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The Department of Surgery
A new image

James Rutka
James Rutka

As part of our Strategic Plan for the Department of Surgery, I was strongly encouraged by Dean Catharine Whiteside to begin branding the Department in ways which would enhance our visibility on the global stage, increase our ranking on the continent, and promote our ability for advancement across all of our Divisions. In the process, I have learned that creating and promoting a brand does not simply occur overnight. It takes a concerted effort, and the passage of time, while attending to our core values before this is accomplished.

One of the elements of initiating a new academic brand is the creation of an image or logo which embodies the vision and mission of the Department. When I took office in April 2011, I began to work on a new image for the Department of Surgery. Most companies and organizations have logos, but few have been able to convert those logos into meaningful symbols. This is because most companies are not good at communicating what they believe (1). Fortunately, I could draw upon previous times when I fashioned logos to promote the organizations with which I was working. These included the Division of Neurosurgery in the Department of Surgery, the Arthur and Sonia Labatt Brain Tumour Research Centre, and the World Academy of Neurological Surgery, to name a few.

I have been aided in the process by famed medical illustrator Ian Suk, a graduate of the University of Toronto's Biomedical Communications in 1993, who is now the chief medical illustrator in the Department of Neurosurgery at Johns Hopkins University. In my opinion Ian is the most talented and acclaimed medical illustrator in the world, and his works have adorned the covers of numerous neurosurgical and medical journals over the past 2 decades.

In creating a new image for the Department of Surgery, I wanted to draw on our core values which are: 1) Surgery in all of its facets including technical innovation, and education; and 2) Science, given our rich history of accomplishments amongst our faculty, and the emphasis we have traditionally placed on our surgeon scientist training program, which dates back to Dr William Gallie's tenure as Chairman. Accordingly, it is my strong hope that we have achieved this with the new image that has been created with Ian Suk's help.

suture needles DNA strand

Surgery Department logo

In the image depicted below, you will see two suture needles that are slightly offset, one to the other, in space. This idea came to me when I was glancing at suture packages, and in particular, vascular suture materials in which two suture needles are often connected by one suture thread. Even in this age of advanced surgical techniques and minimally invasive surgery, virtually all surgical specialties are still using suture needles and sutures. And so, the suture needles represent our emphasis and focus on the art and practice of surgery. In this new image, the suture threads are actually represented by a double helix of double stranded deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) with appropriate nucelotide base pair cross - linking strands. The DNA represents our focus on surgical science and includes our research work from the molecule to man to community, in all of its forms.

As we created the logo in its final form, it did not escape my notice that the colours of the DNA strands we selected, red and blue, were connected by cross linking bands that were white, making the logo highly reminiscent of the colours of the archetypal "barber pole" from antiquity where blue represented the veins, red represented the arteries, and white was the background that accentuated the spiral of the red and blue stripes. The story of our new image is one that I hope will resonate particularly well with all Divisions in the Department of Surgery. In the near future, you will see this image adorning our website, newsletters, letterhead, periodicals, PowerPoint slide templates, awards, and certificates. If any of you need a high resolution copy of this new image in the Department of Surgery, please do not hesitate to contact me.

James T Rutka, MD, PhD
RS McLaughlin Professor and Chair

(1) Sinek S, Start with Why. Penguin Group Publisher. Toronto, Canada, page 161, 2009

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