Featured Alumni: Joe Platz, MD

What year did you graduate as a fellow/resident, and what was your area of surgical focus?
I graduated from the Cardiothoracic Surgery Fellowship in 2019.

What is your current position and the healthcare organization for which you work? Any surgical specialty areas or duties you want to include?
I’m an assistant professor of cardiothoracic surgery at St. Louis University. I’m also the lead specialty student advisor. This means I mentor MS3s who are interested in surgery, and then as MS4s, help them through the application process and write letters of recommendation. Lastly, I’m the Chief of Surgery at SSM St. Mary, close to campus here in St. Louis!

Reflecting on your time at the Wisconsin Department of Surgery, what do you believe helped you prepare for the surgical career you have now?
From a professional standpoint, Wisconsin has great balance of high acuity and excellent resources, but also a Midwest attitude that focuses on learners and isn’t overly harsh or brutal; for me, it was a good mix. I was able to get comfortable and confident but still get the exposure needed to become a great surgeon. Specifically for cardiothoracic surgery, Wisconsin did not have a huge program, with only one person per year, but this environment worked for me, allowing me to really get to know my colleagues and mentors. Additionally, despite the size, the program and division still had the acuity to allow complex exposure including a large amount of transplant and ECMO. Because UW-Madison had such a large catchment area, I saw such a wide variety of cases from rural areas shipped into Madison, a set up similar to what I have in St. Louis.

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?
I remember one of my mentors/professors, Dr. Maloney, who I worked with quite a bit. We would enjoy our time in the OR, learning, operating, and listening to often eclectic music mixes. In clinic, it felt like we were seeing 40 patients in four hours, but the chaos seemed to somehow always lead to learning and fun. In general, some of my fondest memories were just spending time with our CT team, whether nurses, residents, PAs, co-fellows, or attendings.

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?
We have no fellows, but I have four general surgery residents I work with every month, from intern to fourth year, and we are doing clinical, on-the-floor, and in-the-OR education, which is something I love. The residents are part of the school’s general surgery residency, and they do quite a bit of work with the University Thoracic Service, as well as at the General Surgery service at St. Mary’s which includes Thoracic. Some of my teaching has developed from the last four years here in St. Louis, but much of it comes from residency in Vermont and my fellowship at Wisconsin; you teach what you’ve learned and highlight what you’ve taken from mentors like Drs. Maloney, McCarthy, and DeCamp.

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?
I text with Dr. Maloney here and there, often just to reach out, and I’ve seen Dr. DeCamp at a number of conferences. I keep in touch with other fellows I trained with, like CJ Park, who interestingly went into cardiac, but found himself in general cardiothoracic, so was being reacquainted to lungs and the esophagus; he would occasionally bounce cases off of me. Clint, my junior in fellowship, and I talked a bunch and saw each other in March at a conference. Additionally, as he was preparing for oral boards, I helped him prep. Lastly, another fellow I met here at UW, Vidya Fleetwood, is here at SLU in the Department of Transplant.

Is there any other information you’d like to share to let your fellow alums know what you’re up to?
Life is good! I found a way to replicate what I love about Madison, being at a medium-sized academic hospital with a great community, though I miss the cold weather up north, being from Maine and training in Vermont and Wisconsin. I had my first kid in fellowship and am now up to three. It’s been busy!