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SAEED MAREFAT, MD, FACS

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Perspectives in Plastic Surgery

Perspectives in Plastic Surgery

The word plastic is derived from the Greek word plastikos, which means to mold or to shape. Although plastic surgery has been practiced in various parts of the world for many centuries, plastic and reconstructive surgery as a surgical discipline in modern medicine became more prevalent following World War I.

The introduction of modern artillery weapons and trench warfare during WWI resulted in a large number of victims with facial injuries. These complex facial injuries would leave soldiers with a great deal of disability. In other wars, there had never been the need to treat such complex injuries. During the Great War, several surgeons and dentists set the groundwork for surgical techniques and methods for the treatment of these war injuries. After the war, plastic surgery emerged as a new specialty discipline in medicine and the American Society of Plastic Surgery was created based on the vision and enthusiasm of people like Dr. William Shearer and Dr. Truman Brophy, the latter becoming the first president of the Society in 1921.

The subsequent introduction of aesthetic surgery in the fold of procedures performed by plastic and reconstructive surgeons had a slower but none-the-less steady development. The desire for attractiveness has been a constant feature in the history of mankind. As early as 3000 B.C., written records in Egypt mention procedures for reshaping of the nose after injury. Similar records are found in Indian medical documents showing how to reconstruct a nose. Generally speaking, however, it is only in recent times that the custom of operating solely for cosmetic purposes has gained acceptance. In the past, most physicians, including plastic surgeons, would frown upon the idea of operating on someone for enhancing their looks. Partly to satisfy the desire of patients and partly because of the inventiveness of progressive-mined surgeons, the art and science of cosmetic or aesthetic surgery finally emerged. Modern psychology has shown that physical appearance matters not only in the way that others perceive us but also in the way that the individual regards him or herself. Attractive people are generally considered to be more successful. The correction of a physical flaw or achieving a more attractive appearance improves confidence and self-esteem.

In 1967, the American Association of Aesthetic Plastic Surgery was established largely based on the effort and vision of two plastic surgeons committed to aesthetic surgery. Dr. Simon Fredrick and Dr. John Lewis first conceived of this society as a small gathering of plastic surgeons who would meet to discuss their ideas in exotic places around the world. Little did they suspect that in a few years this society would have over 2,600 members and would become the beacon of scientific advancement in aesthetic plastic surgery not only in the United States but all over the world.