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Dr. John Persing Retires, Following 30 Years Leading Plastic Surgery at Yale

July 06, 2021
by Cecelia Smith

June 30, 2021 marked the end of an era for Yale Surgery, and the beginning of another, as Division Chief of Plastic & Reconstructive Surgery, Dr. John A. Persing, retired from the position after nearly 30 years, and passed the leadership torch to Dr. Bohdan Pomahac.

Limited by lingering pandemic restrictions and reinforced by Dr. Persing’s clear directive — “Don’t make a fuss, please ... — colleagues honored the occasion with a modest 30-minute get together in FMB115, with most guests joining via Zoom.

“There’s no way to honor, properly, Dr. Persing’s 29 years of incredible contributions to our patients, to the team at Yale, and to our field,” Dr. Pomahac said. “It’s ironic that it has all come to a crescendo with a low-key Zoom — yet somehow it is perfect way to honor John’s humble and deliberate leadership that spans generations.”

Dr. Persing was appointed Chief in 1992 and has since grown plastic surgery at Yale into a multi-disciplinary academic enterprise, with novel programs across the state, including wound healing, craniofacial surgery, melanoma care, muscle reinnervation, breast reconstruction, gender affirmation surgery, and cutting-edge research in machine learning and 3D printing.

In 2019, Dr. Persing established the Dr. Deepak Narayan Traveling Scholarship. The late Melanoma Program Director had been a resident of Dr. Persing’s at Yale, who rose the ranks to full Professor within the institution. Dr. Narayan died in 2018 from complications of cancer. The Stephen Ariyan lectureship, also established under Dr. Persing’s tenure, honors preceding Division Chief, Dr. Stephan Ariyan, who attended the affair in-person.

“Our division has taken on all different stripes and colors over the years, but we have always remained family; and that’s something that we owe to [Dr. Persing],” said Dr. Ariyan.

Program Director, Dr. Henry Hsia, together with trainees at the event, unveiled the Persing Cup, an honor to be presented annually to the winner of the Teaching Award. Dr. Jim Clune will hold the trophy its debut year.

Dr. Persing’s own surgical career, as a lead expert in craniofacial deformities, vascular malformations, and cosmetic surgery of the face and body, has earned him an international reputation in the field. He has been President of the Plastic Surgery Foundation, the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons, the Association of Academic Chairmen of Plastic Surgery, the American Association of Pediatric Plastic Surgeons, the American Association of Plastic Surgeons, and served as Chair of the American Board of Plastic Surgery.

“Dr. Persing really didn’t want us do anything for his retirement, but I reminded him that he still reported to me, and that he had to,” Department of Surgery Chair, Dr. Nita Ahuja joked.

“It is poignant the way that it worked out — on the heels of an unprecedented pandemic, in the same conference room that’s served the Department for decades, now outfitted with next-gen cameras and microphones for telework, with three generations of Chiefs connected in the same space. It is that reverence for our history, and open-minded skepticism for the future that made Dr. Persing such a great leader and bridge-builder, and will continue to inspire us all.”

Submitted by Cecelia Smith on July 06, 2021