Featured Alumni: Carolyn Rogers-Vizena

Catch up with Carolyn Rogers-Vizena, MD, a graduate of our plastic surgery residency.

  1. What year did you graduate as a fellow/resident?

I graduated in 2012 as a resident.

  1. What was your area of surgical focus during your time here?

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery.

  1. What is your current position and the healthcare organization for which you work? Any surgical specialty areas or duties you want to include? 

Currently, I’m an Attending Plastic and Oral Surgeon at Boston Children’s Hospital and Assistant Professor of Surgery at Harvard Medical School. My practice is pretty diversely pediatric, but my main interests are cleft lip and palate, non-cleft velopharyngeal dysfunction (speech problems), adolescent breast surgery, and spina bifida. Outside of the clinical realm, I have two main academic pursuits. I work closely with the Boston Children’s Hospital simulator program expanding and validating our use of 3-D printing and high fidelity simulation in Plastic Surgery. In addition, I lead our department’s implementation of standardized cleft outcomes measurement and collaborate with a group of institutions around the world to set benchmarks that cleft programs should achieve.

  1. Reflecting on your time at the Wisconsin Department of Surgery, what do you believe helped you prepare for the surgical career you have now?

The people are what made Wisconsin Surgery special and brought me to where I am today. I was privileged to train with faculty, fellows, and co-residents who led by example, putting patients first, looking out for their team, and many of whom are leaders in their respective fields.

  1. What is a fond or funny memory you have that brings a smile to your face when you think about your time at Wisconsin Surgery?

This prompted a fun trip down memory lane! There are so many good memories. One is Christmas as the trauma junior: we had a brief lull in an otherwise busy day during which Ann O’Rourke (then trauma chief) ordered Chinese takeout for the team and we watched a movie in one of the conference rooms before the action returned full force. It remains one of my favorite Christmases. Another is the University Plastic Surgery service with Summer Hanson and Andy Altman. We often spent Friday night cleaning up the remains of the week, and this so-bad-its-almost good YouTube music video “Rebecca Black-Friday” became something of our theme song. Embarrassingly, I could probably still sing it start to finish. And I would be remiss not to mention meeting my husband, Jon, during a syndactyly repair with Dr. Bentz as a chief resident. Thanks boss — I owe you one!

  1. If you work with residents or fellows in your current surgical role, how do you pass along the values and lessons learned during your Wisconsin experience to a new generation of surgical trainees?

Though I hadn’t labeled it at the time, the concept I now try to employ of attending as “Surgical Coach” rather than pedagogical teacher stems from my time at UW. Drs. Salyapongse and Mount both modeled this strategy, helping me focus on one or two key aspects of an operation at a time (eg. “taking it apart” during a cleft lip repair) with practical instruction in the moment followed by post hoc discussion. The value of this approach is that it adapts teaching to the individual adult learner and builds confidence to try again even when things didn’t go well. “Coaching” has become my main teaching strategy in the operating room and the foundation of how I debrief with residents after simulation.

  1. Do you stay in touch with any of the Wisconsin Surgery residents or fellows with whom you trained? Any faculty? If so, whom and why?

Dr. Mount was an amazing mentor during residency and I am privileged to now call her both a mentor and friend. She has been there for me professionally and personally, and I doubt I’d be involved in academic craniofacial surgery without her example to follow. It’s also been fun to cross paths with co-residents like Nyama Sillah-Doyle when she spent time training in Boston or others annually at ASPS. Watching colleagues’ careers grow and develop is really satisfying—I’m blessed to have trained with talented people!

  1. Is there any other information you’d like to share to let your fellow alums know what you’re up to? 

During training, co-residents and faculty all knew my trusty sidekick and dog, Bruiser. He’s still alive and kicking at 14 years old and has had quite an illustrious life for a chihuahua. Jon and I added another dog, Gretchen, shortly after we got married 7 years ago, and most recently added our daughter Madelyn to the “pack.” We spend free time hiking in the mountains and occasionally skiing, so hopefully Maddy will enjoy fresh air as much as we do! Our last big hiking trip pre-COVID was to Glacier National Park and we hope to someday semi-retire to nearby Whitefish, MT. I’ve been obsessed with that town for years!