I read with great interest the article written by DeLong et al.1 and the corresponding Discussion written by Greives and Losee2 that describes the factors that influence academic productivity among plastic surgeons. As a budding plastic surgeon, their reports have prompted me and probably many other students like me to contemplate our future in this field; I therefore commend the authors for this and for their well-versed insights. However, the commentaries given by the two groups of authors raise a few questions.
One of the conclusions reported by DeLong et al. is that a higher number of publications, in addition to strong mentor relations, correlated with a future career in academia.1 Greives and Losee seem to agree but have the opinion that those who pursue a career in academia are “early differentiators.”2 By extension, this suggests that the 7-year integrated plastic surgery programs, encompassing a mandatory year of research, may not be a successful means of fostering the next breed of academic “hardcores,” unless they have already differentiated before this. Would this assumption be correct?
Moreover, it would have been interesting to see whether, specifically, first-author publications correlated with a career in academia. As Greives and Losee alluded to, many medical students realize that taking 1 year out and striving to be included as an author in as many publications as possible is their “ticket to residency.”2 However, it seems conceivable that the student who contributes relatively little to a number of projects and is a named fourth or fifth author for multiple publications may not fully embrace the academic trail as much as a student who designed and drove a project and earned a first-author publication as a result, even though the former may have more publications overall. In the United Kingdom, recruitment into plastic surgery training is also regarded as being highly competitive.3 The number of publications the candidate has forms part of the selection criteria, and greater merit is awarded for first-author publications.3 Although I am mindful that in the United States the value of a particular publication is determined on an institution-to-institution basis,4 should program directors at academic-orientated institutions not aim for criteria similar to those in the United Kingdom in vetting prospective residents?
Similarly, do individuals with higher degrees before residency have an inclination toward academia? Although there may be individuals with M.D. and Ph.D. degrees who end up in private practice,2 determining whether those individuals are “black sheep” or not would have been beneficial to the reader.
Ultimately, given the saliency of research in plastic surgery, it was surprising to know that only 16 percent of plastic surgeons report themselves as being “academic.”1 It seems that the evolution of human desires seems to be the telling factor in determining the path of the plastic surgeon.2 By optimizing the different factors at play, I am sure that programs can better influence the trajectory of residents into a career in academia.
The author has no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this communication.
Yasser Al Omran, B.Sc.(Hons.)
Barts and The London School of Medicine and Dentistry
Whitechapel, London E1 2AD, United Kingdom
1. DeLong MR, Hughes DB, Tandon VJ, Choi BD, Zenn MR. Factors influencing fellowship selection, career trajectory, and academic productivity among plastic surgeons. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2014;133:730–736
2. Greives MR, Losee JE. Discussion: Factors influencing fellowship selection, career trajectory, and academic productivity among plastic surgeons. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2014;133:737–739
3. Nikkhah D, Rodrigues J. Misrepresentation of scholarly works by integrated plastic surgery applicants. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2013;131:647e–648e
4. Sugg KB, Kasten SJ. Reply: Misrepresentation of scholarly works by integrated plastic surgery applicants. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2013;131:648e
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