Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Sculpting aspirations: reviews of the 7th BAPRAS Undergraduate Day

By Tom Henderson, 5th year medical student at the University of Oxford. He is their representative to the BMA Student Committee and has an interest in education and training issues.

So it was that the British Association of Plastic, Reconstructive and Aesthetic Surgeons (BAPRAS) held its 7th Undergraduate day, in the salubrious surroundings of RCS’s London base. After a welcome coffee the day’s programme of talks kicked off with an introduction from Prof McArthur, from Liverpool.

His opening slide akin to the odd-one-out round from Have I Got New For You, it asked students to spot the image least in keeping with modern plastic surgery. It wasn’t much of a challenge – a buxom blonde on a beach clearly set out to demonstrate to the audience that this was a day when any stereotypes of plastic surgeons based on Nip/Tuck would be dispelled.

Following on from the introduction, a well-presented tour of the extent of plastic surgery and its relations to other surgical and medical specialities, came a few sessions on the training pathway and applications. In a room of perhaps a hundred eager medical students this was always going to be the challenging one. 

It is to the speaker’s credit that no illusions were allowed about the competition involved and the perhaps brutal nature of the ST3-crunch (where there are currently 5 jobs going). The tips on how to succeed were the same as one can find elsewhere, and probably apply to all specialities: look up the job specification, work with focus and determination towards your goal.

When this sobering session was over, there came the pick-me-up: more explanation of the many wonders that a career plastic surgery has in store for those who succeed. The talks covered plastic surgery in the developing world, burns, skin cancer, hand surgery, breast reconstruction and aesthetic surgery. Most combined a healthy dose of teaching around the basics of plastic surgery scope and technique with the obligatory and remarkable before-and-after pictures. Also woven in through the day were registrar led sessions on basic suturing technique and a poster competition for which a prize (the important aspect being the associated CV points!) was later awarded.

Whilst all of the surgeons talks contained these remarkable tales, it was Mr Sammut’s talk about his experiences of (principally) hand surgery in India and Nepal that I found most inspiring. It is all too easy in the developed world to think of as trivial relatively modest improvements in hand function or to focus on the cosmetic aspects of hand repair.

But in societies without the levels of welfare and support that we are fortunate to have, one can more easily appreciate how a simple functional improvement (even where cosmesis is less than ideal) can transform the life not only of a patient but also their family. The modest becomes the difference between a livelihood and nothing, and the talk neatly demonstrated the true importance of plastic surgery.

Medical school teaching and experiences of different specialities focus (and rightly so) on the workload of junior members of the team, which evolve significantly on the road the Consultancy. I’m not sure there can ever be a better way of finding out about a speciality than getting as much first hand experience – and for surgery that means time in clinic and theatre – as possible, be it through a placement whilst at medical school or a Foundation/Core rotation. 

As valuable as days like these can be, whatever your ensuing impression of the profession, they are surely not enough to make a definitive career choice. However the challenge with limited time for medical students might be which specialities to focus their attentions on, and it is perhaps in that respect that days such as these are the most useful.

By Irving Ling, final year medical student, Newcastle University. www.irvingling.com

The BAPRAS 7th undergraduate day, held at the Royal College of Surgeons of England, London, provided a platform for eminent consultants to celebrate the genius works of plastic, reconstructive and aesthetic surgery.

In their eloquently, slyly humorous presentations, each speaker sought to untangle the misconception that has cast Plastic surgery as a glorified Hollywood money churning business and painted a picture of what the speciality really is - a creative, innovative, diverse and satisfying job that aims to sacrifice the cheap to reconstruct the expensive and restore functionality that is aesthetically pleasing.

The sessions was an inventive blend of career advice and clinical cases, dissecting every element into fine introductions to this diverse speciality for an audience that ranged from A-level students to junior doctors.

The day was punctuated with surgical suturing sessions, offering many, a glimpse into the dexterous task of wound closure, and provided a display of 10 exceptional poster presentations. The day ended hopefully inspiring many to strive for this competitive but rewarding speciality.

1 comment:

  1. I have some body parts that I want to alter, but I'm just too scared to have a plastic surgery. So I'd rather have buccal fat removal because it's faster and less painful.