Getting to Know: Michael Turner
Michael D Turner, MD, DDS, specializing in oral and maxillofacial surgery, is an assistant clinical professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Mount Sinai Health System’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, US
Where are you now?I’m in New York City, and I’m the associate director of the oral and maxillofacial surgery residency program at Mount Sinai Health System’s Icahn School of Medicine. I am also the chief of the service at Jacobi Medical Center in New York City.
What do these roles mean to you?I’m in charge of the clinical and didactic training of oral and maxillofacial surgery residents, as well as being in charge of a division of surgeons and residents at the medical center as well as at Mount Sinai’s “downtown” hospital. This allows me to do more major cases and mentor and teach a whole new generation of surgeons. Ours is a six-year program, so we see surgeons very young when they are without technical skills or deep knowledge—they leave here ready to take on the world. When they complete their training, they are knowledgeable and have no doubts about what they can do, and that’s my goal in training them to be the best they can be.
What is your educational background?I received my university degree in history from Brandeis University, where I studied history. I received my dental degree from the University of Maryland and my medical degree from the State University of New York (SUNY) at Stony Brook School of Medicine. I completed my residency training at Long Island Jewish Medical Center.
Why did you become a surgeon?My family is coming up on 100 years in dentistry: my uncle was a dentist and he was always very happy in his profession and life because of it, and that really inspired me to go into dentistry. When I started dental school, I began working with a local surgeon and got to see what he did in his office and the operating room, and that really excited me. The more I saw, the more excited and comfortable I became with the whole specialty.
What's the best professional advice that anyone ever gave you?Like what you do.
Knowing what you now know after many years of practice, what advice would you give to a young surgeon?Stick with it. Continue to grow—never stop learning and trying new things. Be careful but don’t be fearful.
What books are on your nightstand?I read about 100 pages per hour and used to always carry three or four books with me, so I actually read on a Kindle these days. Right now, I’m reading Einstein: His Life and Universe by Walter Isaacson, as well as The Expanse, James RA Corey’s series of science fiction novels.
Coffee or tea?Chai tea—in the evening when I’m hanging out with my family.
What do you do to relax?I read a lot and I like doing things with my family: my wife, Susie—who is one of the nicest and best people I know—and our 15-year-old son and 13- and 11-year-old daughters.
Name five artists on your iPod or mobile phone.Patty Griffin, Victoria Williams, REM, The Violent Femmes and the Grateful Dead.
Bonus music question: What’s your favorite Grateful Dead song?“Box of Rain”
"The AO is a great network of people who are not only colleagues, but friends. This is a collegiality that stays with you for the rest of your career."
What is most fulfilling to you in your work?I really like changing people’s lives. I have a lot of patients who get orthognathic surgery after sometimes years of not able to chew and being self-conscious about their appearance. As an example, I had a 19-year-old female patient whose surgery made it possible for her to eat her first egg roll. Being able to impact patients’ lives in this way is very fulfilling.
Tell us about the most important experience in your life as a surgeon.Early in residency, I treated a patient who was critically ill. He had been helping carry a refrigerator up a flight of stairs and the refrigerator dropped on him and crushed him, fracturing his ribs and jaw. I actually took care of him throughout my six years of training and by the time I graduated my residency, he was fully functional and actually working at the hospital. That was an amazing experience that made me realize that what we do isn’t just about taking out teeth or fixing jaws. We often don’t even know the extent to which we can impact people’s lives. If it weren’t for this particular patient—this experience—I would not have gone on to become a fully academic surgeon.
If you weren't working in the medical field, what would your dream job be?That’s a really hard question. I think I would either be a historian—I’ve always been interested in Medieval Europe—or a writer.
Do you have a mantra or favorite saying?Everybody counts.
In a few words, what does AOCMF mean to you?I became in AOCMF as a faculty member in mid 2000s and became involved as a bench examiner in the AONA. That’s when I met [longtime AOCMF faculty member] Daniel Buchbinder [chief of the Division of Maxillofacial Surgery at the Icahn School of Medicine]. He was always telling me about the AO Foundation’s global activities beyond the courses, and he mentored me into the world of the AO. Today, my goal is to become involved with the foundation part of the organization as North American representative to the AOCMF Community Development Commission. I’m really excited to help grow our membership, engage members to become more active, and to continue to help bring the AO principles to the craniomaxillofacial field in North America.
The AO is a great network of people who are not only colleagues, but friends. This is a collegiality that stays with you for the rest of your career. I really try to instill my interest in the AO to my residents so they that after they graduate, they in turn can develop their own relationships with the AO.
Michael D Turner, MD, DDS, specializing in oral and maxillofacial surgery, is an assistant clinical professor of oral and maxillofacial surgery at Mount Sinai Health System’s Icahn School of Medicine in New York City, US. Turner is an expert in facial reconstructive surgery, orthognathic surgery, dental extractions and implant surgery, and an authority on the management of salivary gland diseases with a focus on sialendoscopy. He is the associate residency program director for the Mount Sinai Beth Israel Residency in Oral and Maxillofacial Surgery.
Turner is the North American representative to the AO CMF Community Development Commission.