Being A Plastic Surgeon Requires A Lot Of Explaining

  • Posted on: Jun 18 2013
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This is an interesting guest editorial in by a prominent reconstructive plastic surgeon.  Not all of us specialize in cosmetics!

A new crop of medical students will begin a residency in plastic surgery this summer. They have worked long and hard to secure these coveted spots.  As a service to them and to the profession, I wanted to take this opportunity to help make their path a little easier by offering a bit of advice.

When asked what you do, simply say that you are a surgeon. I avoid saying plastic surgeon because it invariably prompts awkward facial expressions and comments to the effect that I am just the person they’ve been waiting to meet, nod nod, wink wink! In many people’s minds, plastic surgery is synonymous with cosmetic surgery, yet I do no cosmetic surgery. This usually strikes people as very odd. A plastic surgeon who doesn’t do cosmetic surgery is like an auto-mechanic who doesn’t fix cars, or a teacher who doesn’t teach.


So what do I do? Strictly speaking I should describe myself as a reconstructive microsurgeon, although that usually draws blank stares. The truth is that while cosmetic surgery is probably the most visible and perhaps the most glamorous aspect of plastic surgery, it’s a relatively small part of the specialty. The breadth of the specialty fills a six-volume Plastic Surgery textbook I edited this year.  Only one of these volumes is dedicated to aesthetic surgery.

Some say that plastic surgeons are the last general surgeons. We don’t own a disease like cancer doctors do, and we don’t own a part of the body like heart surgeons do. We work all over the body on all kinds of diseases and frequently with other physicians in a multidisciplinary group. We’re not only misunderstood by the public, but also by many of our medical colleagues.

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Posted in: Plastic Surgery News

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