FROM PILOT COURSE TO PRIVATE BARISTAS
“You should be teaching this. I’ll organise the course and you do the teaching.”
– Simon Bernard
MAFAC was instigated by the late Simon Bernard (MD, FRACS). Whilst completing a fellowship with Bryan Mendelson, Simon was so impressed by the advanced anatomical research and surgical techniques he observed, he suggested that he and Bryan work together to create a teaching course.
Although Bryan Mendelson regularly taught and demonstrated his techniques in Australia and overseas, Simon was convinced that a regular, annual course was needed to provide surgeons with predictable access to the information. It would be a hands-on dissection course, with Bryan Mendelson leading the dissection. Simon’s proposal was simple: ‘I’ll organise the course and you do the teaching’ and this is what happened.
With characteristic energy and enthusiasm, creating list after list, Simon propelled the first course along. In an email to Bryan Mendelson three months prior to the event in 2009, he wrote, ‘I really think we can make this into a world class meeting within 12 months,’ and went on to speculate about a future where 200-250 surgeons might attend. (2)
That first course, in 2009, was called the Workshop of Facial Anatomy. It was a pilot course largely attended by local surgeons and was hugely successful, receiving enthusiastic feedback. The faculty comprised Professor Ian Taylor AO, Professor Norm Eizenberg, Dr John Ladakis, and Drs Chin-Ho Wong and Simon Bernard (both of whom had completed a fellowship with Bryan Mendelson), with Bryan Mendelson as Head of Faculty.
It was underwritten by the Australasian Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS), which Bryan had been an active member of for many years, and this relationship between MAFAC and ASAPS was to continue as MAFAC developed.
Many lessons were leant from the 2009 Workshop. The name was changed to the Melbourne Advanced Facial Anatomy Course (MAFAC) and the structure became more heavily focussed on dissection and less around theory. To implement this, a higher ratio of cadaver heads to participants was required. In 2009 there had been one head per four participants and it was agreed that this ratio needed to be halved as quickly as possible. In 2010 the ratio was one head per three participants, and in 2011 the required ratio of one head per two participants was achieved. The number of demonstrators to participants was also increased – MAFAC in Melbourne now has a regular ratio of just over 30 attendees (the maximum capacity) to 15 or more faculty.
Scheduling was also improved. More than one and a half days was required to provide the dissection time that participants needed. Ideally, participants would also have the opportunity of an afternoon on the second day to go over what they had learnt, using the second side of the cadaver head. In 2010 MAFAC became a full two day course and by 2011 the pre-course afternoon was being used to provide introductory talks about the principles of anatomy. This was an important step, enabling attendees to begin the process of ‘thinking about the anatomy of the human face’, in preparation for what they would learn in the following two days of dissection.
Although MAFAC does conduct abbreviated courses overseas, the two and a half days format remains the preferred length; most people stay right to the end of the second day and emerge exhausted.
Two and half days of intense concentration means that quality food and care needed to be provided to attendees. In 2009 Simon had lugged shopping bags full of drinks to the workshop from the local Aldi! It was a lesson quickly learnt. The next year professional caterers provided lunchboxes and participants couldn’t believe the quality. In 2011, MAFAC’s third year, a barista was employed – probably the first dissecting course to employ its own barista. Again people couldn’t believe it. But it was an important step and one that has been repeated every year. People need to be able to leave the dissecting room and sit down and relax for a while, and a good coffee is part of that relaxation.
After Simon’s untimely death in January 2011, the MAFAC faculty wondered if it could continue without his energy and enthusiasm, but decided it must do so in his memory. Professor Mark Ashton, Head of Plastic Surgery at Royal Melbourne Hospital, took over Simon’s role as MAFAC Course Chairman. Simon had always wanted MAFAC to have its own scrub hats, with the MAFAC logo. After his death, and in his memory, embroidered scrub hats were ordered for faculty members, with every participant given their own MAFAC scrub hat.
In 2013 a landmark transition occurred, with the move to the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons. The Anatomy Department of Melbourne University had been designed for 150 medical students, and MAFAC needed better lighting, a less cavernous theatre and more pleasant environs. It moved to the Special Skills Laboratory at the Royal Australasian College of Surgeons, starting with a ‘short course’ at the invitation of the Australian Society of Plastic Surgeons for their 2013 Congress. Participants now enjoy the pleasant atmosphere, amenities and smaller dissection room of the College, as well as the spacious courtyard where they can relax at lunchtime.
The Savage Club dinner, held midway through the course in Melbourne, has become a much-loved social highlight of MAFAC. Everyone immediately appreciates the wonderfully bohemian atmosphere of this historic club, and a sense of community builds as the guests from many countries unwind together. It also imparts a feeling for the type of city Melbourne is. As one visitor commented, that night, we felt like we had become a special, private club ourselves, within the fabulous surrounds of the Savage Club.