Imagine a forest. A stand of trees is likely the image that comes to mind — tall, stately, majestic … Mother Nature, showing off. But a forest is much more than what is visible. In fact, Mother Nature knows as well as those with the greenest thumbs that the magic of the sky-high forest, relies on the secret goings-on, underground. Some scientists call it the “wood wide web” — a deep root system and interconnected fungal network that allows trees to communicate for the better health of the woods.
Mature species — “Mother Trees” as they are called — use the network to nourish shaded seedlings until they’re tall enough to reach the light. Fir trees and birch trees engage the web to support the fair trade of nutrients; evergreens shuttle sugars to the deciduous during the winter months, before calling in a return favor come spring. Signs of a pending drought, fire, or disease? The message is cast far and wide, tree to tree.
I chose to title this year’s State of the Department, “Roots and Blooms,” inspired by the forest, where examples of mentorship, servant leadership, and good citizenship are plenty, and where the value of the work underground, if not the work itself, is obvious: healthier trees, greater diversity, and improved resilience.
The State of the Department is a yearly opportunity to admire the fruits of our labor – our measurable growth, and individual successes. It is also an opportunity to acknowledge the invaluable, sometimes invisible “root work” that anchors our short-and long-term success and supports the magic of our mission.
Nita Ahuja MD MBA FACS
Chair, Department of Surgery