JOLIET – Growing up on Chicago’s Northwest side, Matthew Endara watched his father, a family doctor, practice something even more powerful than medicine – compassion.
Now a doctor himself, and one of the top plastic and reconstructive surgeons in the country at age 32, Endara has followed in his father’s footsteps in more than profession.
As part of Alan Chen Surgical Associates in Joliet, Endara has not only brought his cutting-edge techniques and considerable ability to Silver Cross Hospital in New Lenox and Presence Saint Joseph Medical Center in Joliet, he’s embraced the responsibility and altruism at the heart of the caring profession through his volunteer work in hospitals around the world.
Compassion, Endara believes, is essential to practicing good medicine, but so is hard work. They tie together, he said.
“The ability to care about someone while going through something of this nature and doing your best to help them is very important,” Endara said. “There were times when I studied for 13 hours a day in school, but you’re not just studying to do well on tests. You’re studying because someday what you learn could help somebody.”
Endara is the first surgeon in Will and Grundy counties to use the DIEP Flap, a technique used to reconstruct a patient’s breast after a mastectomy, using the “patient’s own abdominal skin and fat to reconstruct a natural, soft breast while minimizing the impact on the abdominal wall and muscles,” according to a news release from Silver Cross Hospital.
It’s especially useful in cases where typical protocols may be problematic, Endara said. For instance, he said, silicone implants may not be a good option in cases where a patient has undergone extensive radiation or has blood flow complications.
“I’m not afraid to use advanced techniques if they work best for the patient,” Endara said in the news release. “At the end of the day, it is really about what the patient needs to be healthy and happy.”
A top graduate from Northwestern medical school who served his residency at Georgetown University, Endara didn’t set out to follow his father’s path until he started college.
“At the end of high school, I was all over the place,” Endara said. “I took some interest in law and economics, but nothing clicked with me like medicine.”
Endara said his father was family practice doctor who had cared for underprivileged people in the Wicker Park area. Endara always admired that about his father.
“His only thought was about helping others,” Endara said “I wanted to do the same.”
Endara said he was fascinated with the complexities and intricacies of the human body and quickly grasped medical concepts – until he flunked biochemistry, the first test Endara said he ever flunked.
His professor put that failure into perspective.
“He said, ‘You don’t have to memorize everything. You have to understand and know how things play off of one another,’ ” Endara said. “After that, my perspective shifted from memorizing to understanding, and I ended up getting an A in the class.”
It also set him on the road that would lead him to plastic and reconstructive surgery.
“It’s a unique practice in that you’re regularly called upon to solve problems that are as yet unsolved,” Endara said. “When a general surgeon runs into a problem, he’ll often call a plastic surgeon because we always have to be thinking out of the box, applying concepts in different ways to problems.”
Endara also is trained in lower extremity reconstruction, peripheral nerve surgery and cosmetic surgery, according to the news release. In addition, peer-reviewed medical journals have published his papers and he presents at conferences.
He has researched the connection between high blood sugar and surgical closure complications, as well as the implications of the use of leg bones for reconstruction of complex bone and cartilage defects, the release added.
Endara has participated in medical mission trips to South and Central America, including one to his father’s home country of Ecuador, which held special meaning to both men.
“It was a great thing to be there with my father,” Endara said. “He did pre-op and post-op with me while I was in the operating room. We did about 41 cases in four days. We did everything from heads to toes, cleft palates to deformities. It changed a lot of lives. That was a great trip.”
Also amazing was seeing people’s lives and appearances visibly changed, particularly small children, some of whom received appearance-altering cleft palate surgery. The father and son also experienced a strange, coincidental tie to their ancestral past.
“My grandfather was high up in the military there, and when my father was 6 or so, he lived on a military base, and just by sheer luck, when we visited there, we ended up staying at the same base,” Endara said. “Sixty years later, he was in the same spot, but so much had changed. It was an emotional moment.”
IF YOU GO
WHAT: Girl Talk: Breast Reconstruction after Mastectomy
WHEN: 6:30 to 7:30 p.m., Tuesday
WHERE: Silver Cross Hospital Conference Center, 1890 Silver Cross Blvd., New Lenox
ETC: Dr. Matthew Endara will discuss the DIEP Flap procedure.
REGISTER: imatter.silvercross.org or 1-888-660-HEAL (4325)