In spite of the fact that word “plastic” in plastic surgery is taken from the ancient Greek word plastikos that means, “to mold or give form,” the idea persists that the complicated surgical techniques developed for reconstructive and cosmetic purposes are somehow related to the polymer materials from which toy cars and barbie dolls are constructed. There is also a popular misconception that the word “plastic” somehow implies “artificial” or “fake.” It does not.
Plastic surgery as a medical specialty was influenced dramatically by the events of World War I. As modern weapons grew ever more efficient in taking life in war, at the same time advances in battlefield medical procedures saved the lives of hundreds of thousands of men, who returned home with horrific injuries.
As physicians in Europe and North America worked to restore the faces and lives of these unfortunate veterans, they developed the reconstructive and cosmetic surgical skills and procedures that encompass the modern medical specialty of plastic surgery. As this new area of surgical expertise grew more specialized, the need for an organization like the American Society of Plastic Surgeons became more apparent.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons was founded in 1931 by two immigrant surgeons from Europe, Dr. Jacques Maliniac, and Dr. Gustave Aufricht. Both men had worked to develop the specialized skills of reconstructive surgery through treating wounded soldiers during and after the First World War, and both men recognized the need for a professional organization that would enable the practitioners of this developing medical specialty to share knowledge and innovations.
Surgeons interested in the growing medical specialty of reconstructive and cosmetic plastic surgery were invited to join the fledgling organization, and by the end of the 1930s the American Board of Surgeons had established a separate American Board of Plastic Surgery to conduct exams and qualify physicians as plastic surgeons.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons continued to grow throughout the remainder of the twentieth century and today has nearly 5,000 certified members comprising 94 percent of all plastic surgeons in the U.S. The mission of the Society has always remained to support its constituent members in their quest to provide the highest quality care to their patients and the maintenance of professional and ethical standards through research, continuing education, advocacy and other professional activities.
The American Society of Plastic Surgeons is comprised of board-certified plastic surgeons that specialize in cosmetic and reconstructive surgery. Only surgeons that are certified by the American Board of Plastic Surgery or by the Royal College of Physicians and Surgeons of Canada can join the organization.
The qualifications and expectations for every American Society of Plastic Surgeons member include:
- 6 years of training and experience as a surgeon, with a minimum of 3 years specifically in plastic surgery
- Certification from the American Board of Plastic Surgery
- Performs operations only in accredited medical facilities
- Conforms to a strict code of ethics
- Remains obligated to continuing education requirements
- Remains dedicated to patient safety techniques
- Works in partnership with patients to achieve goals