Faculty Focus: Jerrod Keith, MD

Date: Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Jerrod Keith portraitWhat is your hometown? 

Eldora, Iowa.

How/when did you become interested in science and/or medicine? 

It started in high school when I was dissecting animals. In college I became an EMT and that’s when I became interested in medicine. As an EMT I took calls at night during college to go on ambulance runs.

At med school I spent some time with a surgeon during the Medical Education Community Orientation (MECO) program in Waterloo; we hit it off and he invited me to come and work with him. He made it enjoyable, and he as a person, made it appealing.

When did you join the University of Iowa faculty? 


How or why did you choose to join the faculty at the University of Iowa?

When I was looking, the plastic surgery division was in a transition and there really wasn’t much of a division so the plan was to help to build up a strong division and start a residency program. I wanted to be in on the ground floor to help build that program because I’m also interested in education, so I wanted to be part of the residency program. We have gone from two to seven faculty in six years and we are now in our fourth year of the residency program, and I’m the program director for the residency program.

Also, I like the patient population at Iowa, the variety of cases and opportunities to do complex cases as well as run-of-the-mill things. And it’s a great place to live and work and nice place to raise a family. Coming to work is easy. 

Why did you get into reconstructive surgery?

I was originally considering thoracic surgery, but when I started my general surgery residency I found reconstructive surgeries to be fascinating and that’s what drew me to plastic surgery. One case in particular was a very bad facial fracture and a breast reconstruction.

Is there a teacher or mentor who helped shape your career?

Yes, there are two. One was a plastic surgeon in Denver who got me interested in reconstructive surgery. The reconstructions he was doing were for patients with trauma injuries or cancer reconstructions. That’s how I got interested in plastic surgery originally. Then in Pittsburgh one of my mentors was an excellent educator, an excellent surgeon, and a pleasure to work with pretty much all the time.  

How do you see your faculty role impacting medicine and/or science?

I primarily do breast reconstruction, and as a surgeon I continue to push the envelope to find better and safer ways to do breast reconstruction to help patients through that difficult time. Education is a huge part of medicine and we’re always striving to make the educational process more efficient and better so that the residents are competent and confident surgeons when they finish the residency program. 

What is the biggest change you’ve experienced in your field since you were a student?

We do a lot of reconstructive surgery that involves microsurgery. Performing complicated reconstructions used to be a big deal, with long operations and moderate flap success, but they are now the standard of care with great success.

What one piece of advice would you give to today’s students?

Students typically struggle with what they want to do or what field they will eventually go into. I always tell them to find what they are passionate about and do that no matter what it takes. The training is long and difficult and expensive but when you’re done, it’s easy to go to work.

In what ways are you engaged in professional activities outside the University? 

I’ve done some speaking engagements for the Strands of Strength, which provides wigs for breast cancer patients, and other speaking engagements about taking care of plastic surgery wounds, patients, etc. I am a member of the American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons, which is about education in plastic surgery. 

What are some of your outside interests?

I like to go boating and wake boarding.

As a family we enjoy spending time outdoors, football games in the fall, and because I’m a former college wrestler we attend all the Iowa wresting meets. I enjoy bow hunting in the fall and I started playing hockey in Cedar Rapids last year.

I have two kids 14 and 11. They are involved in multiple sports; my son tries all sports.

Learn more about Jerrod Keith, MD.