Dr. Kant Lin steps in as UK Plastic Surgery division chief in November

By Josh Shepherd

On November 1, the UK Department of Surgery welcomed Dr. Kant Y.K. Lin as the new chief of the UK division of Plastic Surgery. Dr. Lin succeeds Dr. Henry Vasconez, who held the chief’s position for over 22 years. Accepting this new opportunity, Dr. Lin expressed a great deal of optimism about working with faculty and residents and continuing the division’s progress forward.

In making the move to the University of Kentucky, Dr. Lin concludes a 25-year career as a professor of plastic surgery and clinical pediatrics at the University of Virginia’s School of Medicine in Charlottesville. In addition to his clinical practice and extensive research in pediatric plastic surgery and breast reconstruction, Dr. Lin also served several years as section chief for craniofacial surgery at UVA’s medical center.

Moving into the Plastic Surgery chief’s position at UK is a natural step in his career, Dr. Lin commented. “When you finish residency training, you’re anxious to apply your clinical skills in a professional practice. If academic medicine becomes a calling, you spend years teaching medical students and mentoring residents, essentially passing surgical skills on to succeeding generations.” At this stage in his practice, Lin has become interested in health system management. He feels the time is right to take an active role in making things better for colleagues and laying the foundation for residents to flourish in their clinical and academic pursuits.

That interest first led him to serve terms as President of the Society for Craniofacial Surgery from 2012 to 2014 and be the 2014-15 President of the American Society of Maxillofacial Surgeons (ASMS). In the ASMS, incidentally, Dr. Vasconez preceded Dr. Lin as society president by two years. They have known each other professionally for many years longer than that, said Dr. Lin.

Dr. Vasconez, who will continue his surgical practice as a member of the UK clinical faculty, has known Dr. Lin for over 20 years. They became good friends through their work as maxillofacial surgeons and that respect has continued for over two decades. “He is well-known as an excellent surgeon and scholar, and he has demonstrated good leadership skills,” Vasconez said. “Furthermore, he seems to be a good listener, which is a very important aspect of being chief.”

But more important than his familiarity with Dr. Vasconez, Dr. Lin said this opportunity benefits him most by having “the good fortune of inheriting a program that is already on a solid foundation.” The Plastic Surgery division at UK is a respected program with a national reputation for excellence in clinical practice, education, and research. “The division is not in need of a new direction. It’s already there, which places me in a position to work with colleagues to build on its success,” he said.

Reflecting on his work at UVA, Lin said that he had not anticipated staying so long in one place when he accepted an appointment as assistant professor following his fellowship in Pediatric Craniomaxillofacial Surgery at the University of Toronto. But opportunities for professional growth kept presenting themselves to him and to his wife, a professor of political science at UVA. His children had also found their place in the Charlottesville community and when they got to a certain age, “I didn’t want to displace them.”

But now they’re grown adults. His oldest daughter is living in Rome and studying at one of the Universities affiliated with the Vatican. His youngest is currently involved in research with the UVA Department of Anesthesia.

With the children pursuing their own lives and careers, it was time to make a jump to something new, he said.

 As the incoming division chief, Dr. Lin said he regards his main job as being a facilitator. “I’m here to help the other surgeons in the department be successful, acquire equipment and resources, and help introduce new services to UK HealthCare.”

Interestingly, Dr. Lin saw his duties as chief as being comparable to his outreach experiences in Iran, Romania, and China. When he went to Iran, Dr. Lin said that he encountered surgery residents hungry for knowledge to improve their skills and met a welcoming faculty eager to exchange ideas and techniques. “I know that several of plastic surgery’s faculty donates time every year in mission work and outreach. It’s an important image of what Plastic Surgeons should always be doing.”

The goal, ultimately, is working together through clinical service, teaching, and research to contribute to the overall quality of Plastic Surgery on the national and international stage.