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The power of mentorship

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Dr. Stuart Braverman was 12 years old when he donned a gown and gloves and scrubbed into a surgery to watch his dad, Dr. Elliot Braverman, fix a broken ankle in the operating room.

Nearly 40 years later, Braverman has his own private surgery practice along with Dr. Jeff Wadley and Dr. Trevor Beckham, and on July 1 quietly recognized his 30th year working as a general surgeon. In addition to his private practice, Braverman serves as Chief of Staff of the medical team at Bothwell Regional Health Center, a role his father also held. He also is an assistant clinical professor of surgery at the University of Missouri School of Medicine, teaching students during their clinical rotations at Bothwell. 

While not just anyone can scrub into surgeries anymore, the time-honored traditions of teaching and mentoring still stand. Braverman’s teaching responsibilities have brought him into contact with countless students aspiring to be physicians, a role he relishes. 

“I always like to teach, and I love having students, yet it’s not my job to teach them how to be surgeons,” Braverman said. “My job is to provide them with information they’ll need if they don’t become surgeons and teach them what every doctor should know … how to evaluate a patient, how to think critically, how to problem solve.”

Madison Bulger was one of three Mizzou medical students who were the first to participate in the School of Medicine’s Longitudinal Integrated Clerkship (LINC) program at Bothwell last year. Bulger wants to be a general surgeon and said she specifically chose Bothwell in hopes of obtaining hands-on surgical experience.

“I had a whole year to work with the general surgery department and improve my surgical technical skills and clinical decision making, where most third-year medical students in traditional programs have around eight weeks to rotate with surgery,” she said. “I was able to go from having zero surgical clinical or operative experience to scrubbing into over 250 cases – most of which I was first assistant and some of which I was able to lead.”

Bulger said she gives credit to Braverman and Wadley for scoring in the 100th percentile on her surgical shelf exam, which measures specialty knowledge and is recorded on transcripts and residency applications. 

“My score was a direct reflection of the great teachers they are and the literally hundreds of hours they invested in my education,” she said. “My experience at Bothwell was so valuable because it allowed me to experience the rigors and responsibilities of a surgical intern a year before starting my surgical residency, which comes after graduating from medical school.”

Bulger is in her fourth and final year of medical school and is currently completing a surgical ICU rotation at MU Health Care. After that, she will be a general surgery visiting student at the University of Washington in Seattle.

“Every day I worked with Dr. Braverman, I learned something,” Bulger said. “I hope that one day I can teach and have as big an impact on others as he did on me.”

While his father may have been his first clinical instructor, Braverman also counts other physicians like Dr. Bill Cole, the first doctor to perform open heart surgery at Bothwell, Dr. John Brazos, who practiced as a urologist in Sedalia from 1962 to 1982, and Dr. Phillip Hornbostel, his first partner in general surgery practice, as his professional mentors. 

“It’s important to give back, and teaching someone else is a way to honor the people who taught me,” he said. “It’s just fantastic to watch them mature and grow.”

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