Getting to know: Nicolas Homsi
New AO CMF Latin America Board Chair is passionate about patients, learning, and teaching
Where are you now and what do you do?
I am in private practice, focusing on deformities, orthognathic surgery, oral facial pain, and bone reconstruction. Two days per week, I teach undergraduate, masters, and doctoral students at the public federal university, Universidade Federal Fluminense (UFF) in Nova Friburgo.
What do these roles mean to you?
On the education side, teaching young people is a constant learning process: I teach and I learn at the same time. On the clinical side, I practice what I teach and teach what I practice. So, for me, teaching and practicing surgery inform one another.
What is your educational background?
I graduated in dentistry in 1990 and then took my resident’s program. After that, I completed graduate studies in education: I was working as a professor of English at the time, and I felt the need to know how to teach people most effectively. After that, I earned my master’s and doctoral degrees in oral and maxillofacial surgery.
What inspired you to become a surgeon?
I am actually the first in my family who went to college. My mother says that I was already saying when I was five or six years old that I wanted to become a surgeon. I do remember, before I went to college, watching a TV interview about facial trauma and becoming impassioned about this specialty. I knew then that I wanted to become an oral and maxillofacial surgeon.
What's the best professional advice that anyone ever gave you?
When I was a student, I was anxious to be the best: Study, study, study. And one of my professors said to me, “Don’t worry about being better than the others. Be better than yourself every day.” I still practice that advice today. I do not go to sleep at night before studying a topic about which I feel I need deeper knowledge.
Knowing what you now know after many years of practice, what advice would you give to a young surgeon?
I teach young surgeons, “Don’t focus only on the exams and grades. Try to be a better person. Practice empathy with your patients and colleagues and make a difference in other people’s lives.”
What books are on your nightstand?
I read many, many different things—biographies about people like Steve Jobs, and the stories of businesses like McDonald’s and Coca-Cola—and there’s always a book about leadership, marketing, or technology beside me. I try not to read anything about medicine in the hours before I go to bed. At the end of the day, I need to change my focus so I can apply knowledge about leadership, marketing, and technology to my field.
Coffee or tea? Or neither?
Oh, I am coffee addicted. I drink coffee four times in the morning and three times in the afternoon.
What do you do to relax?
I love to cook—mainly seafood dishes—and if I could, I would cook every day. I also enjoy going for walks on the beach to relax myself.
Name five artists on your iPod or mobile phone.
I listen to rock and roll in general—Marillion, Phil Collins, Iron Maiden, Queen. When I’m working, I listen to acoustic covers or lounge music.
“In the AO family, training and education happen in a friendly environment, and there is the opportunity to actually engage with surgeons from all over the world—instead of just reading their books. This family is always sympathetic and empathetic—and whatever your age, experience level, or nationality, this is the AO spirit.”
Dr. Nicolas Homsi
What is the most challenging aspect of your work?
Knowledge is evolving really quickly nowadays so I always have to be studious. Everything I learn goes toward treating my patients. It is important to treat every patient as though he or she were a member of my own family, and this is what I teach my students: Every patient is someone’s loved one, so get involved, don’t be cold.
What is most fulfilling to you in your work?
The face is a big part of a person’s identity, so it is very satisfying to be able to give patients an appearance that helps them be accepted and live their lives.
Tell us about the most important experience in your life as a surgeon.
No doubt, my AO Fellowship at the University Hospital Basel from 1999–2000. The first surgery with Prof Joachim Prein was one of the most exciting experiences I’ve ever had. I worked more often with Prof Beat Hammer—a fantastic person and surgeon—and in fact translated his book on orbital fractures to Portuguese.
If you weren't working in the medical field, what would your dream job be?
I would be a chef. My dream would be to have a seafood restaurant with big tables where whole families could enjoy a good meal together.
Do you have a mantra or favorite saying?
“Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,” by Aristotle.
In a few words, what does AO CMF mean to you?
The AO is an opportunity to develop myself as a surgeon, teacher, leader and manager. I attended the AO Davos Courses in 1997, but before that, I had watched videos of Prof Prein and had always admired the AO and the way it delivers both education and friendship. In 1998, I became AO faculty in Brazil and then was chairman of AO CMF in Brazil, and them was elected as a trustee. Most recently, I was elected to a three-year-term as chairman of AO CMF Latin America. In the AO family, training and education happen in a friendly environment, and there is the opportunity to actually engage with surgeons from all over the world—instead of just reading their books. This family is always sympathetic and empathetic—and whatever your age, experience level, or nationality, this is the AO spirit.