A Vascular Surgery Fellowship Personal Statement

photo mw
Max at work

By Max Wohlauer, MD, fellow in vascular surgery at Cleveland Clinic Foundation

As a rugby player in high school and college, I found strength and camaraderie through hard work, blood, and sweat. Like rugby, vascular surgery is a team sport, and not for the faint of heart.

My father was diagnosed with stage IV prostate cancer while I was a first year medical student. I was his cheerleader and coach as he fought against the illness that eventually took his life, and learned that healing becomes the most important when a cure is out of reach. At this point I had established that continuity of care was important to me, but I was not satisfied with the role of cheerleader or coach, however. I was intent on being captain – a team leader in the center of the action – and surgery called to me. Where could I find a specialty that combined traditional surgery and cutting edge procedures to provide optimal patient care, while at the same time maintain the ability to care for patients with a chronic disease over time?

Dr. Ben Starnes at the University of Washington, who combined an explosive technical skill with a genuine concern for each patient’s well being provided a definitive answer. I learned that open arterial or endovascular repair could immediately and consistently improve quality of life.  The patient could have a body worn-out by seven or eight decades of systemic illness with a life or limb threatening lesion, or at the other end of the scale, have a youthful body facing similar threats from blunt or penetrating trauma. The results were equally inspiring to me. In clinic and on the wards, Dr. Starnes made a connection with each of the patients, celebrating their unique lives and personalities. He set an example inside and out of the operating room, which I strive to emulate to this day.

At the University of Colorado, Dr. Mark Nehler created an environment for success and has shown me how a vascular surgeon displays leadership outside of the operating room. He stepped into Dr. Rutherford’s large shoes to build the department, launch the careers of several young vascular surgeons, and has made several important contributions to vascular literature. He has given me myriad opportunities for growth inside and outside the operating room. I have learned from Dr. Nehler more about the importance of interpersonal relationships between myself and my colleagues as well as with my patients. These teachings have made me a better surgeon.

Then, working with Dr. Ernest Moore as a Trauma Research Fellow, I was inspired by a man committed to science, surgical practice, training the next generation of academic surgeons, and administration; a bona fide quadruple-threat. His accomplishments and mentoring ability are equally phenomenal. He is a role model that I strive to emulate.

It would be selfish to have the advantage of excellent training without contributing new information. During my two laboratory years, I had the opportunity to explore post-injury coagulation derangements, which I continue to study while on the clinical services. I have also traveled to many conferences to present research throughout the US and in Europe.  I continue to write, publish and present during my clinical years, and feel that this is only the beginning. I know that I have a genuine ability to become a leader in the field of vascular surgery.


Thank you for consideration of my application.



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