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Facial plastics fellow to get well-rounded training

After years of planning to create the perfect platform for a comprehensive facial plastics and reconstructive surgery fellowship, Houston Methodist is poised to welcome David Rengifo, MD, this summer as the inaugural trainee. Rengifo is completing his residency training in Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery at the University of Florida Medical School. “We’ve been working toward a fellowship for many years. Now is the perfect time where we can train a fellow with the full breadth and depth of what facial plastic surgery has to offer,” said Anthony Brissett, MD, vice chair of Houston Methodist’s Department of Otolaryngology — Head & Neck Surgery and director of the fellowship program. “David is the perfect match for us. He is a problem-solver and also a leader. He will help us find what’s working well and what can be better,” said Brissett whose co-director of the new fellowship is Angela Sturm, a private practice physician who was mentored by Brissett when she was a medical student and resident.
David Rengifo, MD
Left to right: Anthony Brissett, MD; David Rengifo, MD; and Angela Sturm, MD.
Sturm said the fellowship aligned with the growth of her practice to provide the wide breadth of training both Sturm and Brissett wanted to provide to best prepare their fellows for practice. “We want to treat our patients like they are our brother or sister, a relative who is important and whose feelings and ideas are important,” said Sturm who has certifications with the American Board of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery and the American Board of Facial Plastic Surgery. During her medical training, Sturm received numerous awards for surgical excellence, including the top medical student research prize from the National Academy of Otolaryngology. She said her private practice, located near the Texas Medical Center, is all about the patient experience.
Sturm said she kept in touch with Brissett, and he occasionally would ask her about helping train future practitioners. Now that her practice is thriving and she has learned much from her experiences, she felt ready to help train the upcoming fellow. Brissett and Sturm both said new fellow Rengifo expressed the same caring component the department wants to see in their trainees. “Trauma or cancer can cause deficits in a life that are more than the ones you can see,” said Rengifo who will move to Houston after he completes his residency this summer at University of Florida in Gainesville. “Reconstruction gives people back an incredible amount of quality of life.”
One day, after months of physical therapy and surgery, to be able to have a face that resembles what they had before and how they see themselves and others see them, that’s what I want to see happen to my patients. Every aspect of medicine is important, but giving a person back his quality of life is what drew me to this field and now Houston.
David Rengifo, MD
Facial Plastics Inaugural Trainee and Fellow
Rengifo received his medical degree from Drexel University College of Medicine in Philadelphia after completing his undergraduate study in biochemistry and cellular molecular biology at the University of Tennessee in Knoxville. Brissett, Sturm and Rengifo all touched on the comprehensive nature of Houston Methodist’s program as well as goals for diversity in trainee selection and in training itself. Brissett said fellowship training will include all aspects of facial plastics and reconstruction, focusing on cosmetics, reconstruction, research and education. “We will augment our concept of scaffolding in the clinic and operating room where we continue to build upon educating learners with varying experiences. We will have depth as well as breadth in our training,” Brissett said, pointing out the fellow also will have the opportunity to work with the prison population at the University of Texas Medical Branch and the Texas Department of Correction. “There are a handful of fellowships that offer a comprehensive training experience, and we definitely fall into that category,” he said.
Faculty members from Houston Methodist’s Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Division who will participate in fellowship training include:
  • Fred J. Bressler, MD, FACS, who came to academics after more than 30 years of private practice experience in reconstructive and cosmetic surgery of the face, head and neck using innovative surgical techniques.
  • Joshua J. Kain, MD, who focuses on head and neck surgical oncology, skull base and microvascular reconstructive surgery as well as surgery using Methodist’s DaVinci Robot.
  • Laura Minhui Kim, MD, MSc, also specializing in head and neck oncology, skull base and microvascular reconstruction surgery and
  • Amina Malik, MD, specializing in oculoplastic surgery.
Rengifo will spend his first couple of months at Houston Methodist working with Drs. Brissett, Bressler, Kain and Kim. Then, he will move on to Drs. Sturm and Malik focusing on office-based procedures and ocular surgeries. “The second six months, the fellow will have more flexibility to choose what areas they would like to focus on as they prepare to graduate and develop their practice,” Brissett said. The physicians said they will continue to recruit trainees who want to have a comprehensive experience and fellows who may have a desire for a unique training experience. “I am looking for places where we can fill a void and a medical need,” Brissett said. “I’ve envisioned this program over many years but have waited until all of the pieces were in place. It certainly helps that we have an overwhelmingly supportive chairman who offers a lot of encouragement and direction.” Mas Takashima, MD, FACS, is chair of the Department of Otolaryngology — Head and Neck Surgery. Sturm recalls how she decided to enter the field of plastic surgery and reconstruction when she first worked with Brissett during her own training. “I walked into the room and Brissett was taking part of a child’s rib and making a nose. I thought immediately, ‘That’s what I want to do for someone,’” she said.