Patti Page and Nat King Cole—among many others—recorded the schmaltzy love song “Once in a While” back in the 1940s and 1950s. By today’s hip-hop standards, it’s hopelessly sentimental; but for me, anyway, it still evokes nostalgic feelings of less complicated—albeit less enlightened—times.

I’m sure that in your own experience, things happen every once in a while that make you sit up and take notice. For me recently, it was reading a press release from the Johns Hopkins Medical Institutions about a soldier in Iraq whose body was torn apart in a Humvee accident in August 2005. He lost an arm and a large portion of his midface, including his nose.

After 40 hours of surgery, Johns Hopkins facial plastic and reconstructive surgeons rebuilt the man’s nose and surrounding facial features entirely from his own body parts—bone, cartilage, and skin. And it wasn’t just for looks—the new nose is completely functional. I urge you to read about the details of the case in the Hopkins press release.

The lead physician in the case, board-certified facial plastic surgeon Patrick J. Byrne, MD, complimented the patient on his fearlessness and his resolve to proceed with the reconstruction—as opposed to settling for a prosthesis—despite its complexity and risk. But it seems to me that the lion’s share of the praise should go to Byrne and his colleagues for their creativity and perseverance.

When I read about a case like this, it brings home to me that you, the PSP subscriber, are among the small number of people in the world who can make such a profound change in an individual’s life. I strongly believe that if you were in a position to participate in repairing the soldier’s face, you would have been just as successful as the Hopkins physicians and staff members. It’s very likely that you participated in a major reconstruction case during your training if not in your current practice.

So please allow me to take this opportunity to salute you for all the good you are doing for people. Even if most of your work is directed toward improving people’s looks and self-esteem, rather than enabling them to bounce back from a serious injury or illness, you’re clearly making a contribution to the well-being of society. And your accomplishments occur a lot more often than once in a while.

Michael J. Block