American Council of Academic Plastic Surgeons
Back to 2022 Abstracts
Overlapping Worlds of Art and Plastic Surgery and the Implications for Surgical Training: Preliminary Results
Audrey B Nguyen, MD; Dawn Duong; Patricia O'Sullivan EdD
University of California San Francisco, CA, USA

Background: Editorials speculate on the relationship between art and plastic surgery, and studies of limited art education in surgical training show intriguing benefits. Identifying the shared core concepts and skills in art and plastic surgery could advance incorporating artistic skills and concepts into plastic surgery training.
Methods: We performed a qualitative analysis of semi-structured interview transcripts of 15 plastic surgeons and 15 artists using a constructivist grounded theory approach. Plastic surgeons were board-certified or board-eligible, and artists self-identified art as their primary occupation or had formal training in art with a degree. During the interviews, we used a constant comparison approach. We reviewed the initial transcripts to create a codebook at the sentence and/or paragraph level. Two members of the research team coded each transcript, and the codes were summarized into themes based on discussion among the team members.
Results: 15 plastic surgeons aged 36-80 years and 15 artists aged 19-62 years with varying specialties and practices participated. We identified preliminary themes held in common. Both groups recognize that creativity played a major role. Both also recognized that strong technical foundational skills are key to developing competency. They described how technical skills, manual dexterity, and three-dimensional thinking can be taught and nurtured. While creativity was seen as innate, practitioners must push the boundaries of creativity through innovation to the limits of the profession. Both groups spoke about the “Elements of Art” and “Principles of Design” when describing their work: the surgeons understand this informally. Finally, artists and surgeons share the belief that hypersensitivity to one’s surroundings or to human features is important to identifying problems or ideas and that every action needs to have an intention and purpose.
Conclusion: From this study, we are developing a framework describing core concepts and skills in plastic surgery training through an artistic lens. When establishing a curriculum, it is important to develop strong technical foundational skills while also encouraging fundamental knowledge that is used in art education. We believe plastic surgery training can be enhanced by centering education around creativity, hypersensitivity, and purposeful action.


Back to 2022 Abstracts