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Alumni Interview

Portrait: John Canady, M.D.

John Canady, M.D.

(83MD, 88MS, 88R-Otolaryngology)

What is your hometown?

Jefferson, Iowa

How/when did you become interested in science and medicine?

I have been interested in science for as long as I can remember. I was a Chemistry major at Grinnell College. My Dad was a family practitioner in rural Iowa for more than 30 years and I was always impressed with how much he knew, and how he helped people. He interested me to pursue a career in medicine.

Please highlight your major career achievements, awards, discoveries, etc.

I just finished a year-long term as President of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. I will be finishing a two-year term as Treasurer of the American Board of Plastic Surgery and a six-year term as a Director of that organization. In 2008 I received an honorary degree from Grinnell College and was inducted into the Jefferson/Scranton High School Hall of Fame. In 2005, I received the Grinnell College Alumni award and also received the Freedom Festival Hero Award in Cedar Rapids. In 2001 I received the Bell Tower Hall of Fame award from Jefferson, Iowa, and in 2000, I received the Humanism in Medicine Award from the New Jersey Healthcare Association.

Is there a teacher, mentor or UI Carver College of Medicine faculty member who has helped shape your education?

Jeff Murray, M.D., taught me a tremendous amount about both research and life, and I am indebted to Brian McCabe, M.D., for brokering the deal that brought me back to the University of Iowa. Drs. Janusz Bardach and Hugh Morris (52BA, 57MA, 60PhD-Speech Pathology and Audiology) were also instrumental in teaching me about the care of cleft patients.

How or why did you choose the University of Iowa for your medical education?

It had a very good reputation and was a great value in terms of tuition and costs.

As a graduate of the UI Carver College of Medicine, what does being the recipient of the Distinguished Alumni Award mean to you?

It is a tremendous honor and a surprise because there are others who I am sure a much more deserving of such recognition.

Please describe your professional interests.

I have been very active in research and clinical care of children with cleft lip and palate. I have used this knowledge to provide cleft surgical care to children in developing countries including the Philippines, El Salvador, Guatemala, Ecuador and others.

How did you become interested in surgery and specifically, otolaryngology and plastic surgery?

I originally came to medical school thinking I would be an internist and possibly a cardiologist. I really enjoyed my surgical rotations and during the summer of my freshman year, I spent time with some of the otolaryngologists at the McFarland clinic in Ames. I liked taking care of patients of both sexes and all ages. When I went to my otolaryngology residency at Iowa I thought I would be an ear surgeon, but found I was drawn to the kids we saw in the cleft clinic. I also enjoyed other reconstructive procedures and decided to get additional training in plastic surgery at the University of Kansas.

You have volunteered with groups like Operation Smile, Rotaplast, and most recently Iowa MOST, taking your skills and performing volunteer surgeries on childhood facial deformities all over the world. What drives your spirit of service?

I am always impressed with the gratitude of the patients we see in developing countries. It really is a fact that the worst day most of us have here in the United States is a dream most of the people in the world cannot begin to imagine.

What are some of your outside interests?

Being outside and trying to keep up with my two teenage boys and all of their activities.

Do you have an insight or philosophy that guides you in your professional work?

Choose wisely. I was fortunate enough to marry a beautiful woman who has been incredibly supportive. Laurie is the one who really should be getting an award.

If you could change one thing about the practice or business of medicine, what would it be?

I would reduce the amount of “business” in patient care. Some patients have problems that are unusual and take a large amount of time to assess, and as the health care system becomes more “business-like” it creates a frustrating situation for both them and the health care professionals taking care of them.

What is the biggest change you've experienced in medicine since you were a student?

The increasing use of technology is probably the biggest positive change, and the increasing influence of third party payors to dictate health care for patients is probably the biggest negative.

What one piece of advice would you give to today's medical students?

Treat your patients like you would want your family to be treated.

What do you see as "the future" of medical education?

I think there will be an increased use of technology to help students assimilate an ever larger body of knowledge. I predict there will also be increased use of patient simulators and other innovative teaching methods for practical skill instruction.

2010 Distinguished Alumni Award Recipients

Award for Achievement

Award for Service

Early Achievement


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