Dr. McLain Speaks about why he does what he does…
I have always been creative. In my formative years I was continually drawing, building, designing and imagining. I was fortunate enough to have an artistic eye and steady hand at an early age. I won a few small art fairs in elementary school and was convinced I would become some sort of artist as an adult. However, I also had a profound interest in science… particularly biology, human anatomy and physiology. Initially this seemed to be at odds with my more artistic, right brained side. So in my adolescent years, there was an escalating internal struggle for how best to handle these differing parts of my persona. Although I did well in school and was a good athlete, I always felt a bit off or at least a bit different than many of my peers. I occasionally split time between the “artistic” crowd, who were not always the most popular kids and the the “jocks” who were. Don’t get me wrong, I was well adjusted and stayed out of trouble, I just felt a little bit like a fence straddler so to speak. This internal divide continued a bit through college. I was fortunate enough to play college baseball, which payed for most of my school, and although a wonderful experience, I knew my athletic ability wasn’t going to pay for anything else. I majored in chemistry (it was one less 3-hour lab than biology and was a bit of a rarity for an athlete) and minored in art (I considered it as a major but there were about 10 more 3+ hour studio sessions versus 3-hour chemistry labs) all the while knowing I would pursue a career in something completely different. That was when I did a one month rotation with 2 very prominent plastic/cosmetic surgeons as part of our January mini-term. While many college kids went to build homes in Africa, sail a ship in the Caribbean, track wolves in Minnesota, or critique pubs and plays in London… I decided to spend several weeks with Dr. James Grotting and Dr. Gaylon McCollough at their expansive downtown office.
The seed must have been planted at that time. I remember the artistry in the orchestrated dance of instruments, suture and skilled hands. I had seen 2 of the most accomplished surgeons of their time. I suspected then I would be a surgeon myself. Truthfully, I fought it a bit. The proposition of school and training into my thirties was not particularly exciting, especially for someone who never really liked school. Again do not mistake me… I always excelled in school and tested very high at all levels, but to say I always enjoyed it would be to tell a lie. Then again, I have always been a glutton for punishment. The first surgery I ever saw was a jaw repositioning surgery done by an oral and maxillofacial surgeon. I remember being fascinated that he had both a dental and a medical degree. I didn’t know that was even possible at the time. He had a wide array of knowledge that seemed impossible to accomplish, but I wanted to see if I was up to the task. Part 2 next time.
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