The Exciting World of Plastic Surgery: An Expert's Perspective

As a board-certified plastic surgeon, I have dedicated my career to the field of plastic surgery. It is a highly experienced specialty that involves pioneering novel surgical solutions for a wide range of problems, including congenital, oncological, and traumatic disorders. Plastic surgery also plays a crucial role in improving the quality of life for patients, such as through facial resuscitation or supermicrosurgery for lymphedema. However, there is often confusion between cosmetic surgery and plastic surgery. Many people use these terms interchangeably, but they are not the same thing.

While both specialties aim to improve the patient's body, their philosophies and goals are different.

Plastic surgery

is defined as a surgical specialty dedicated to reconstructing facial and body defects caused by congenital disorders, injuries, burns, and diseases. In contrast, cosmetic surgery focuses on enhancing appearance and is not necessarily reconstructive in nature. While some plastic surgeons also perform cosmetic procedures, their training primarily focuses on reconstructive plastic surgery. In fact, the American Society of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgeons changed its name to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons in 1999 to emphasize that plastic and reconstructive surgeons are one and the same.

Plastic surgery residency programs may include cosmetic surgery training, but it is not a requirement for board certification. Therefore, being a board-certified plastic surgeon does not necessarily mean that the doctor has extensive training in cosmetic procedures. On the other hand, becoming a board-certified cosmetic surgeon requires specialized training beyond what is needed for board certification in a related discipline like plastic surgery. Every surgeon certified by the American Board of Cosmetic Surgery has completed a 1-year fellowship exclusively in cosmetic surgery certified by the American Academy of Cosmetic Surgery. During this fellowship, surgeons receive extensive training in all facial, breast, and body cosmetic procedures, as well as non-surgical treatments.

They also perform a minimum of 300 individual cosmetic surgery procedures. This fellowship is in addition to completing a 3- to 5-year residency program in a related discipline. Plastic surgeons also have the option to specialize in specific areas within the field, such as cranio-maxillofacial surgery, microvascular surgery, hand surgery, and cosmetic surgery. This allows them to focus on a particular area of interest or practice the full scope of plastic surgery. However, the training and certification process for a board-certified cosmetic surgeon will differ significantly from that of a board-certified plastic surgeon. Plastic surgery is a diverse field that offers a wide range of procedures and treats patients with varying needs.

It is also a field that is constantly evolving, providing professionals with lifelong satisfaction in their practice. As a hand surgeon, I have seen firsthand the impact that plastic and orthopedic surgery techniques can have on treating congenital, acquired, and traumatic musculoskeletal problems of the hand and upper limb. While there is no data on the level of awareness among medical students who have an interest in plastic surgery, it is essential to educate them about the depth and breadth of this specialty. Plastic surgery encompasses a vast array of procedures and requires a high level of skill and knowledge to treat patients effectively. Residency training in plastic surgery is designed to develop competent and responsible plastic surgeons with a strong moral and ethical character. For those who have an established interest in pursuing plastic surgery as a career, cultivating in-depth knowledge in this field can open up opportunities for scientific medical research and further development.

Regardless of the type of practice a plastic surgeon chooses, they can be sure that they will continue to face new challenges in this ever-changing field.