Plastic Surgery Research Council
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Presenter: Russell E Kling, Medical Student
Co-Authors: Nayar HS; Harhay MO; Emelife PI; Manders EK; Ahuja NK
University of Pittsburgh

Introduction: Medical students routinely express surprise at the breadth and depth of plastic surgery, as they are generally not exposed to the field. Unfortunately, the students rotating on the plastic surgery service represent a small % of the total number of medical students. It is imperative that medical students are exposed to plastic surgery early in their medical schooling, both to attract the best and brightest to our field and to educate the next generation of referring physicians about what we do and how we do it.

Methods: An electronic survey asked 1st and and 2nd year medical students to determine whether or not they think that specific procedures are performed by plastic surgeons in practice. The questions reflected the plastic surgery in-service exam format, consisting of general reconstruction & breast, craniomaxillofacial, aesthetic, hand and lower extremity sections.

Results: 2,434 questionnaires from 44 medical schools were returned completed. A majority of respondents answered affirmatively to all cosmetic surgery questions, and to 9 of 11 general/breast plastic surgery questions. However, only half of the craniomaxillofacial surgery questions were answered affirmatively by a majority of respondents. Finally, only 2 of 13 hand and lower extremity procedures were answered affirmatively by the majority. There was a strong linear relationship with self-reported interest in plastic surgery (1=no interest, 10=highest interest) and knowledge score. Compared to those who identified an interest level of 1, those who chose 8, 9 and 10 scored, on average, 6.2, 8.0 and 12.7 points higher on the overall knowledge score (p<0.01).

Conclusion: Responding pre-clinical medical students are not fully aware of the scope of plastic surgery. Since an appreciation of the field is critical for future career decisions it is important to attract these students as early as possible. For medical students not entering plastic surgery, early exposure to the field will facilitate a deeper understanding of the differences between ENT, OMF, plastic surgery, etc which will improve appropriate patient referral rates.

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