How Did Plastic Surgeons Get Their Name?

How Did Plastic Surgeons Get Their Name?

Posted on August 11, 2022 by Dr. Susan MacLennan

If you are new to plastic surgery, you probably have some questions about common terms used in the field. Many patients also have misconceptions about the term “plastic surgery” itself, associating it with the plastic material used in everyday items. Learn more about the history of plastic surgery, how plastic surgeons are trained, and more.

The History of Plastic Surgery

The English word “plastic” comes from the Greek word “plastike,” which refers to modeling or sculpting like an artist. Plastic surgery began in India around 800 BC, with physicians reconstructing noses using flaps of tissue from the forehead. Ancient Egyptians and Romans also used early plastic surgery techniques to restore the ears or lips in cases of birth defects or injury.

In the U.S., the American Board of Plastic Surgery (ABPS) first began certifying plastic surgeons in the ‘30s and ‘40s after its establishment in 1937. By 1941, the American Board of Medical Specialties recognized the ABPS as a major specialty. The establishment of the ABPS was well before the use of plastic household items, meaning that the word had no association with this material until years later.

The Two Main Categories of Plastic Surgery

Plastic surgery is generally categorized into two main types of procedures: reconstructive and aesthetic or cosmetic. Many procedures, however, can serve both purposes. Generally speaking, a reconstructive plastic surgery procedure will correct a functional issue caused by a birth defect, injury, or illness. A breast reconstruction is a good example of a common reconstructive procedure. Cosmetic or aesthetic procedures, however, are only intended to improve or change the way a person looks. Think of a breast augmentation for a patient who wants to enhance the shape and size of the breasts, for example.

In some cases, a procedure might serve both functional and cosmetic purposes. A blepharoplasty, for example, can both improve vision when the upper eyelids sag and create a more youthful appearance. During your consultation, we can discuss what you are hoping to achieve from your plastic surgery procedure and create the best plan to address all of your goals.

How Are Plastic Surgeons Educated and Trained?

Plastic surgeons first attend 4 years of medical school, then move on to a 6-year residency training program to study plastic surgery. Many people also complete a fellowship to further subspecialize. After this advanced training, they can then take exams to gain board certification. I studied medicine at Dartmouth College, followed by residency at the University of Cincinnati and a mini-fellowship in cosmetic surgery in Miami. I am board certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery and even serve as an examiner for the board’s oral exam for new plastic surgeons. Dr. Schmidt studied medicine at Vanderbilt University, completed her plastic surgery residency at Washington University in St. Louis, and then did a full year aesthetic fellowship in North Carolina. In addition to our board certifications, Dr. Schmidt and I are active members of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons and The Aesthetic Society.

Schedule a Consultation

To learn more about our credentials and experience, schedule a consultation. We can review any questions you might have about a procedure that interests you or plastic surgery in general. To schedule your appointment, call (802) 231-4284 or contact our office online.