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Meet 2023 ReSurge Laub Fellow: Halley Darrach

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The Donald R. Laub Fellowship program, named after our founder Don Laub, allows for a fourth-year resident in plastic and reconstructive surgery to work with ReSurge for a year to hone reconstructive surgical and research skills. We are proud to introduce our newly selected ReSurge International Laub Fellow, Halley Darrach who is a plastic and reconstructive surgery resident at Stanford University.

We caught up with Halley to learn about her background, work with ReSurge, and goals for the future.

Can you tell us a little about yourself and your background? 

I was born in Canada and raised in Los Angeles, where I studied cell biology at Cal State Northridge. Throughout undergrad, I was fortunate to work as a lab assistant in the astrobiology division of NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, testing life-detection assays. Our work eventually developed into a biotech startup company, where I helped bridge our aerospace tech for use in surgical sterility. This experience further spurred my interest in medicine and I travelled eastwards for medical school at Johns Hopkins, where I took a research year to investigate oncologic reconstructive outcomes and work as a medical illustrator. Now I am back home on the west coast and halfway through my plastic and reconstructive surgery residency at Stanford. Outside of the hospital, I love long-distance swimming, calligraphy, and travelling the world in search of new favourite cuisines.  

What made you want to go into reconstructive surgery? 

I have always enjoyed drawing, but in high school I started figure drawing and began taking freelance portraiture commissions. I loved the creative challenge and intimacy of portrait art, where I’d often be discussing with subjects the complex relationships they had with their bodies and finding ways for my art to reconcile such. For me, plastic and reconstructive surgery was the perfect marriage between the arts and sciences. It’s a very intimate field; a reconstructive surgeon’s work is carried for life and can have a profound impact on form, function, and psyche. I feel incredibly humbled to train at this nexus, addressing inner and outer health.  

Why were you interested in the ReSurge Laub Fellowship? 

I am privileged to train in one of the most technology-rich pockets of the globe, but medical innovation is nothing without global applicability. In my hometown of Windsor, Ontario, the barriers to specialized care can be prohibitive, even with socialized healthcare. After moving Los Angeles, I was surrounded by billboards for cosmetic surgery, though the promise of reconstruction remains inaccessible for most residents. Considering the disparities that affect reconstructive surgery in these high-income nations, the gaps in specialist accessibility and patient education in low-income nations are thrown into even harsher relief. I was excited for the prospect of working to help narrow this divide on a global perspective and also learn from international colleagues ways to improve care stateside.    

What are you most interested in experiencing and working on during the course of the Fellowship? 

Absolutely everything! I have loved helping with the operations for the Pioneering Women in Reconstructive Surgery (PWRS) Program, connecting and empowering surgeons across the globe. I am also interested in studying cross-cultural surgical education, particularly the use of medical illustration in patient and surgeon education. Art has the advantage of being a universal language, with the potential to communicate across literacy levels and endangered languages. The opportunity to work with ReSurge and their partner institutions to help develop different educational platforms, tailored to the needs of each locale, is an exciting prospect and one I hope can enhance accessibility of reconstructive surgery. 

What are your goals for the future? 

My goal is to serve as a surgeon-educator both domestically and abroad. I am currently undecided as to reconstructive subspecialty, but have particularly enjoyed breast reconstruction, gender affirming surgery, and craniofacial surgery. I am excited to further develop my interests with ReSurge’s team and their international partners!  

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