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The Art of Surgery

Great Falls-based plastic surgeon keeps busy with private practice and work on wounded American soldiers.

It is a good thing that Martin Morse, M.D. is fond of his job as a plastic surgeon. By his estimate, he typically works 80 hours a week. However, he professes that he did not always want to become a plastic surgeon.

"Most people decide to be plastic surgeons while they are in medical school," said Morse, who actually studied pediatric surgery while he was in medical school at Duke University in North Carolina.

After graduating, Morse did pediatric research at Harvard University at the Children's Hospital in Boston. Despite the substantial time and effort he put into the study of pediatric surgery, Morse had an unexpected change of heart.

"My second interest had always been being creative and I really liked art and architecture when I was growing up ... and I think plastic surgery is kind of like art in medicine," said Morse.

Subsequently, Morse switched gears in his career path. After working for a practice in McLean for a short time, Morse opened his own private practice in Great Falls in 1999.

"I had no interest in the Washington Metro area -– this is the only place I wanted to be," said Morse. "It's beautiful and the people are wonderful and very friendly, and so pleasant. Space is of the essence these days and people here have land so there are wide open spaces."

Morse's private practice is only a fraction of what keeps him so busy. In addition to being the Chief Plastic Surgeon at Reston Hospital, he has also been occupied with surgery on American soldiers wounded in the Middle East.

"I am the only plastic surgeon in the United States in the Navy Reserves that is within 300 miles of the Bethesda Naval Hospital," said Morse.

As such, Morse was called to active duty in 2005 and found himself in Iraq for 3 months, performing skin grafts and a variety of other surgeries to repair injuries from roadside bombs. Today, Morse still receives calls from the Bethesda Naval Hospital "several times a

month."

"Our success rate has been excellent," said Morse. "It's been equivalent to what it has been in my civilian practice. I probably take one to five days a month outside of my private practice to do

what I think is my duty."

Morse also takes the time to go to third world countries to repair the cleft palates of indigent children.

"I try to go every other year or every third year," said Morse.

In his private practice, Morse says that approximately 15-20 percent of his work is cosmetic, and that he specializes in hand and upper extremity surgery.

"The hand is a complicated organ," said Morse. "With the hand you have to think of function first and then form ... your hands are so important."

Morse's patients run the gamut from new parents seeking to repair the cleft palate of their baby, to an elderly person hoping to fix a wound that will not heal.

"Every patient is gratifying in their own way," said Morse. I really love what I do."

Morse also has future political ambitions.

"I'd like to start in Congress and eventually become a U.S. Senator," said Morse. "I think that as a group, physicians are under-represented in the government, and who better to have a perspective on the changes in our health care?"