Global craniofacial surgeons’ meeting in Dallas with Dr Salyer.
A Long Journey Down Memory Lane for a Great Legacy: A Mission Impossible to Achieve Global Craniofacial Surgery
This special issue of the journal is in dedication to the memory of the great global surgeon of our time, Dr Ken Salyer
‘‘Wisdom comes not from age but from education and learning.’’—A. Chekhov
‘‘The noblest question in the world is: what good may I do in it?’’—B. Franklin
The famous Russian physician, playwright and writer Anton Chekhov wrote that as we age and celebrate a new year, it is a reminder that we are always getting nearer to the cemetery where we all are going to be eventually after our short journey on this planet comes to an end. He also posited that perhaps we have a hundred senses that we carry all the time and perhaps it only five disappear after death, with the other ninety-five staying behind. This is where good deeds and service to humanity will keep the spirit glowing. One day we are here, and the next day comes, and we are gone. The pain is going to be for those in our immediate circle who realize that they cannot communicate with us anymore. What is left behind will be the good deeds to determine an eternal legacy. The good, the bad, and the ugly will compete. What wins will be there forever.
As we were working hard on this special issue of the journal, Ken was getting his contribution finalized. The managing editor of the journal was with him virtually the night before, going over last touch-ups and tweaks. The work in progress was not completed, and there was no response the next day to finish it. We looked into it, knowing that it was atypical of the great surgeon, and received the sad news. This situation progressed over the next two weeks until Ken passed away to heaven, a smile on his face to seemingly tell us to please continue and that he will be watching over us, and to not forget to pursue excellence like he always demanded.
Dr Salyer and myself had paths crossed accidentally the first time, where else but at the great clinic in the Midwest in the late sixties. I was with my big professional brother as I called him, for he was in the same training program I was having my training in, way before me, and Ken was there for a special mission. We clicked together. The rest is history. We subsequently traveled together, teaching in Russia, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, Africa, and South America, helping patients with congenital deformities, oncologic problems, and trauma. We worked together and with different teams. We were together as much as time allowed in visits with royalties, presidents, and prime ministers after surgery and teaching sessions. Ken trained surgeons from other countries as well as surgeons he trained in their own countries. Ken would often ask them to visit with me in Tampa to observe surgeries.
Ken was a teacher, a researcher (his early work on bone grafts and bone substitutes was a landmark), and above all, he was a global surgeon. It all started with being an on-call surgeon when JFK was brought to the ER of his hospital. Documentaries show him as the surgeon in charge. Ken had a mission to help patients and correct deformities as well as cross barriers. The first craniofacial surgery educational program started in the mid-seventies when all the giants of our time gathered in Dallas to see him perform his surgical correction of a deformed child. Ken’s goal was to form a foundation to help defray the cost of children’s deformities across the globe if they do not have the means. He succeeded, and the World Craniofacial Foundation is a beacon of philanthropy to help all those around the world that need corrective surgical procedure.
We could fill the whole issue of the journal with Ken’s honors and accolades. He would call the Journal of Craniofacial Surgery our baby, and say it was our job to see it thrive and to grow the journal. Ken was on the editorial board from the start until the day he parted, a legacy we will remember. He will be an emeritus board member forever to continue his legacy of education on a global arena with equity and equality to all.
Ken, we will all miss you, your encouragements, your aspiration, your inspirations, your contributions, and your smile as well as your kindness to the patients. The many patients around the world you helped will be shedding tears; they love you so much. Your mentees will be passing your legacy to the new generation. Following this note from me will be a mentee expressing on behalf of all the rest of us, from the governor of one of our states to the far shores of the land of the rising sun. That was a true mission impossible, well achieved during your journey between the World Craniofacial Foundation and global craniofacial surgery. We will continue to be sad, remembering half a century of close friendship and exchange of information, teaching and research, however your spirit will be with us forever.
It is important also to note that we have chosen different recent pics of Dr Salyer to be placed in this special dedicated issue of the journal, as a reminder of the dedication of the journal to the legacy that will be here for all time, and this issue’s theme is for his favored work, craniofacial surgery as well as cleft surgery.
Mutaz B. Habal, MD, FICS, FRCSC, FACS
Tampa, Florida, USA
The Journal of Craniofacial Surgery Volume 32, Number 2, March/April 2021