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Going 'whole hog': Dad's illness fueled career

Article-Going 'whole hog': Dad's illness fueled career

Jay Burns, M.D., F.A.C.S., says that when he decides to do something, he goes whole hog.

A. Jay Burns, M.D.
The plastic surgeon and assistant professor of surgery at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas, is drawn to high technology. In his profession of plastic surgery, Dr. Burns stands out for his work in lasers. He he has more than a dozen in his practice. Dr. Burns is consultant, he says, to just about all the laser technology companies; he lectures worldwide on their use; and will become president of the American Society for Laser Medicine and Surgery in 2006, after completing terms of vice president and president-elect.

One of his favorite hobbies is video editing. He started using a video camera while enjoying the great outdoors, hunting and fishing. This doctor, who likes mechanics, has graduated to using video editing software and today uses professional quality equipment, including that needed to edit high-definition videos. He carries a backpack full of video and camera equipment on trips.

"It drives my wife crazy," Dr. Burns says.

The video editing gives Dr. Burns a chance to exhibit his creative side. When he and his wife travel with family and friends, Dr. Burns is in charge of videotaping. He puts music to the videos. The result? Family masterpieces.

Making his mark early Born and raised in the blue-collar town of Garland, Texas, Dr. Burns learned about faith, perseverance and the importance of medicine.

His father, Leonard O. Burns, and mother, Sally Burns, were high school educated.

"My dad was a solid rock, a very stable patriarch of our family. Nothing fancy about him. He was just an amazing guy," Dr. Burns says. "A very simple man: I think the day he retired, he was making $15,000 a year.

"My mom is the go-getter. That's where I probably get my type A personality."

Sally Burns started as secretary of a country club and worked her way up to become acclaimed in the club management industry, he says.

But it was his father's bout with cancer that turned the youngster toward medicine.

"My dad had a cancer that was almost uniformly fatal when he was about 40 and I was about 10. I remember growing up, a big part of our life was doctors and hospitals," he says.

Leonard Burns survived cancer of the urethra, but the experience left son Jay with the perception that everybody must want to be a doctor, and they only go into other jobs if, for some reason, they cannot be doctors.

Medicine's enthusiast While at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical School, Dr. Burns gravitated toward surgery.

"I really loved finding a problem and solving it and moving on," he says.

He found during his rotations that while general surgeons were focused on the gastrointestinal tract, plastic surgeons would operate from head to toe.

"When I saw my first 'tram' flap, I just said, 'Sign me up.' I love the operations. They are so varied, and I never get bored," he says.

Lasers, vascular tumors Dr. Burns completed a fellowship in 1988 in vascular tumors with John B. Mulliken, M.D., at Harvard-affiliated Boston Children's Hospital. Dr. Burns has since become an expert, himself, on the topic and lectures often on it today.

But while Dr. Mulliken did not believe in the use of lasers, at the time, Dr. Burns saw a need.

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