A surgeon in training

A surgeon in training

Surgical resident setting the bar for success

By Jennifer Brindise

Surgical resident Makesha Miggins holds an NIH grant and has spent the first part of her residency in the lab./Photo by Jesse S. Jones

As a little girl visiting the pediatrician, Makesha Miggins, M.D., was enamored with the way her doctors could help people by putting the pieces of the puzzle together. It seemed magical. Today, as a UF surgical resident, she is still captivated by the magic of medicine.

While she knew from an early age she wanted to be a physician, it was not until her fourth year of medical school when she realized everything that interested her — the procedural focus, the ability to work with her hands, and the opportunity to help improve someone’s life almost immediately — led her to the field of surgery.

“And it just seemed like the choice was crystal clear at that point that — whether I fail at it or not — I felt like I would have a regret that if I didn’t try surgery, I would always wonder ‘What if,’” Miggins said.

Still early in her surgical training, she has not yet decided her area of specialty but has had the opportunity to see firsthand how incorporating research into her career can help improve the outcomes of her patients.

Miggins currently holds one of the department’s two National Institutes of Health-funded T32 grants, which are for the training of residents in research sciences. While she admits that adding two years of scientific research to her five years of clinical training was not part of her initial plan, she says this experience has taught her a new way to look at science and how it can be applied to the care of her patients.

She is working with Darwin Ang, M.D., Ph.D., an assistant professor of surgery whose research focuses on surgical outcomes and population science.

Miggins initially analyzed moped crashes and reviewed the Florida Traffic Crash Records Database to evaluate factors associated with severe crash injuries, such as speed limit, driving speed, roadway conditions and the number of lanes on the road. Her findings, soon to be published, suggest the traffic infrastructure in Florida does not accommodate the safety of moped and scooter drivers.

Now, she is conducting research in the areas of hospital-acquired viral infections, nutrition of critically ill patients and surgical site infections.

Ang said Miggins has set a high standard for all surgical residents conducting clinical outcomes research.

“I think her success is due to her tireless work ethic, desire to improve patient care and a natural ability to ask the right scientific questions,” Ang said. “By the time she graduates, she will have the skills to heal her patients and go a step further in preventing them from being harmed. If she keeps this up I believe that she has the potential to be a national leader in our field.”

This July, Miggins returns to clinical rotations to complete her remaining three years of surgical training. When she graduates in June 2014, she will be the first African-American woman to graduate from the UF surgical residency program.

“Dr. Miggins is an excellent resident leader in our institution because she is paving the clinical and research training paths for other minority trainees,” said Chair Kevin Behrns, M.D.

As a potential mentor to future minority surgeons, Miggins knows she is helping to forge new paths.

“I know it doesn’t mean that I’m not supposed to be doing what I’m doing,” Miggins said. “It just means that I am the one to lead someone else to that, because maybe somebody wants to see someone who looks like them, and I can be that person.”