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The Reconstruction of Venus: Following Our Legacy

Brent, Burt M.D.

Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery: June 2008 - Volume 121 - Issue 6 - p 2170-2171
doi: 10.1097/PRS.0b013e318170a7b6

Woodside, Calif.

Received for publication November 7, 2007; accepted November 12, 2007.

Disclosure: The author has no financial interest in any of the products, devices, or drugs mentioned in this article.

Burt Brent, M.D. 2995 Woodside Road; Woodside, Calif. 94062;

Plastic surgery is an art form—an exacting discipline characterized by a special approach to handling tissues, repairing wounds, and reconstructing deformities. The aspect that most strikingly distinguishes plastic surgery from all other surgical disciplines is the instantaneous, visual, aesthetic physical result and often dramatic psychological change which it affords the patient. By virtue of this visual impact, the surrounding family and society are correspondingly affected, and plastic surgery thus exerts an effect that extends well beyond the obvious and immediate needs of the patient.

Uniquely, plastic surgery’s effectiveness often depends on a harmonious blend of medical science and art. To transfer bulk tissue and maintain its viability is applied science; to shape that tissue into graceful anatomic form is art. And thus, the graceful figure of Venus de Milo was chosen to symbolize the artistic aspect of our specialty on the seal of the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (Fig. 1).

Fig. 1.

Fig. 1.

The ancient Greek statue Venus de Milo was created circa 100 b.c. and depicts Aphrodite, the Greek goddess of love and beauty. She was discovered by a peasant within the buried ruins of the Aegean island Milos in 1820. Venus lost her arms when several French sailors heard of the discovery, came to explore the remote island, and roughly dragged the sculpture across the rocky terrain to the ship that waited to carry Venus off to France.1,2 Eventually, King Louis XVIII presented her to the Louvre museum in Paris, where Venus de Milo still stands on public display. She is the universal symbol of artistic beauty.

Although the American Society of Plastic Surgeons was founded in 1931, the Journal was not realized until Dr. Gustave Aufricht’s presidency from 1944 to 1946. During that period, Charles Liedl, Dr. Aufricht’s artist friend and illustrator, created the logo that became the emblem for the Journal and seal of the Society.3 Mr. Liedl designed the emblem according to Aufricht’s suggestions: a surgeon’s hand in the foreground, Venus de Milo in the background to represent art, and a stylized Aesculapian staff at the base “as a reminder that first and foremost we are physicians, protectors of the patient’s health.”4 We are indeed privileged to have the skills and opportunity to make the difference between a disastrous and a normal existence for an individual.

During my career, I have witnessed tremendous advancements and growth in our specialty, such as the birth of craniofacial surgery, the development of reconstructive microsurgery, the employment of myriad myocutaneous flaps, and the launching of transplantation surgery. These fields, which we almost take for granted now, were only dreams when I first began training.

If Vincent Van Gogh’s tragedy happened today, we could easily reconstruct his ear. By the same token, great advances in our specialty make it possible to now do miraculous extremity repairs. It is time that we follow our legacy and reconstruct Venus.

To this end, I have redesigned our seal to symbolically reflect the progress, sophistication, and strides our specialty has made during the years since its inception (Fig. 2).

Fig. 2.

Fig. 2.

Although cosmetic surgery has captured much of the attention of various medical specialties (and the media), as plastic surgeons, first and foremost we are physicians who restore the lives of those afflicted with congenital or traumatic deformity using our reconstructive efforts.5–7 This transformed logo is meant to embody and honor our roots while reflecting our commitment as healers to society.

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1. Kousseer, R. Creating the past: The Venus de Milo and the Hellenistic reception of classical Greece. Am. J. Archeology 109: 227, 2005.
2. Rosenman, H. Introduction. In J. S. C. Dumont D’Urville, Two Voyages to the South Seas (translated by H. Rosenman). University of Hawaii Press, 1989.
3. Aufricht, G. Story of the foundation of the Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery journal and reminiscences of the early formative years of plastic surgery as a specialty. Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 68: 370, 1981.
4. Aufricht, G. On the history of the emblem of ASPRS. Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 59: 841, 1977.
5. Levin, L. S. Why we need the “R”: Reconstructive milestones from 75 years of ASPS history. Presented at the 2006 ASPS Annual Meeting, San Francisco, CA.
6. Gorney, M. Quo vadis plastikos? Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 120: 344, 2007.
7. Stevenson, T. R. What is plastic surgery and who decides? Plast. Reconstr. Surg. 120: 1079, 2007.
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Dear Readers of Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery,

What do you think of changing the Journal’s emblem to the new design featured in this editorial? Please share your thoughts with us at

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©2008American Society of Plastic Surgeons