The Secrets to a Successful Career As a Plastic Surgeon

MAY 04, 2015
Jeannette Y. Wick, RPh, MBA, FASCP
What factors make a plastic surgeon successful? That was the research question asked by a team of researchers, and answered by an analysis of a survey sent to members of the American Association of Plastic Surgeons. The results, published in Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery Global Open, provide insight that could help select the best candidates for careers in plastic surgery.
The researchers distributed a survey to 580 American Association of Plastic Surgeons members, most of whom were leaders, successful field experts and in private practice. It asked plastic surgeons to rate the importance of 10 preselected qualities (personal characteristics and external factors) with regard to their personal success. The response rate was exceptional, with 295 surgeons (50%) returning the survey.
Surgeons rated hard work, compassion, and manual dexterity as the top attributes needed to succeed. The researchers note, however, that significant differences existed across demographic groups, indicating potential biases among the respondents. For example, male surgeons indicted mentorship was critical to success much more so than female surgeon.
Surgeons who had been program directors also cited mentoring as a factor significantly more often than those who could not claim that credential. Surgeons who had practiced longer were more likely to identify mentoring and career opportunities as factors in their success than younger surgeons. They also embraced individual talent more often than younger surgeons.
Female surgeons were more likely to identify hard work as a critical factor. The researchers suggest that this reflects the fact that male surgeons traditionally dominated the plastic surgery field; men have more in common with mentors, and women may feel more isolated and dependent on themselves.
Spatial sense, intelligence, supportive family, artistic sense, career opportunities, and engineering mindset were less valued.
The researchers conclude that “recognizing the relative importance of such factors, and their associated biases, is essential for the process of selecting and developing future successful plastic surgeons.”

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