All facial plastic surgeons are physicians who have undergone many years of education and training: 16 years of elementary school through college and four years for medical school. After 20 years of education the physician applies for a “residency” in a particular subject. A “resident” is a licensed physician who is pursuing further post-graduate training.
Most facial plastic surgeons choose an Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery Residency.
This is a very competitive and selective process, and most come from the upper 25% of their medical school class. Then residency begins with a minimum of 1 year of general surgery, though some programs require 2 years of general surgical training. The resident then begins otolaryngology specialty training, which lasts 4 to 6 years. The surgeon will finish and be ready to practice facial plastic and reconstructive surgery after having completed 27 years of study.
In the Otolaryngology-Head and Neck Surgery residency, the physician studies anatomy, physiology, illness and treatment for head and neck diseases, of children and adults. The specialty is further subdivided.
Rhinology is the subspecialty focused on the nose. The resident learns the internal working of the nose both for breathing and for sinus infection.
This study is paramount to future study and surgery for nasal appearance.
While it is nice to have a beautiful nose, the surgeon wants to maintain or even improve its normal functions of breathing and smelling. The surgeon also studies ear and throat surgery. The surgeon studies what is called “trauma” wounds from external sources. Parts of this world are violent, and there is an incredible volume of smashed, cut and battered faces. The resident spends hundreds of hours repairing and reconstructing these victims. This serves as an excellent training ground for the young facial plastic surgeon, for reconstructing the traumatized face deepens knowledge about bony and soft tissue anatomy, normal and abnormal appearance and all the requisite principals of facial reconstruction: the same skills that are important in cosmetic surgery.
Throughout this period the resident also studies facial plastic and reconstructive surgery. Some residents spend time carrying out research.
This is an important study, for it teaches scientific thinking and investigation.
At the completion of this residency, the surgeon must first pass a comprehensive two day written and oral examination, before he or she is ready to practice.
This training in the primary surgical specialty of otolaryngology/head-and-neck surgery represents the typical five-year training after graduation from medical school. Some facial plastic surgeons also enter aspects of the field through similar training in other specialties, including ophthalmology, dermatology, and general plastic surgery.
Some surgeons with special interest in facial plastic and reconstructive surgery then compete for one of the coveted facial plastic and reconstructive surgery fellowships. This is a full-year program offering a unique opportunity to study with one of the AAFPRS’s master surgeons.
Pediatric head and neck surgery includes congenital birth defects, head and neck tumors of childhood, infection and pediatric facial trauma. Head and neck cancer is an important part of the training for it teaches the young surgeon important details about the anatomy of the head, neck and face. Reconstruction is also studied. Skin cancer treatment and reconstruction are part of this training and makeup a large portion of the resident’s training.
During this year the surgeons study all aspects of the field including congenital deformity, trauma, cancer reconstruction, cosmetic surgery and aging face surgery. They train with their mentors and immerse themselves in their study. At the completion of the fellowship, the surgeons take yet another rigorous written and oral examination covering the entire field of facial plastic and reconstructive surgery.