Upon completion of my plastic surgery residency at Brown University in 2004, I was anxious about beginning my private plastic surgery practice in my hometown community of Bloomington, Ill. Bloomington and the surrounding communities make up an upper middle class town in central Illinois, population around 175,000. There are two Level 2 hospitals, and the closest academic institution is around 1 hour away by car.
I have to admit that my biggest concern starting practice had nothing to do with surgery but, rather, how to stay actively involved in the plastic surgery community. I did not want to feel like I was practicing on an island with no connection to plastic surgery peers across the country and around the world.
I began my practice 3 weeks after completing my residency, and definitely had an immediate case of identity crisis. Since I did not join an existing practice, I had no senior partner from whom I could benefit in terms of memberships and relationships. I no longer had professors and residents with whom to confer, conferences to attend, and journal clubs in which to participate.
I felt like I was floating out there in a secluded setting. I realized that I could not evolve into the type of plastic surgeon I always wanted to be unless I made a conscious effort to stay connected. Fortunately, I have found that our discipline makes it quite easy for a private-practice plastic surgeon to stay involved with peers and the universe of plastic surgery beyond our hometowns.
1) BOARD CERTIFICATION
I focused on the first task at hand: to pass written boards. Studying was quite intense. As soon as I passed, I began feeling like I was becoming a member of the family again, but I really didn’t feel an identity until I was board certified. Upon successful completion of oral boards, I officially felt part of the “family.”
2) SOCIETIES AND OTHER PROFESSIONAL ORGANIZATIONS
Becoming board certified propels the new plastic surgeon to seek other continuing education goals, such as becoming an active member in our national societies, the American Society of Plastic Surgeons (ASPS) and the American Society of Aesthetic Plastic Surgeons (ASAPS). From there, any plastic surgeon can volunteer his or her time on one of many committees.
You can apply online, stating which committee you would like to join. You can also join by contacting a committee chair or through the audit committee meetings at the national meetings. After a while, you can change committees or even become a chairperson.
3) THE YOUNG PLASTIC SURGEONS
The Young Plastic Surgeons (YPS) is a community and resource that provides avenues for networking, idea sharing, political advocacy, and leadership development. The organization acts as a liaison between young plastic surgeons and established ASPS member surgeons. All plastic surgeons who are under the age of 42 and/or have been in practice for fewer than 5 years are considered “young plastic surgeons.”
Some YPS members are able to audit appropriate committees to provide an introduction to ASPS committee work and the work of specific committees.
The YPS always provides relevant insight for our generation and fosters the development of relationships with other plastic surgeons that will likely last a lifetime.
4) DEVELOP AND MAINTAIN RELATIONSHIPS
Board certification is the launching pad for additional continuing education goals, such as MOC-PS, subscribing to national journals, watching videos, visiting prominent plastic surgeons, and attending CME courses and national conferences. Through these activities, I have developed many new relationships throughout my 6 years of practice.
Maintaining existing relationships with prior co-residents and professors is also essential. I credit many of my professors at Brown University for continually providing advice for me on difficult cases, and helping me to manage a business for the first time in my life. The first few years helped me develop long-lasting relationships and, at the same time, evolve as a plastic surgeon.
5) THE LOCAL COMMUNITY
Becoming active on a local level has also been invaluable. When I first started my practice, I contacted the established plastic surgeons to introduce myself. I wanted to develop amicable relationships with them, which would benefit our community of patients as well as one another in the long run.
I attended local hospital surgery meetings, where I was able to meet department heads. Once those relationships were developed, it was then very easy for me to volunteer for certain hospital committees.
6) HOSPITABLE RELATIONS
Maintaining a friendly relationship with hospitals is essential in our current medical climate. One way to do this is to be involved with a hospital’s people and its culture via committee work. I have also found these committees to be very educational, allowing me a way to share ideas and concerns with colleagues and other professionals, as well as hospital administrators.
7) OTHER ORGANIZATIONS
Once you have hospital privileges at a local hospital, it is very easy to contact the administration to learn about the local and state societies. I became involved in local and state medical societies and currently serve on a state society Board of Directors.
These organizations also provide the opportunity to give presentations to certain populations. For example, giving some of my time to local not-for-profit organizations has also helped me prosper as a community-based physician and as a person.
8) TEST YOUR MEDIA METTLE
As you prosper on a local level, media opportunities will likely follow. It is always worthwhile to contact all forms of media as soon as you begin your practice. Stay connected with the media via periodic press releases.
To help support your media efforts, stay on the cutting edge of technology and aesthetic procedures. One way to accomplish this is by visiting other plastic surgeons and attending meetings. In addition, ask manufacturers’ reps to come to your office frequently and provide lunches. Quite often, I learn a lot from these sales reps. It is important to have an open but cautious mind when it comes to the newer technologies. With that, if you offer a new treatment using a new medical device, and your competitors do not offer the same treatment, let the media know about it.
If you are concerned about advertising and the reputation it will cast early in your career, consider fashioning it with education through the form of seminars, lectures, etc.
9) COLLEGES AND UNIVERSITIES
I also recommend finding a close-by academic institution—or institutions—and setting up a meeting with the chairman and faculty early in your career. These will become meaningful relationships that can help you confer on difficult cases. They can also be a source of referral for more complex cases. It’s nice to know who you are referring to… and they may need referrals to you, as well. From there, you can participate in their grand rounds and visiting professorships, conferences, clinical research trials, and possibly even become a clinical professor helping with their residency program.
If you maintain some academic roots, you could also obtain presentation material and then present at a state, regional, or national meeting.
10) START WRITING
For someone who never really liked writing in school, I now find it relaxing. I have written several editorials in various journals and recently joined an editorial board for a national journal. I find this very enlightening, and again, these routes connect me to my “family” of plastic surgeons.
Although all of our personalities are different, getting to this stage in our life proves that we all have a fundamental desire to feel included. It is comforting to know that our discipline is structured in a way so you can feel included in that family no matter where and how you practice. The degree of involvement is only up to you.
Chad Tattini, MD, is a plastic and reconstructive surgeon in private practice in Bloomington, Ill. He can be reached at (309) 664-1007 or www.chadtattinimd.com.