What is a Plastic Surgeon and What Do They Do?
Whereas a cosmetic surgeon reshapes healthy parts of the body for aesthetic reasons a plastic surgeon is involved in reconstructive surgery to restore damaged or diseased parts of the body. He or she also deals with inherited problems such as malformed bone structure in hands and feet or other extremities.
A plastic surgeon can work on any part of the body and often in tandem with other types of physician in a multi-disciplinary team. They acquire special skills and knowledge such as the construction of skin grafts or the transfer of skin tissue to different parts of the body. Though their work includes the whole body, from repairing cleft lips to reattaching severed fingers and toes, plastic surgeons can specialise in particular areas such as the head and neck or the hands.
Training to be a Plastic Surgeon
A plastic surgery career is built on the foundation of a three- to four-year pre-medical undergraduate degree. A potential plastic surgeon needs to know the biology and engineering of the human body inside out, just as any other physician does. After gaining a pre-med degree, four years of medical school follow in order to gain the coveted medical degree (an MD in the US). The first two years of MD studies take place in the classroom the last two in a hospital or medical facility.
After graduation from medical school, a plastic surgery residency of five to six years is necessary and should be accredited by a recognised board or council (the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education, in the US). A plastic surgery resident will go to lectures, participate in patient rounds with a licensed plastic surgeon and complete his own clinical case studies.
Finding a residency is extremely competitive and by this stage the prospective plastic surgeon should have an exhaustive CV, detailing his involvement in the field to date, particularly research experience, internships and he or she should have letters of recommendation.
After completing a residency its a requirement in the US, and most European countries, for plastic surgeons to be licensed by the state. Board certification is also highly recommended as reputable clinics and medical facilities are unwilling to employ a plastic surgeon without evidence of their competence in the field.
What are the Benefits of a Career as a Plastic Surgeon?
Without a doubt, a large part of the appeal of a career in plastic surgery is the financial reward. The average salary of a reconstructive plastic surgeon in the US is currently $392,381 (1) with an equivalent or above-average rate for Europe.
Which is not to say that all plastic surgeons are only in it for the money, far from it. No one who was only interested in money would undergo the lengthy and rigorous education and training necessary. The people who tend to succeed in it are those with a serious interest in the field and in using their constantly evolving skills to help improve people’s lives.
Many plastic surgeons talk of the great satisfaction in helping people deal with terrible disfigurements sustained in accidents, or inherited but no less distressing, disfigurements. There’s also a certain artistic skill in reconstructive surgery which many surgeons take pride in achieving and developing for the benefit of humanity.