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Pathways To Plastic Surgery
It is a universally acknowledged fact that plastic surgery is the most sought after residency in the United States. Unlike most other major surgical subspecialties, there are two well-defined routes to becoming a plastic surgeon—the independent and the integrated pathways. The integrated pathway consists of 6-year training programs that accept graduating medical students. With only 80 positions in the U.S.A., it is no wonder that most programs receive up to 100 medical student applicants per spot. On the other hand, the independent pathway consists of 3-year plastic surgery training programs that accept graduates after they have finished a general surgery, neurological surgery, orthopedic surgery, oral and maxillofacial surgery, otolaryngology, and urology residency. Both pathways are very competitive. In 2011, only 44 percent of U.S. medical student applicants applying to integrated plastic surgery programs matched into the specialty. For comparison, the next lowest match rate belonged to orthopedic surgery, at 77 percent.
Plastic Surgeon Versus Cosmetic Surgeon
Make sure you educate yourself about the difference between Cosmetic versus Plastic surgeons. The most important differentiation is training. Following completion of medical school, a board-certified plastic surgeon serves first as a surgical resident for at least 3 years where he or she undergoes rigorous training in all aspects of surgery and then 3 years of focused plastic surgery training. The process can take 6 to 8 years or more. This is a key differentiator between a plastic surgeon and a cosmetic surgeon. A practitioner referring to himself or herself as a cosmetic surgeon might belong to any medical specialty. He/she could be a general surgeon, gynecologist, dermatologist, family physician, internist, etc. who has decided that they want to perform cosmetic procedures. The training can be anywhere from a one-year cosmetic surgery fellowship to a handful of short weekend courses on topics ranging from how to perform liposuction, utilize injectables, or perform breast augmentation.
Board Certification in Plastic Surgery
Only those applicants who have completed 6 years or training in aesthetic, plastic, and reconstructive surgery from an accredited plastic surgery residency program are permitted to take the written exam in plastic surgery and hand surgery after they complete their residency. The applicant then operates as a board-eligible plastic surgeon and collects patients and surgical cases. After 1 year, these cases are presented to the American Board of Plastic Surgery for selection. The board evaluates the breath of the practice of the applicant and invites them for an oral exam or post-pones them for another year to collect additional diversity of surgical cases. Once invited, all applicant arrive in a selected destination for 2 days of examination. The oral examination is based on your own plastic surgery and aesthetic surgery cases, as well as additional cases from the board. American Board of Plastic Surgery is the only board recognized by the American board of Medical Specialties in the filed of cosmetic and plastic surgery (www.abms.org).
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