From Student to Director of Student Affairs, Dr. Lawrence Burgess Retires

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When Dr. Lawrence Burgess graduated from the John A. Burns School of Medicine in 1980, there was no indication the otolaryngologist (ear, nose, throat surgeon) would return to make the widespread and lasting impact he's had over the last 22 years.

Throughout his 44-year career as a physician, Dr. Burgess held some of the highest positions in the U.S. Army. He was the Chief of the Division of Otolaryngology, Chief of the Department of Surgery, and Consultant to the Surgeon General of the Army for Otolaryngology.  He has published 70 peer-reviewed articles, one book, seven book chapters, two websites, and 54 abstracts. His primary areas of research were in  laryngeal reconstruction, scars and wound healing, steroid therapy, telehealth, and advanced healthcare technologies. 

In 2002, he retired from Tripler Army Medical Center and circled back to his alma mater, where he immediately made an impact as the Associate Dean for Clinical Affairs. Dr. Burgess was also the director of the Telehealth Research Institute and was ultimately responsible for launching unique simulation training programs like JABSOM's SimTiki. Dr. Burgess would take on other roles, like Director of Government Affairs and Director of Medical Student Education Surgery. The full circle moment came seven years ago when he became the Director of Student Affairs.

"Being able to work directly with students again gives closure to your career," Dr. Burgess said. "You start as a student, and then you go back to helping the students directly to assist them in graduating and preparing for a career as a physician. That's complete closure in my book.  I really enjoyed it."

Dr. Burgess is retiring after more than two decades of serving JABSOM and its students. Many on the campus celebrated his achievements with a lunchtime ceremony on May 31st.

"After he retired from Tripler, Dr. Burgess came to help start the Telehealth Research Institute," said Interim Dean Lee Buenconsejo-Lum, MD. "That's how we got SimTiki and all of our simulation centers, which are now essential to how we teach medical students."

Being the initial developer of SimTiki is just one of the lasting impacts Dr. Burgess will have. For the last 11 years, he has been the co-chair of JABSOM's Internal Giving Campaign. Since its inception, the IGC has raised more than $7 million for more than 100 different funds at the medical school. Dr. Burgess has provided personal funding to match faculty/staff donor giving during this time frame.

"Through his philanthropy as well as his cheerleading and encouraging internal giving, Dr. Burgess has been a tremendous champion for our school," Buenconsejo-Lum said.

While his legacy will include those achievements, Dr. Burgess is proud of his seven years as Director of Student Affairs.

"It's about showing students the way," Dr. Burgess said. "One of my old professors said it's best to teach them how to fish, not catch a fish for them. We show them what they need to do; most students will fill that gap and get there. I think it's the encouragement and showing what needs to be done. Their natural abilities will take over."

Working with thousands of students throughout the years, Dr. Burgess shares his one piece of consistent advice: "I tell students who go on rotation to learn from the good and the bad. That's how you become a better physician," he said. "Learn from positive and negative role modeling. Internalize both, so you make your own path based on your personality and who you are."

As Dr. Burgess departs JABSOM, he looks forward to cherishing the moments that can get overlooked throughout a hectic yet fulfilling career.  

"When you're a physician and doing this job, there's just so many things going on. You always have to tell your family and friends that there is a lot going on at the moment, ‘be patient with me,’" Dr. Burgess said.  "Now, I'm looking forward to having more time to enjoy more of those moments in life with family and friends. So each moment is living the dream."

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Happy Retirement Dr. Lawrence Burgess!