing good science is necessary when dealing with industry who are introducing new products or understanding the literature promoting an innovative surgical technique. All our trainees contribute to the body of scientific literature by completing a minimum of 2 research projects leading to peer-review publication during their residency. Our division is very supportive of the enhancing research profile of all trainees and the majority of staff will mentor summer students, medical students, residents and fellows to initiate and complete a research project.
The Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery is fortunate in being surrounded by highly productive and collaborative surgical divisions at the University of Toronto. Our research trainees have worked with Divisions of Thoracic Surgery, Cardiac Surgery, Neurosurgery, Medical Bioengineering, Orthopedic Surgery and General Surgery.
Research is a necessary component of faculty development and all new staff recruits to the University of Toronto are encouraged to pursue a research focus as an important component of their academic career. Innovative opportunities have led to the development of internationally recognized leaders within the Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery in the areas of outcomes research, epidemiology, surgical education and simulation, health care delivery and economics, basic science research, quality of life and patient reported outcomes.
MD, FACS, FAAP
Research Director, Division of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery