Plastic surgery has come to eminence and remains at the forefront of public interest, especially with the popularization of social media.1 However, medical students are infrequently exposed to the full depth and breadth of plastic surgery, which precludes their full appreciation of the field as they explore options for graduate medical training. In fact, the general medical student sentiment of plastic surgery is often formed inaccurately by public perceptions of the field.2 The most important way to demystify misperceptions within plastic surgery is through strong academic mentorship for medical student trainees. Although previous studies have highlighted the importance of plastic surgery mentorship,3 the aim of this Viewpoint article is to define specific operationalizable actions to initiate, develop, and sustain mentor-mentee relationships. This article is written from the perspective of current medical students who hope to pursue careers within plastic surgery in the era of the competitive integrated plastic surgery match.
Most medical students’ initial exposure to different subspecialties occurs in the setting of student interest group meetings. Thus, attendance and participation by plastic surgeons within these groups is vital for realization of a student’s potential interest in plastic surgery. Such involvement was critical for the development of our own interest within the field. After interaction in interest group settings, it is greatly appreciated when plastic surgeons are open to engaging in scholarly and academic endeavors with students.
Another critical aspect for the development of interested medical students is maintaining an open line of communication, despite the demanding schedules that residents and attending physicians hold, which undoubtedly are challenging. This is true for both electronic communications and in-office meetings with students to develop rapport and refine the mentor-mentee relationship. In our experience, at institutions where strong interest group involvement by plastic surgeons does not exist, maintaining open communication alone can facilitate meaningful mentorship opportunities for students.
At both of our home institutions, we have benefited greatly from multiple plastic surgeons who have set aside research projects for interested students. Participation in these projects has led not only to academic productivity but also to development of mentor-mentee relationships between student and surgeon, affirming our interest in plastic surgery. Moreover, permitting first-hand experiences in the operating room for students before dedicated clerkship training affords them a direct appreciation for the truly expansive field of plastic surgery.
Given the competitive nature of the integrated plastic surgery match, the responsibility for developing high-quality applicants falls primarily on students, but also on their home institution’s department/division of plastic surgery. In a world where many misperceptions exist of what plastic surgery entails, academic surgeons can use the aforementioned viewpoints to reveal the true breadth of plastic surgery to interested students and usher in the next generation of plastic surgeons through strong and lasting mentorship.
The authors have no financial interest to declare in relation to the content of this article.
J. Andres Hernandez, B.S.
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
Cody L. Mullens, B.S.
Perelman School of Medicine
University of Pennsylvania
School of Medicine
West Virginia University
1. Rohrich RJ. So, do you want to be Facebook friends? How social media have changed plastic surgery and medicine forever. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2017;139:1021–1026.
2. Agarwal JP, Mendenhall SD, Moran LA, Hopkins PN. Medical student perceptions of the scope of plastic and reconstructive surgery. Ann Plast Surg. 2013;70:343–349.
3. Barker JC, Rendon J, Janis JE. Medical student mentorship in plastic surgery: The mentee’s perspective. Plast Reconstr Surg. 2016;137:1934–1942.
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