Scott Thomas Hollenbeck, MD, FACS began serving as the chair of the Department of Plastic and Maxillofacial Surgery on November 28, 2022. He came to UVA School of Medicine from Duke University/Duke Health, having served as Vice Chief of Research for the Division of Plastic, Maxillofacial, and Oral Surgery, director of The Human Fresh Tissue Lab, director of Breast Reconstruction, and director of the world-renowned Duke Flap Course.
Dr. Hollenbeck earned his medical degree from The Ohio State University, then completed his residency in surgery at New York-Presbyterian – Cornell and a research fellowship in wound healing and vascular biology at Weill Cornell Medical College. He subsequently completed a residency in plastic surgery at Duke University Medical Center
We recently sat down with Dr. Hollenbeck to find out more about why he chose to come to UVA, the importance of innovation in his field, and more.
Q: Why did you choose the UVA School of Medicine Department of Plastic Surgery?
A: Interestingly, the very first Department of Plastic Surgery in the United States was founded in 1970 at the University of Virginia under the leadership of an iconic Plastic Surgeon named Milton Edgerton. There is a strong tradition of excellence in the department that I really appreciate and value. Still, there are opportunities for growth and evolution. This applies to how we want to expand our perspectives, engage our communities, educate our trainees, and fund our initiatives. There are so many challenges facing Academic Medical Centers right now. In my opinion, the leadership within UVA Health and the School of Medicine is leading the way towards the future of healthcare. I wanted to be a part of this transformational time at both UVA Health and within the Department of Plastic Surgery.
Q. Why academic medicine?
A: Outside of helping patients and performing surgery; my two favorite professional activities are research and teaching. These activities are fundamental to the mission of academic medicine. Research allows a surgeon to impact populations that are beyond their immediate reach. This might include advancing the basic understanding of disease or injury recovery or improving clinical process and care. I have always had a passion for innovation and trying to improve the patient experience and clinical care. Likewise, teaching has been one of the greatest joys of my professional career. There is tremendous gratification in guiding a learner through a complex process and watching them develop and begin to believe in themselves.
Q. Why did you choose your specialty?
A: One of my core beliefs is that plastic surgery can bring great value to a health system, patients, and our communities. I base this on my experience dealing with many difficult clinical situations where patients are suffering from disfigurement or dysfunction of their body. These situations may also have a significant amount of emotional distress which can impact families and support systems. Patients can have very long and difficult journeys dealing with some of these issues. Plastic surgeons are uniquely focused on these types of medical problems and share in the patients struggle, sometimes through multiple surgeries over multiple years. The gratification of applying advanced technical skills and emotional support to help a patient triumph over this type of adversity is the essence of what it means to be a plastic surgeon.
Q. What’s the most exciting thing happening in your field right now?
A: Plastic Surgery is a field that thrives off innovation. In fact, the first human kidney transplant was performed by a plastic surgeon in Boston named Joseph E. Murray. He went on to help develop the field of transplantation, and in 1990 received the Nobel Prize in Medicine for this achievement. Numerous other innovations have occurred and are occurring in plastic surgery such that it’s hard to pick one. In my mind, the area with the most potential applications remains tissue engineering. The fields of nanotechnology, artificial intelligence and biomaterials has progressed so fast that it remains a matter of time before we can reliably deliver “engineered smart tissue” for therapeutic or regenerative purposes. On the other end of the spectrum is the equally important work that is being done by many to reduce the costs of plastic surgery care, improve access and improve outcomes. High tech innovation of tissues and equitable delivery of sustainable care are the two most exciting and complementary opposite things happening in our field right now.
Q. What are some goals you would like to achieve during your time at UVA SOM?
A: Our primary goal will be to enhance the role of Plastic Surgery as a valued member of the Health System, School of Medicine, and the community. This means being good stewards of resources, helping to make UVA a wonderful place to work and providing the best medical care possible. The department currently has a great team of dedicated Plastic Surgeons, Physician Assistants, Nurse Practitioners, and support staff which create a solid foundation for growth. In addition to these clinical goals, we will prioritize teaching and education of our medical students and residents and remain focused on making UVA Plastic Surgery one of the most sought-after residency programs in the country. Finally, we will look to build our research portfolio with key programs in biomaterial integration, tissue inflammation, and healthcare decision making and utilization.
Q. What’s your favorite part of your job or motivates you to get out of bed in the morning?
A: For many years I was focused on my own career and making an individual impact. At this stage, I am energized by helping others develop their skills and find meaning and joy in their work.
Q. What is one thing you wish your patients or co-workers knew about you before they met you? Or what is one thing that may surprise people to learn about you?
A: I guess I can come across as intense, driven and stern. Inside I am a deeply caring and compassionate person, I like to think I am a “nice guy.”
Q. If you could give your younger self one piece of advice, what would it be?
A: Don’t look at things in absolutes. There are always different perspectives and different frames for every situation. Things don’t always have to be the way they were.
Q. How do you spend your time away from work? Hobbies?
A: Most of my free time is spent with family. We enjoy outdoor adventures together and trying new restaurants. Also, when my kids were younger, I enjoyed coaching them in little league baseball. It was one of the coolest things I ever did as a parent and taught me the value of scheduling important family events on your calendar.
Filed Under: Faculty