How to Become a Plastic Surgeon
To work in a medical capacity, one needs years of training under their belt. While acquiring this education can be a long and arduous journey, it is incredibly fulfilling with great returns in the long run. To succeed, however, it must be a practice that you are passionate about, as it will require a lot of commitment and resources in the beginning.
The first step, therefore, to becoming a plastic surgeon is analyzing whether or not you are a good fit for it. Do some research and try and picture if this is something you would consider doing for the rest of your life. Talk to people who have taken this journey ahead of you to get a clear picture of what you can expect. Once you are comfortable and sure that this is the path that you want to take, you can go ahead and take the steps outlined in this article.
- Get a bachelor’s degree
The first step to becoming a plastic surgeon is obtaining a bachelor’s degree. For this, you will need to major in programs such as biology, chemistry as they will offer the foundation for basic human anatomy knowledge as well as fundamental skills needed to pursue a medical career. You can also opt to enroll in a pre-med course as it will cover all the science and laboratory requirements needed for med school. There are a few select institutions that offer pre-med as a bachelor’s degree. If neither of them is an option for you, you can consider taking the program track instead.
- Gain admission into med school
In the junior year of undergraduate study, students need to sit for the Medical College Admissions Test (MCAT) which will allow them to gain admission into medical school. It is important for students to thoroughly prepare for this examination, through pre-tests, practice tests, and extensive studying. Gaining admission is not only about exam scores, but you must demonstrate leadership skills and recommendation letters from professors and reputable doctors. For instance, as an aspiring plastic surgeon, a recommendation from Dr. Cat Begovic would be excellent and provide you with a competitive edge.
- Obtaining a medical school degree
To be a plastic surgeon, one would need to obtain a doctor of medicine (M.D.) or doctor of osteopathy (D.O.) degree. This is a typical 4-year program in which students will delve deep into normal med school subjects. During the first two years, students will have classes and training in biological sciences such as anatomy, microbiology and pharmacology, and medical arts. Upon completion of these, the second two years will be spent in rotations, where students will have hands-on experience with patients. This will enable them to put to practice the skills acquired so far, as they move between various environments and medical specialties. Having exposure to the various situations will allow them to select and specialize towards what they naturally gravitate to.
- Get your license
After completing your medical school studies, you will need to obtain a license that will allow you to legally practice in the US. There are two options, as users can either pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination (USMLE), or the Comprehensive Osteopathic Medical Licensing Exam (COMLEX) if you are a doctor of osteopathic medicine (D.O.). These will enable one to accurately assess if they are ready to apply the concepts learned in training to the medical practice.
- Complete your residency
Once you are licensed, you will need to go through a six-year residency program which includes clinical rotations in surgery and specializations in plastic surgery. During this period, you will cover techniques such as surgery fundamentals on intensive care, skin grafting, surgery, plastic microsurgery as well as wound healing. You may also cover Aesthetic/cosmetic surgical techniques including lasers and injectables as well as breast and genital reconstruction, and burns and trauma surgery, just to mention a few
- Acquire a state license and certification
Depending on what state you would want to practice in, it may be necessary for you to acquire a state license. Often, the requirements are having successfully passed the Medical Licensing examination, however, these requirements can differ. If you would like to continue with your education and sub-specialize in a certain area, then you can enroll in a one-year fellowship and participate in a research project to further enrich your training. It is recommended for a plastic surgeon to get board-certified, to demonstrate expertise in a specialty. There are two options for plastic surgeons, The American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) for allopathic plastic surgeons and The American Osteopathic Board of Surgery (AOBS) offers board certification for osteopathic plastic surgeons (DOs). Both will require written and oral examinations as well as completion of required training.