Department celebrates three retiring surgeons

The UF Department of Surgery celebrated the careers of three of its surgeons during a retirement celebration on June 16. “This is really immeasurable and unique,” said Chairman Kevin E. Behrns, MD, of the contributions given and advances made throughout the years by Richard J. Howard, MD, PhD, W. Robert Rout, MD, and M. Brent Seagle, MD.

Each surgeon – whom have dedicated more than or close to 25 years of service to the UF College of Medicine – offered their insight and wisdom to current faculty and residents during a special grand rounds lecture.

Family was one point emphasized by Howard, a professor of surgery who has led the UF/Shands Transplant Center for more than 15 years. “Put your family first, before your job – not your patients – but before your job,” he said, noting that your family will support you always, even during the hard times. He also advised to beware of ‘experts,’ saying do not to let the ideas of how some people think hold you back in your efforts. Howard, the Robert H. and Kathleen M. Axline Professor of Surgery, joined UF in 1979. He has held numerous leadership roles, including chief of the division of transplantation. He is a leader in the field of surgical infections and an advocate for boosting organ donation rates.

Rout, an associate professor of surgery who brought many laparoscopic firsts to UF, reflected on how success is a team sport. “Any successes that I have experienced in my career are due to a great number of teachers, friends, medical colleagues, students, house officers, nurses, operating room and hospital staff, and patients,” he said. Rout concluded with encouraging service to our country, “We are here today because of a long line of citizens who have sacrificed life, prosperity and reputation for an ideal. We honor their burial grounds and celebrate holidays in their memory. The highest form of praise is to step in that line – each in our own way – and continue their efforts.”

Rout, who joined UF in 1985, also served as chief of surgery at the Malcom Randall Veterans Affairs Medical Center during his tenure. He was one of the first in Florida to perform a laparoscopic cholecystectomy, and the first in the state to perform a TEM, transanal endoscopic microsurgical, resection of a rectal tumor.

Seagle, an associate professor and chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, emphasized education saying that when asked what he does for a living, “I tell them I’m a school teacher – and I believe in my heart that’s what I am – and I am proud of that.” He also emphasized the importance of how physicians communicate with their patients, saying you can stand in the doorway and talk for 15 minutes and the patient will feel like you want to leave the entire time, but if you go to their beside, take their hand and look into their eyes, even if you are only there 30 seconds, you will make a big difference.

Seagle who joined UF in 1986, also has served as co-director of the UF Craniofacial Center for more than two decades. He has dedicated his time and talents to helping children in underserved countries including, Russia, Angola and Honduras by providing much needed surgical care for patients with disfiguring congenital birth defects such as cleft lips and palates.

During an afternoon retirement reception, Behrns recognized them as three of the best educators within the department, saying, “We will allow them some respite, but we will be calling on them for their expertise.”

College of Medicine Dean Michael Good, MD, said he has had the honor to work with all three surgeons and each has helped to shape his life and clinical practice.