Educational Background to Become a Plastic Surgeon

by Maureen Malone

Plastic surgery is used to help patients with physical injuries or defects restore function and improve appearance. This highly specialized type of surgery involves operating on the skin and musculoskeletal system. In addition to repairing and reconstructing, plastic surgeons may also replace damaged skin, bone and muscle tissue using grafts or other biological material. A plastic surgeon must complete at least 14 years of training to work in the specialty and continue his education throughout his career.

Undergraduate Coursework

In most cases, plastic surgeons complete a four-year bachelor's degree before attending medical school. Some medical schools offer an undergraduate and medical school joint degree program. The bachelor's degree can be in any field, but most applicants choose a science major to fulfill the prerequisites for medical school. The specific course requirements vary by school but usually include biology, chemistry, physics and math. To be a competitive medical school applicant, most students also participate in extracurricular activities and activities that demonstrate leadership abilities.

Medical School

All plastic surgeons complete a medical degree before moving on to specialized training in plastic surgery. The first two years of medical school consists of classroom and laboratory work in anatomy, biochemistry, pathology and ethics. During the final two years of medical school, students perform clinical rotations under the supervision of licensed physicians. Rotations include internal medicine, family practice, psychiatry, pediatrics, obstetrics and gynecology and surgery.

Residency and Fellowship

After finishing medical school, aspiring plastic surgeons begin residency programs to receive specialized training in plastic surgery. The American Board of Plastic Surgery recognizes two types of residency programs: independent and integrated. The independent residency model includes three years of specialized plastic surgery training. To qualify for the independent model, the applicant must have completed a five-year general surgical residency or be qualified for board certification in another surgical specialty. The integrated model requires six years of training with at least three of those years specializing in plastic surgery. Other surgical experience gained during an integrated residency includes pediatric surgery, transplants, abdominal surgery and vascular surgery. After completing a residency, plastic surgeons have the option to participate in a fellowship program to further specialize in plastic surgery. Some examples of plastic surgery fellowships include burn surgery, reconstructive microsurgery and craniofacial surgery.

Continuing Education

Plastic surgeons must renew their board certification every 10 years. To be eligible for renewal, surgeons must follow the Maintenance of Certification in Plastic Surgery program. In the third, sixth and ninth years of certification, surgeons must have completed 150 hours of continuing education credits during the previous three years, verify that their medical license is current, and complete a practice assessment. In the eight, ninth or10th year, surgeons must take and pass a computer-based test. If these requirements are fulfilled, the certification will be renewed for another 10 years.

About the Author

Maureen Malone started writing in 2008. She writes articles for business promotion and informational articles on various websites. Malone has a Bachelor of Science in technical management with an emphasis in biology from DeVry University.

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