Supporting Lifelong Education of Surgeons and Students

Libby and Walter Furlow, MD
Libby and Leonard Furlow, MD

For Leonard Furlow, MD, medical education is a lifetime passion. The retired Gainesville plastic and reconstructive surgeon and his wife, Libby, are longtime supporters of the University of Florida.

“We feel strongly about giving back to the places where we were educated,” said Furlow, who completed his plastic and reconstructive surgical residency at UF in 1969. He was on the faculty for six years, including one year as the acting chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, before leaving to open a private practice.

In 2011, the couple was instrumental in establishing the Maurice J. Jurkiewicz Professorship in Reconstructive Plastic Surgery, in honor of Furlow’s professor and mentor. Jurkiewicz, who trained Furlow as a resident, came to the UF College of Medicine as chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery in 1959. In 1964, he instituted its residency program in plastic surgery and remained at UF until 1993.

Bruce Mast, MD, a professor and chief of plastic and reconstructive surgery, currently holds the endowed professorship. Mast said the Jurkiewicz professorship fosters research and education, facilitating attendance and presentation of research at various conferences and meetings. The resources have also supported research projects, he noted, allowing high-level academic pursuits that often involve residents and medical students.

“As such, the regional and national exposure of the UF plastic and reconstructive surgery program has increased tremendously,” Mast said. Most recently, the Jurkiewicz professorship has supported a study on outcomes research aimed at reducing hospital readmissions after plastic surgery. The work will be presented at the Southeastern Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons conference in June 2016.

“It’s important for surgeons to connect with their peers and hear about research and practice at other institutions — nationally and internationally,” Furlow said. “Learning from colleagues and hearing different perspectives on treatment helps them to become better doctors, piques their curiosity, makes them think and broadens their perspectives.”

Although Furlow is retired from full-time practice, he continues to contribute to his field. “Reconstructive plastic surgery was an interest I couldn’t get over. I had the opportunity to keep practicing by volunteering on overseas trips, which was a wonderful experience,” he said. He recently wrote a chapter for a book, edited by Mast, on plastic and reconstructive surgeries, and he also participates in an academic journal club.

As a volunteer surgeon, Furlow made more than 50 mission trips to Central and South America, Africa and Asia, repairing children’s cleft lips and palates. He stopped performing surgeries about six years ago. He also backs the Furlow-Bingham Plastic Surgery Education Endowment, a fund that supports the education of UF plastic surgery residents — including conference attendance.

“Education is a lifelong pursuit, and we hope to instill that habit while doctors are still in residencies,” he said. “As residents keep going to meetings, they realize that they can contribute. We can help to build the next generation of surgeons.”