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Travels with Genghis

Robert R Schenck

One of my main mentors in hand surgery, who strongly influenced me to pursue this wonderful field (which I love so much), is a man named Robert R. Schenck.

I first met Dr. Schenck as a medical student.  He gave a lecture at Rush University about hand anatomy and it was the first part of body that we studied in anatomy in medical school.  I then was able to sit in on a few of his cases as a third year medical student when I did plastic surgery as an elective rotation; and then, as a general surgery resident I was able to sit in several of his cases when I rotated on plastic surgery once again.

I always have loved the delicacy and the detail of hand surgery.  I love the anatomy, and I love the technical execution of the surgery.  I love the creativity of finding solutions to hand surgery problem.  I love it all, really, and I knew, although I really loved plastic surgery (and I still do) for many of the same reasons that I love hand surgery, that I would always include some element of hand surgery in my practice.

So, I eventually did my residency in plastic surgery at Rush University and did many, many more cases with Dr. Schenck, who helped me again with teaching and advice, and influenced me to do my fellowship at Southern Illinois University. Then when I went back into practice, I spent a year with Dr. Schenck in his office before he retired, and I learned even more hand surgery.

So, to say that I have had a long history with Dr. Schenck is a bit of an understatement.  Dr. Schenck himself has had a very long history in hand surgery.  He was one of the very first hand surgeons to do a finger replantation in the Chicagoland area and he was one of the first to do many other procedures in the Chicagoland area.

He had trained under legendary hand surgeon named William Littler, who  Dr. Schenck spoke about constantly in terms of his creativity in detail and his gentlemanly nature.  Without a doubt Dr. Schenck embodied that as well from my experience with him and hopefully, at some small level, he transmitted it to me.

But above all, Dr. Robert Schenck is a interesting human being because hand surgery is not all that defines him.  He has many different hobbies and interests and he is always challenging himself to do things out of his ‘comfort zone’ and one of those things was to, at the age of almost 80 years old, take an ambulance from England and drive it to Mongolia.Ghengis Khan

Yes. You heard that right, drive an ambulance from England to Mongolia.  Why Mongolia?  Well, after Dr. Schenck or ‘Bob’ (as I call him now finally after many years, still with a little of an uncomfortable) did a lot of traveling and teaching hand surgery around the world after he retired and one of the places where he went was Mongolia.

He fell in love with Mongolia because of all of its interesting contradictions and uniqueness.  I think he also fell in love with the Mongolian people who love the United States especially after being under Soviet influence for so many years.

In any case, he thought he would do something to help bring their hand surgery programs in the country up the speed, so to speak.  He is, in fact, still working on that right now by inviting Mongolian surgeons over to the US and taking them across the country to different meetings and teaching them hand surgery.

So, to help raise money for a hospital there, Bob decided that he would drive an ambulance raising money for charity because Mongolia is still a relatively poor country with very limited resources both in terms of natural resources and in terms of its economic development.

He chronicled this in a wonderful book called Travels with Genghis.  One thing you learn about Bob, which I have known since I first met him, is that Bob is a busy man.  Sometimes, I think he is busier than me!  I have been trying to sit him down for a lunch in a podcast over the last month, but I have not been able to.

But instead of delaying unveiling this book and trying to get people to read it through a podcast I thought I would write a blog post and try to have as many people as possible share it with others and buy the book.

Bob Schenck ghenghis 1
Ghengis ‘Bob’ I love this picture!

Travels with Ghengis is a beautiful book that journals his trip with his traveling buddy through England, Europe, Turkey, Kazakhstan and much of Siberia.  I truly enjoyed reading it because I have always been fascinated with the travels of Marco Polo and in some ways, Bob decided to do a modern Marco Polo trip so and documented it along the way in this book so you too could experience the landscape and the views with vision.

It is inspiring book for anybody but especially those who may be retired and think that they are at the end of their life and there are no more adventures ahead. There are always adventures ahead and everyday is a brand new day no matter how old or young you are.  The human spirit is an amazing force, creative and resilient, and you have to nurture it every phase of your life and Bob has certainly done that with both the trip he took and writing this book.

There is an old story about a man who is over 90 years old who was reading the works of Plato and somebody asked him why he was reading that book. What good is it to you? was the question and basically his response was that cultivating the life of the mind does not stop at a certain age. In fact, the life of the mind is actually is one of the things that makes life worth living. And Bob has certainly embody the life of the mind and the life of the body by cultivating his adventurous spirit and taking a risk like this late in life. And he shares his thoughts about the life of the mind and spirit in this wonderful book.  I hope you will have a chance to buy it and I hope you will enjoy it as much as I did.

Here is the information that you need to get the book.

Robert Schenck, MD
1100 N Lake Shore Drive
Chicago, IL  60611-5207
**Please include a check for $35.00
Book price is $30.00 and $5.00 for Shipping and Handling.

Or you can contact Bob directly to his e-mail

I do plan to have him on for a podcast or two to talk about specifics of his journey and to recount the wonderful time that he had, but until then try and get the book and share this link with as many people as you can.

I hope in in 40 years, I will get a chance to write the sequel!

Wouldn’t that be great…which one of you will join me?

3 Responses to Travels with Genghis

  1. Bob is an old friend from the American Association of Hand Surgery. I saw him again at the Association annusl meeting of 2013 in Naples, Fl. He brought along a Mongolian couple who do Hand Surgery in the capital Ulaanbaator.
    I purchased Bob`s book and was amazed at his moxie, daring, responses to a variety of challenges; commitment to the trip; and the humor and quips which are interjected. Reading it was like an Imax moment. You live and understand the barriers that were broached. The risks posed along with steely determination
    took on the role of a thriller.

    Doesn`t get any better. Read the book and come away amazed.

    Joe Danyo, MD
    York, PA

  2. Thanks Joe! One of the things you can do to help Bob is to share this article with as many people that you know, so we can try to get it ‘viral’ so to speak. Maybe even forward this to the Hand Societies, if you have an connections there and such. Bob has been such a great mentor for me, and he is such a great guy, I would like to help him in any small way that I can.

    • Some marketing is needed. I suggest sending a copy to The American Association for Hand Surgery and to the Hand Surgery Society. Perhaps it can be mentioned in their Newsletter.


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