• Article
  • April 23, 2020

Pediatric Surgeon Channels His Inner Artist

From scalpels to Sharpies, this doctor finds a creative way to comfort patients.

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Although the pen may not be mightier than the scalpel, surgeon Robert Parry, M.D., FACS, director of Pediatric General Surgery at Akron Children's Hospital, takes a moment to make sure a scar isn't the only lasting memory of a child's surgery. He uses a layering technique and waterproof material to keep his creative dressing drawings safe and sterile.

THE INSPIRATION: "There was a pediatric surgeon, Dr. Perry Stafford, when I was training at Bethesda. He used to cut out a shark silhouette in the dressings, and they were so well received by the patient families. I thought that was a great idea, so I started cutting those out for the boys and hearts for the girls. Over the years, it has expanded and now every child that I operate on gets a one-of-a-kind dressing."

CREATIVE PROCESS: "Pre-surgery, I ask the kids and the family if they have an interest in sports or a cartoon. And at the end of the case when everyone's finishing up, so I'm not hovering over everyone, I can help make the dressing. Every child I've operated on, at least 10,000 patients, have received a dressing. Seriously, my OR staff love it. They can't wait to bring me my pen set. I must have 30 markers in my kit now."

POPULAR REQUEST: "I've lost track of how many Sponge Bobs I've made."

MEMORABLE CREATION: "I recently did a Brownie the elf for an infant at the parent's request. Dad loved it so much he didn't want me to take it off when they came back for their two-week appointment. He was having a great time showing it to everyone. He asked me to make him one he could keep, which of course I was happy to do."

FINDING INSPIRATION: "I wouldn't call myself an artist. I totally enjoy doing creative things—I draw and paint. But it's about feeling like I'm giving patients something I've spent time on to tell them they weren't just operated on—they are a human being and here's a little piece of me with it."

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